New Emissary

Gold Statue Power

New high-profile award for film may bring a media tidal wave to Japan.

I’ve already raved about the thrilling real-life documentary caper, The Cove, centred on an annual dolphin cull in a small coastal island in Japan. But with a new high-profile accolade—Best Documentary win at Sunday’s Academy Awards—what will happen next?

Already making headlines today is the story of a sushi shop sting op conducted by none other than the producers of the film, who exposed a trendy California restaurant, Hump, for illegally serving endangered Sei whale this past weekend. This has without doubt got the amount of coverage it has because of the publicity from the Oscar win. And in Japan, it could be that the The Cove media storm is yet to come—but still very much around the corner.

According to
the Wall Street Journal, Japanese theatres have previously stayed away from the film due to protests from the locals of Taiji, where it was shot. But with this additional international recognition, it’s likely Japan cannot ignore a story that takes place within its borders.

The documentary’s director, Louie Psihoyos still has an outstanding arrest warrant for him in the country, but his hope may lie in a certain Takeshi Kato, chief executive of the Japanese distribution company Unplugged, who is now working to blur out the faces of certain Japanese fishermen who appear in the movie so it can be screened in Japan by early summer. This is to satiate the claims of the fishermen and Taiji townspeople, who claim filming was conducted without official permission.

‘(The Cove) is about Japan, but this has been the only place where it couldn’t be seen,’ Kato was quoted, in relaying his own thoughts about the controversial selection. According to various sources, Kato has so far arranged for the film to be shown at five cinemas in big Japanese cities by May or June, though he anticipates more venues will come on board.

But he’s careful to point out that these theatres are not taking a political stance in screening the movie: ‘they are not dolphin protectionists, nor are they on the side of the hunt…They want to show it without taking sides.’