The Academy-Award winning documentary, The Cove, finally opened in Japan on July 3 amid a national dialogue about the meaning of free speech and censorship in Japan. The Cove was slated to open in Japanese theaters in mid-June, but extremist nationalist groups, some of which acknowledged they had not seen the movie, claimed it was “anti-Japanese.” They held noisy demonstrations at the homes of the distributors, made intimidating phone calls to theaters, and filed lawsuits to block screenings. With worried theater owners canceling screenings, Earth Island’s Ric O’Barry arrived in Japan in June to work with the distributing company, Unplugged, to promote screening the film as a free speech right.
The issue quickly became a rallying cry for Japanese free-speech advocates. More than 60 artists, journalists, and filmmakers gathered in Tokyo to denounce censorship and endorse the screenings. Japan’s major newspapers editorialized in support of The Cove, a far different reception from previous efforts.
The free speech uproar gave a huge boost to the film, and many theaters sold out their first showings of The Cove. “These nationalist groups shot themselves in the foot,” O’Barry says. “They helped get the word out to everyone in Japan that the slaughter of dolphins is a major international problem for Japan. Only 26 fishermen kill dolphins in Taiji – the rest of the country is suffering because of them.”
Once the theatrical showings are over, the Earth Island Save Japan Dolphins Campaign will stay busy promoting the new Animal Planet show “Blood Dolphin$,” about our efforts in Taiji and the Solomon Islands, which begins airing in late August 2010. Plans are underway to pass out free DVDs and provide free downloads of The Cove to the public, as well. O’Barry and the Save Japan Dolphins Team, in conjunction with Japanese peace and environmental groups, are also planning a peaceful vigil on September 1, opening day of the six-month dolphin-killing season
— Mark J. Palmer
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