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Friday, July 9, 2010


'The Cove' screenings on course

Six movie theaters — in Hachinohe (Aomori Prefecture), Sendai, Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Kyoto — on July 3 started showing "The Cove," a documentary film about dolphin hunting in the whaling town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. There have been no reports of big disturbances.

Originally, the movie, the winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary, had been scheduled to be shown from June 26. Three movie theaters in Tokyo and Osaka gave up on screening the film after groups who call the movie "anti-Japanese" threatened to stage noisy protests near the theaters. Besides those six movie theaters, 18 others are to show the film. The distributor and the movie houses deserve praises for not bowing to pressure from protesters.

The climax of the movie is a scene in which fishermen drive dolphins into a cove in the central part of Taiji and kill them. The emerald-green cove turns red with blood from the slaughter. Some 2,000 dolphins are killed annually in the town. The scene was shot with a hidden camera.

The movie says dolphin meat contains high levels of mercury and that dolphin meat is sold to consumers disguised as whale meat. Local fishermen explain that they kill dolphins with the permission of the government, and they deny disguising dolphin meat as whale meat. The Japanese distributor of the movie blurred the faces of some people appearing in the movie to protect their privacy and added subtitles to avoid misunderstandings about data and expressions used in the movie.

Some critics of the movie argue that it imposes a value judgment that Taiji itself is evil. Local fishermen say the film is a public relations piece to promote the view of the filmmakers. But many Taiji people seem respectful of the right to freedom of expression and upset over threats by groups to launch protest activities against movie theaters.

Some may support the message of "The Cove"; others may not. It should be approached as a useful tool for deepening democratic discourse. The important thing is to see the movie and discuss it with reason.

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