Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, August 17:
A WHALE OF A TALE
Japan Cuts, Toronto Reel Asian, Philadelphia Asian American, Tromsø, Rhode Island
The small fishing village of Taiki reckons with its depiction in Louie Psihoyos’ Academy Award-winning film THE COVE.
A previous documentary, BEHIND THE COVE, which predates this film by about a year, also offered a rebuttal to Psihoyos’ film, but Sasaki’s is far superior. An accomplished documentarian, she brings a more assured approach, even as she uses many of the same arguments around THE COVE’s misrepresentation, cultural imperialism, and unwillingness to contextualize the practice of dolphin and whale hunting within Japanese culture and history. In addition to trying to set the record straight with facts about the exceedingly low consumption of dolphin and whale meat by Japanese, the non-endangered status of the species which are hunted, and the hunting caps placed on the fishermen, the filmmaker chronicles the ongoing standoff between Western conservationists like Sea Shepherd and local fisherman. These largely consist of attempts by the activists to capture and share footage of the slaughter to mobilize their followers’ outrage, essentially continuing the proliferation of the same kind of images from Psihoyos’ film, and tellingly demonstrating a seeming unwillingness to engage in any tactic other than forcing a change via international pressure. That said, like the earlier counter-narrative, this one also fails to sufficiently address the issue of cetacean intelligence and its chief role in motivating the Western opposition to the hunt – something that is given short shrift by those here arguing the Japanese perspective.