Seeming to bow to international pressure (or, in their words, "interest"), the Tokyo Film Festival announced today that they will screen Louie Psihoyos' THE COVE at their festival next month. Previously, THE COVE filmmakers had launched a PR offensive against the Tokyo Fest (see here and here), arguing that the festival's environmental theme (which was also in place in 2008) nearly demanded the film's inclusion.
From the Hollywood Reporter:
TIFF chairman Tatsumi "Tom" Yoda said Wednesday that the documentary about dolphin hunting in Japan would screen at the festival but denied that the decision was down to external pressure, saying it was because of "great interest in the film from around the world."
Yoda declined to explain in further detail why the film had now been included after its initial rejection, saying that the festival didn't do so for other films and would maintain the same policy for THE COVE."
The news guarantees that THE COVE, which has been a box office disappointment in the US for distributor Roadside Attractions, stays in the media eye through October, when Oscar voters will be making their first decisions.
In addition to the very-public August skirmish with the festival, THE COVE has been in the news recently as dolphin-hunting has returned to the fishing village of Taiji and local politicians in Japan have begun to complain that the outrage is cultural or, perhaps, racist.
An article today at TIME notes Tokyo's reversal on THE COVE but also delves into the complexities of the issue not shown in the film:
Killing dolphins for meat is a cultural issue on both sides of the debate. While cute and often anthropomorphized, dolphins, unlike some whale populations hunted by Japanese fishermen, are not endangered. The film editorializes that the statues and images of whales and dolphins in Taiji purposefully hide the town's dark secret of killing the animals. But the Japanese have a history of venerating and praying for animals that die for the well-being of humans and sometimes erect statues and hold festivals to comfort the animals' souls. What might be considered macabre or inappropriate by Western standards is a way of life — and a perspective on nature — for the Japanese people. Shigeki Takaya, who is in charge of the whaling section of the Far Seas Fisheries division at the Fisheries Agency, says dolphins are a "resource, just like fish. Killing animals in any way is bloody, unfortunately, just like slaughtering cows and pigs.""
The Tokyo Festival runs October 17 - 25.