Tokyo Notes

Internet Saves The Cove

The film’s had problems with Japan’s movie theatres. The Internet may give it a break.

Following opposition to the screening of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove at cinemas in Japan, the film’s Japanese distributor is offering a free showing of the controversial film online on Friday.

Planned screenings of the movie in Tokyo and Osaka starting on June 26 were cancelled earlier this month after right-wing groups threatened to target a cinema in Shibuya where the film was to be shown.

But the movie, which features secretly taken footage of dolphin culling in Taiji, a town on the southern coast of central Japan, will now apparently be shown for free to a limited viewership of 2,000 netizens on Japanese video sharing site Nico Nico Douga.

On the one hand this is a sad reflection of the refusal by certain segments of Japanese society to countenance anything that might reflect badly on Japan, and their ability to stop the film being shown. On the other hand, it’s another great day for celebrating the Internet’s power to liberate information and ideas that some people would rather keep out of sight, be it in their own interests or the perceived interests of others.

The cancelling of some of the screenings has indeed raised the issue of protecting freedom of speech, leading a group of filmmakers and journalists to offer a show of support to the distributor. Even one of Japan’s main dailies, The Asahi Shimbun, decided to devote an editorial  to the matter earlier this week. People need to encounter values that are very different to their own to gain broader perspective, the Asahi said, insisting that the development was one that could not be ignored, regardless of the actual merits of the film.

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For the majority of people, the killing of animals is not a pleasant sight. But putting aside the issue of whether it makes more sense to kill supposedly dumb cows on a factory production line than to drive ‘intelligent’ dolphins into a bay for a communal bludgeoning, surely it should be up to people to decide whether they want to see the movie or not, and for them to draw their own conclusions on the matter as they see fit.

Now, at least some viewers in Japan, will be able to.