I watched The Cove at the Cine Adarna theatre of the University of the Philippines on September 3. It was a free screening sponsored by Earth Island Institute. The cinema was packed by environmentalists and advocates of keeping dolphins and other whales out of captivity.
However, I had to ditch my environmentalist mode so I can watch the film more objectively and I had to see it with my ASIAN AND THIRD WORLD EYES! My assessment is that the documentary was well made but MISERABLY FAILS on cultural and historical sensitivity. And so it can easily be criticized as an ENVIROIMPERIALIST attempt to trump down Japanese culture.
First of all the film shows an all WHITE crew of environmentalists trying to save the dolphins. I do not see any problem with saving cetaceans and many Japanese do so too, but a balanced treatment would have been better if a historical aspect was introduced. Wholesale whale slaughter was first made an efficient industry by who else, White European nations and the Americans in the 19th century! The Europeans and Americans wanted to push aside the Japanese in the late 19th century and early 20th century in the whaling bonanza by restricting Japanese access to whaling grounds. And it was not just limited to whaling. The European powers and America tried to push aside an emerging industrial Japan. This is one of the prime causes of World War II.
The film has its plusses like telling about the politics in the International Whaling Commission. And in just like any world body, those with the cash can practice "checkbook diplomacy". Japan is a country prohibited by its constitution in pursuing military means to advance its interests, so the resort to the checkbook. Nonetheless all the delegates who support Japan's position shown in the film appear to have AFRICAN heritage. In other words BLACK. The Japanese are by sleight of camera, portrayed stereotypically. It was just like watching the newsreels of the "Nips" in World War II!
Critics have called "The Cove" as pure propaganda. I agree. It is a film that would have sent Dr Goebbles to an envious rage as what "Gone in the Wind" did to him.
One scene is so reminiscent of a Goebbles and Fritz Hippler masterpiece. You see Japanese eating sushi in a sushi bar with swimming goldfish!
There is a big issue on mercury in whale meat. The film says that most of the Hg came from the burning of fossil fuels. Now which country burns the most in fossil fuels and thus send Hg into the atmosphere? Answer: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. This was conveniently left out.
The Cove is a 21st morality tale. We have a woman weeping for an injured dolphin, but as one Japanese rightly pointed out, would she weep for the slaughter of a cow fed on corn that could have fed 100 starving people? The American activists in film accuse the Japanese of not knowing what is happening in Taiji. But I ask as a Third World citizen, does the average American know exactly how a cow is turned into steak?" Does the average American know how wasteful in terms of food he/she is? The principle of moral equivalence is the question here and the Americans have no monopoly on that!
The question is whether there is a need to kill dolphins and whales or show them in theme park. Is there any good existing reason to do so? This is akin to asking whether there is a need for the death penalty in the 21st century. Well on this note, Japan and the USA are one. These are the two major democracies left on earth that still send people to the executioner!
Japan is a democracy and even unpalatable films can be shown unlike in Germany. The Cove was screened in major Japanese cities without much incident. If a film on Americans supporting 9/11 was ever shown in the US, would this result in no incident?
The Japanese may be forced into a hardline position. One Japanese said he will eat whale meat as a sign of protest. The Japanese gentleman also said that this movie will only benefit the careers of the film makers.
I never applauded "The Cove" at the end of the screening as many in the cinema did. To have done so is like applauding Dr Joseph Goebbles for his work. I find the whole idea of applauding extremely distasteful and horrible.