Friday, October 23, 2009

“The Cove” Screened in Tokyo

by Richard O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

The Tokyo International Film Festival tried very hard to bury “The Cove” Movie, but I think their efforts backfired on them. By trying to keep the media away from the film and the audience, they made the story much bigger than it might have been.

“The Cove”, as you know, was originally passed over by the Festival board in favor of much safer, non-controversial movies, such as Disney’s “Oceans” movie, which opened the Festival. However, thanks to pressure from the US, including our friend actor Ben Stiller and the Festival’s Jury President Alejandro González Iñárritu, the Festival relented and agreed to screen “The Cove.” This was the first screening of “The Cove” in Japan where the general public could buy tickets.

The Festival then scheduled the screening in the morning on a workday, but “The Cove” sold out within an hour of tickets being made available! The Festival refused to schedule a second screening to accommodate the many who could not get tickets (including, incidentally, the town Council of Taiji). The audience actually applauded at the end of the film – one critic said it was the ONLY film where the audience applauded during the Festival.

The many reporters and camera operators who showed up were told by the Festival not to ask questions and not to interview filmgoers. They were allowed only briefly into the auditorium during a short question & answer session with Director Louie Psihoyos. Then they were apparently kicked off the property!

A great CNN story tells this sad tale of suppression:

And here is a New York Times story giving the reaction of ordinary Japanese who saw “The Cove”. So often, we only hear from government officials or the fishermen who kill the dolphins. Clearly, we are on the right track in getting “The Cove” out to the public in Japan:

Louie was the real hero of the day. He and his crew worked long and hard on putting together an excellent dub in Japanese of “The Cove.”

He also decided he would go to Tokyo personally to screen “The Cove” and answer questions. He was risking arrest, but felt he had to go to present his film and to talk with the Japanese. Fortunately, there was no arrest, and the screening went very well indeed. While several of the protagonists (including the Taiji mayor and the gentleman known in the film as “Private Space”) were in the room, none spoke, and Louie fielded questions like a pro. Generally, the questions were all pretty supportive, and even questions that could have been very hostile were asked in a polite manner.

Special thanks are owed to our Coalition team in Japan, including David Kubiak, Michael Bailey, Kyoko Tanaka, and to the amazing work done by Louie Psihoyos of OPS and Carl Clifton of The Works.

What happens now? This is the big question.

There is some interest after the screening from some Japanese distributors, so a wider audience may see “The Cove” in theaters.

I’m convinced we need, when appropriate, to get it out to the Japanese people in many ways – online, as DVDs, and in special screenings that our campaign pays for around cities in Japan. “The Cove” is a powerful statement and getting it out will go a long way towards ending the killing of dolphins and whales. But it will take a lot of money to get it out and seen in Japan.

Louie, acting on a suggestion by my son Lincoln, offered to screen “The Cove” in Taiji for the town Council and the people, but has not received any reply. Lincoln and I are working on following up for a screening in Taiji. Louie further generously offered to give the profits from “The Cove” screenings in Japan to the town of Taiji if they agreed to stop killing dolphins. “The Cove” also opens this coming Friday, October 23rd, in Europe.

There are many other things we need to do for the campaign beyond the movie, too. We need to continue to get the word out about mercury contamination, and help conduct more research on the dolphin fishery and the health threat it represents to the people of Japan. We need to push the Japanese media especially to look into the mercury issue.

I plan to go back to Japan soon, to continue to keep the pressure on and bring reporters and TV cameras with me. We have been willing to work from the beginning with the people of Taiji to encourage tourism and dolphin-watching as a replacement for killing and capturing dolphins, but they need to know we will not go away until this issue gets solved.

Your support has helped us enormously during these hectic days! Please consider giving a donation to help me and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition crew go back to Japan and Taiji:

Click Here to Donate

Thanks again for all your support!

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