On March 7th the 2009 Academy Award for best feature documentary went to The Cove, a film based on the 2004 documentary Welcome to Taiji, which was written and produced by Ric'O'Barry, Diana Thater and T.Kelly Mason.
Thater and Mason were the artists in residence for O'Barry's organization The Dolphin Project from 2000 to 2006. They went on to become the official videographers for SaveJapanDolphins.org when O'Barry became its director in 2006. Save Japan Dolphins is an organization, under the umbrella of Earth Island Institute, that is dedicated to stopping the slaughter of dolphins and whales in Japan and to ending the black market sale of live dolphins and whales by the Japanese to seaquariums and "swim with dolphin" attractions worldwide. Since they first met O'Barry in 1999, Thater and Mason have self-produced 5 videos for O'Barry. These documentaries have been translated into French, Japanese and Croatian.
All of these videos are available on YouTube under "dolphinDVD". To date, Welcome to Taiji has over 200,000 views on YouTube, has been shown in full on the ARTE channel in France, and has been excerpted on ABC, CNN, the BBC, Frontline and 60 minutes.
Welcome to Taiji tells the story of O' Barry's attempts to end the slaughter of 20,000 dolphins each year by the Japanese and to bring the issue of dolphin and cetacean captivity to light. 1000 copies of Welcome to Taiji were made and distributed for free by Thater, Mason and O'Barry. It was shown by Ric O'Barry in 2006 at the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) conference, after which O'Barry was approached by the future producers of The Cove. The Cove is a re-make of Welcome to Taiji but is directed at a mainstream film-going public and is intended for movie theaters, while Welcome to Taiji was an activist video financed by Thater and Mason. Thater and Mason provided the makers of The Cove with all of their footage and the master tapes of all the videos they had made for O'Barry. Portions of their work appear unedited in The Cove. In addition, Thater rough-cut the final scenes of the dolphin slaughter for The Cove. Mason and Thater also produced all the videos for Ric O'Barry's body screen, which he wears in the climactic final scenes of The Cove.
Onstage at the Academy Awards, while the producers of The Cove accepted their awards, O'Barry held up a banner "Text Dolphin to 44144", which in one day, brought 100,000 new members to SaveJapanDolphins.org.
Thater and Mason will be working with Ric O'Barry in September of 2010 in Taiji, again documenting the continuing slaughter and sale of captive dolphins. They have dedicated their lives as activists to this cause.