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Tokyo film festival decides to show 'The Cove'

Tokyo film festival decides to show 'The Cove'
Sep 16, 3:45 AM (ET)


TOKYO (AP) - The Tokyo International Film Festival will show "The Cove," a documentary that depicts the slaughter of dolphins in Japan. But the decision was so last-minute the movie didn't make it into the official press package.

Tom Yoda, chairman of the annual festival, which opens Oct. 17, refused Wednesday to discuss how the decision came about, citing festival policy on screening decisions.

But he acknowledged there had been views against showing the film, as well as nervousness about "an unexpected controversy."

Details of the film's showing have not been not decided, and it is not among the 15 films chosen for the competition part of the festival, Yoda said.

It was clear the festival took its time to come to a decision. A brief description of "The Cove" was printed on a separate piece of paper as an "additional screening," and was not part of the 42-page booklet handed out to the press Wednesday.

"The Cove," which has won more than a dozen awards, documents the killing of dolphins in the seaside town of Taiji, which sells some of the captured dolphins to aquariums but kills the rest to be sold as meat.

Fishermen on small boats bang on poles to frighten the dolphins into a cove, then kill them with spears as the water quickly turns a deep red with blood.

"The Cove," directed by National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos, premiered in the U.S. earlier this year. But it had not yet been scheduled to be shown in Japan.

There had been some speculation the Tokyo festival, which receives Japanese government funding, had been under pressure not to show the film.

Yoda denied that, and said the festival committee had reached its own independent decision.
"We considered the freedom of expression," Yoda said. "And there was interest in the work from all over the world."

About 2,000 dolphins a year are killed in Taiji.

But in a sign that "The Cove" may have created change, the fishermen did not kill a single dolphin from their catch of about 100 on Sept. 9. Although they kept some to sell to aquariums, they set 70 dolphins free Sunday.

The fishermen have not said they will stick to sparing all dolphins.

They also denied caving in to international pressure. But neither do they want the negative attention "The Cove" has brought to what they have in the past defended as tradition.

Ric O'Barry, the star of "The Cove," and the dolphin-trainer for the 1960s "Flipper" TV show, visited Taiji earlier this month to deliver his message that the dolphins must not be killed. He welcomed the decision to return the dolphins to sea.

Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat, but it is a delicacy in some regions.

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