'The Cove' won't be shown at Tokyo movie theater after outcry from Japanese nationalists
TOKYO — A movie theater in Tokyo decided against showing the dolphin-hunt documentary "The Cove" after nationalist pressure and warnings of protests, the distributor said Thursday.
In recent months, activists have protested and screamed slogans outside the Tokyo office of the Japanese distributor, Unplugged, alleging that support for the film signals betrayal of Japanese pride.
Theater N Shibuya was scheduled to start showing the film June 26. Unplugged said the theater changed its mind after getting deluged with angry telephone calls and being warned that screenings would be met with protests.
The American movie that won the Academy Award for documentary this year shows undercover footage of the dolphin hunt in a Japanese village and documents efforts by Ric O'Barry, a former trainer for the "Flipper" TV series, to stop the slaughter of dolphins for food.
Takeshi Kato of Unplugged said he remained determined to show the film, and talks will continue with other theaters.
"This is definitely not an anti-Japanese film," he said in a statement. "We believe it is necessary to carry out constructive discussion of the issue."
Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat. But some believe killing dolphins and whales is part of traditional culinary culture and resent the interference of outsiders focused on species protection.
"The Cove" screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October and at smaller events in Japan but has yet to open to the Japanese public. The Japanese version blurs the faces of some people on screen, such as fishermen, to lessen the possibility of trouble.
In April, the U.S. Air Force Yokota Air Base, west of Tokyo, canceled a screening at its on-base theater to show sensitivity to local culture.
O'Barry said the film needs to be shown, so that word would spread and Japanese would want the hunts stopped.
"Why are they so scared about the truth of the dolphin slaughter getting out?" he said in an e-mail Thursday. "Because they know that the massive dolphin slaughter is indefensible -- tragically cruel -- scientifically unsupportable."
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In Taiji, Japan, fishermen in the Cove are still killing dolphins (guest post by Ric O'Barry)
-- Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press
Top photo: Japanese right-wing demonstrators protest outside the office of Unplugged on April 9. Credit: Koji Sasahara / Associated Press
Bottom photo: O'Barry holds a sign directing Academy Award viewers to "The Cove's" text-messaging awareness campaign as director Louie Psihoyos accepts the Oscar for best feature-length documentary on March 7. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times