'Cove' director responds to Japanese scientist's lawsuit
TOKYO — A scientist says his reputation has been tarnished by the U.S. documentary "The Cove," a graphic account of Japanese dolphin-hunting, and is demanding that footage of his interview be removed from the movie.
Film director Louie Psihoyos said Wednesday he stood behind his movie, that University of Hokkaido toxicologist Tetsuya Endo had agreed to be interviewed and that the footage of him was not taken out of order or otherwise doctored.
"He talked on the record at length to us, several times," he told the Associated Press. "He did say the things that he said, in the order that he said them. What we published was the truth, and now he wants to take back the truth."
The Oscar-winning documentary shows dolphins herded into a cove in the Japanese fishing village of Taiji, and stabbed by fishermen on small boats, turning the water red with blood.
The movie, starring Ric O'Barry, the former dolphin trainer for the "Flipper" 1960s TV show, has intensified international opposition to the slaughter.
In one section, Endo speaks in an interview with the filmmakers about his research on the high levels of mercury in dolphin meat.
Endo said he never signed release forms, and thinks "The Cove" is "disrespectful toward Japanese."
"I have no interest in being in this movie," he said in a telephone interview.
The lawsuit, which targets the Japanese distributor, Unplugged Inc., demands the footage be deleted and 11 million yen ($131,000) in damages for tarnishing Endo's reputation.
It was filed in Osaka District Court in July but was recently moved to Tokyo District Court, where Unplugged is based. Unplugged declined to comment, saying the lawsuit was ongoing.
Psihoyos believes Endo's comments are key in winning Japanese to his message, and he wants Japanese to see his movie, uncensored. He acknowledged he cannot find Endo's release forms.
"You can argue that dolphins shouldn't be killed because they are more humanlike, but I think the most powerful point in the movie from a Japanese perspective is that these animals are toxic," he said in a telephone interview from Boulder, Colo.
Taiji, a village with 3,500 residents, has landed in the global spotlight with "The Cove," which opened in June in some theaters in Japan, mostly to positive reception.
Some Japanese don't want to eat dolphin meat, and are stunned to see the cruelty of the hunt.
Taiji stopped the killing last year, but resumed it in September. A few dolphins has been saved to sell to aquariums, but the rest have been slaughtered.
The Japanese government allows about 20,000 dolphins to be caught each year, and defends the hunts as traditional.
It argues that killing dolphins is no different from raising cows or pigs for slaughter. But the government warns pregnant women against eating whale and dolphin meat because of the toxins.
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-- Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press
Top photo: Psihoyos accepts the best documentary feature award for "The Cove" at the 15th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press
Bottom photo: Ric O'Barry (with sign) and Psihoyos as they accept the award for Best Documentary Feature for "The Cove " at the 82nd Academy Awards on March 7. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times