‘Cove’ to show in Japan despite protests

  • Mon Jun 21st, 2010 10:28pm
  • News

By Jay Alabaster Associated Press

TOKYO — “The Cove,” an Oscar-winning film about a dolphin-hunting village in Japan, will be shown in the country from next month, despite pressure from nationalist groups that caused several theaters to cancel screenings.

The domestic distributor, Unplugged, said Monday that six theaters around the country will start showing the movie July 3, with 16 more to show it later.

Initial screenings of the film at three other theaters were canceled early this month after protests by nationalist groups, who say the film is anti-Japanese, distorts the truth, and has deep connections with a militant anti-whaling organization.

“We’ve increasingly been hearing from ordinary customers, who protest and say it is better that we work to show the film so that people can form opinions after they’ve seen it,” said Takeshi Kato, president of Unplugged.

Protests two years ago against “Yasukuni,” a movie about a controversial war shrine, at first led to theater cancellations, but later made it one of Japan’s most successful documentaries.

“The Cove,” which won the Oscar for best documentary, stars Ric O’Barry, a former trainer for the “Flipper” TV show who is now a dolphin activist. It documents how a group of filmmakers use hidden cameras to capture bloody footage of a dolphin slaughter in a small fishing village.

In Taiji, the town where the hunt occurs, the local government and fishing cooperative defend dolphin hunting as a local custom with a long history.

The mostly bottlenose dolphins killed in the hunt are not endangered, and hunts are also carried out in other parts of Japan, although very few Japanese have ever eaten dolphin meat.

Nationalists have said the film has connections to Sea Shepherd, an anti-whaling group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by Tokyo for its militant actions against Japanese whalers. The movie includes a sympathetic interview with Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson.

Disclaimers were added to “The Cove,” including one that says that data presented in the movie were gathered by and are the responsibility of the film’s creators. The movie cites information about mercury levels in dolphins and falsely labeled dolphin meat that has been challenged by government officials.

In related news, the International Whaling Commission began debating in its meeting in Morocco this week on whether to scrap an ineffective 25-year ban on commercial hunting and instead allow for limited whaling under a more enforceable regime.

Though environmental groups say the 1986 moratorium has been one of the most successful animal conservation measures in history, it has failed to prevent Japan, Norway and Iceland from killing hundreds of whales each year in defiance of the commission.

A proposal before the 88-member commission would allow the three countries limited whaling in exchange for removing their rogue status and imposing a 10-year period of international monitoring.

The proposal’s author,commission chairman Cristian Maquieira, has said it would save about 5,000 whales over 10 years.