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Friday, June 11, 2010

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Standing room only: People line up for a screening of "The Cove" at the Nakano Zero theater in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday. MINORU MATSUTANI

Rightist also tells theaters to run 'Cove'


Staff writer

A movie director, journalists and even a rightist voiced opposition to movie theaters canceling the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove" after watching the movie with some 550 other people in Tokyo on Wednesday night.

Twenty-six movie theaters across Japan were planning this summer to show the movie about the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, but three of them — two in Tokyo and one in Osaka — have opted out.

The theaters received phone calls from rightwingers threatening to deploy noisy loudspeaker trucks outside their establishments unless they canceled the screenings, according to Takeshi Kato, president of the movie's distributor, Unplugged Inc.

Some rightwingers condemn the movie for disparaging Japanese tradition.

Kato is now in talks with the remaining 23 cinemas and other theaters to screen "The Cove." As of now, no cinemas in Tokyo plan to show the movie.

The 90-minute film has already been seen in the U.S., Europe, Australia and other parts of Asia since last year.

For the Japanese release, Kato said he has added lots of pixilation to Taiji residents' faces to respect their privacy as per his lawyers' advice.

Kunio Suzuki, a former head and now special adviser of the major rightist group Issuikai, condemned the rightwingers' threats against the movie theaters.

"If they can't forgive the movie (for disgracing Japan,) they should let everybody see the movie and say 'See, this movie is horrible.' Not letting people watch the movie is anti-Japanese," said Suzuki, one of five panelists in a symposium following the screening.

"Before I watched the movie, I had nothing against dolphin shows because dolphins seem to have fun. But the movie says dolphins in shows take stomach medicine to prevent ulcers due to stress. The movie taught me something I didn't know," he said. "I am sorry for people in Taiji, but the movie was entertaining."

Filmmaker Tatsuya Mori said he envies the director of "The Cove" for drawing the rightwingers' ire, which has grabbed public attention.

"The movie will undoubtedly be a success," Mori said.

"Michael Moore's movies, 'Avatar' and many other movies are anti-American, but cinemas would never cancel screenings in the U.S.," he said. "We should watch it and discuss it. I hope Japanese also believe in making controversial matters open to discussion."

Freelance journalist Takeharu Watai said freedom of expression should be observed in monitoring the government and other authorities, but he has a problem with inflicting freedom of expression on Taiji's fishermen, indirectly criticizing the movie crew's filming methods.

The film, directed by Louie Psihoyos, shows how the crew used ingenious high-tech devices to secretly film the dolphin hunt. Much of the movie was filmed with hidden underwater cameras over a five-year period after Psihoyos was unable to get permission to enter the hunting venue.

Besides footage of dolphins being brutally killed and a brief explanation that meat from the mammals contains high levels of toxic methyl mercury, the movie also shows how Ric O'Barry, a dolphin protection activist and protagonist of the film, fell in love with dolphins and how local fishermen and police tried to block the movie crew from filming.

The screening and symposium was organized by Tsukuru Publishing Co.

Sixty-one well-known people, including the five panelists, signed a petition against the movie theaters' cancellations.

In 2008, theaters canceled screenings of the movie "Yasukuni," a documentary about Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the war dead and Class-A war criminals.



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The Japan Times

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