Japan court orders protesters away from theater set to show dolphin-hunt movie ‘The Cove’

By Jay Alabaster, AP
Friday, June 25, 2010

Japan court blocks ‘The Cove’ protests at theater

TOKYO — A court Friday ordered protesters to keep away from a theater that plans to show the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” about a dolphin hunt in a Japanese village.

The movie shows scenes of the bloody but legal dolphin slaughter filmed using hidden cameras, and portrays local fisherman as rough goons. Nationalist groups say it shouldn’t be shown because it is anti-Japanese, distorts the truth and has connections with an anti-whaling group labeled a terrorist organization by the government.

The dispute over the film developed into a debate over free speech after initial screenings were canceled by theaters to avoid noisy protests. After prominent publishers and directors voiced their concern, at least 22 theaters have now agreed to show it.

Yokohama New Theater, a small cinema in a city next to Tokyo which plans to show the film from July 3, has been targeted repeatedly by protesters with bullhorns and signs. There were no protests there Friday after the main group responsible received the court order.

The order was issued by the Yokohama regional court at the request of the theater, according to Miyuki Takamatsu, a spokeswoman for Unplugged, the movie’s Japanese distributor.

Unplugged requested and received a similar order from a Tokyo court earlier this year after repeated protests at its headquarters and at the home of its president, she said.

Nationalists have said the film has connections to Sea Shepherd, an anti-whaling group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by Tokyo for its militant actions against Japanese whalers. The movie includes a sympathetic interview with Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson.

In the version of the movie intended for release in Japan, a disclaimer has been added saying that the data presented in it were gathered by and are the responsibility of the film’s creators. The movie cites information about mercury levels in dolphins and falsely labeled dolphin meat that has been challenged by government officials.

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