Friday, October 23, 2009

Louis Psihoyos's "The Cove" met with praise and controversy at Tokyo IFF

by Chris MaGee

While this year's Tokyo International Film Festival once again adopted a "green" eco-friendly theme with green instead of red carpets and programming Jacques Perrin's nature documentary "Oceans" as its opening film it was another documentary with an environmental theme that has stirred up both praise and controversy amongst festival audiences.

Louis Psihoyos's "the Cove" was a last minute addition to this year's line-up, one that caught a many Japanese and international film fans by surprise. The doc follows dolphin trainer and eco-activist Ric O’Barry as he tries to infiltrate the cove of the title and expose the annual dolphin massacre that takes place in the seaside town of Taiji in Wakayama, Prefecture. Obviously critical of the Japanese and their consumption of dolphin meat and including some graphic images of the slaughter "The Cove" was obviously going to be a hard sell at Tokyo IFF, so the controversy before, during, and after its screening on October 21st was expected, but thankfully the film was also met with quiet praise from many Japanese audience members.
While Tokyo IFF made the announcement that the festival had nothing to do with the production of the film and had security on hand afterward to keep reporters from asking uncomfortable questions of the exiting Japanese audience members some opinions and commentary did manage to leak out. The Japanese who who were quoted in this post at Japan Today spoke of "The Cove" as lacking objectivity, of being "propaganda-like", and not acknowledging "cultural differences in people’s eating habits". A few though, including a 32-year-old housewife, made their opinion clear, "I can only say that dolphin hunting should be stopped immediately..."

Director Louis Psihoyos (above left) had more on his mind than just what audience member might say about his film. At the Q&A for "The Cove" he thanked "the Japanese government for not arresting me when I came in[to the country]," but was still a bit nervous that he might get snagged on his way back to the United States. The cove in Taiji where the slaughter takes place is heavily guarded and Psihoyos, O’Barry, and the film's crew had to illegally sneak into the area to get the grisly footage that ends the documentary.

"The Cove" will hit video store shelves here in North America on December 8th courtesy of Roadside Attractions. Thanks to Japan Today and the Associated Press for the details on this.

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