Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Behind “The Cove”—A Rebuttal of Sorts
in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture is a picturesque coastal village, filled with shrines
and nautical museums. It is hard to imagine going there with the express
intention of acting belligerent and aggressive, but people do. Their motivations
are simple: money and self-righteousness. Ever since the release of Louie
Psihoyos’ Oscar-winning documentary, The
Cove (the one about the dolphin drive hunt), the village of approximately
3,500 people has been over-run with environmental activists looking to make a
name for themselves and keep their donors’ funding flowing. It has become an
ugly scene that ought to be exposed for the world to judge. Unfortunately,
something apparently gets lost in the translation for Keiko Yagi’s scattershot
rebuttal documentary, Behind “The Cove:” The
Quiet Japanese Speak Out (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
word “disorganized” does not even begin to describe the case Yagi haphazardly lays
out. By far, the most compelling revelations concern the behavior of the
throngs of environmental protesters, particularly that of the explicitly
confrontational Sea Shephard. Yagi captures footage of them clearly trying to
intimidate villagers, but their casual disrespect for holy shrines is perhaps
even more problematic. This is the sort of material that would really make their
supporters squirm, if it were presented in a more structured manner.
she strikes pay dirt with her interview of Simon Wearne of Wakayama University,
who happened to be a cameraman on Animal Planet’s Whale Wars I. Wearne cautions viewers not to take the show as
gospel, because he knows what footage did not survive the editing war. He also puts
the Japanese whaling industry in perspective, explaining how it was always
sustainable. It was just wasteful western whaling that ruined it for the rest
of the world.
is frustrating to see legitimate insights get buried under mountains of
baffling non-sequiturs. Frankly, Yagi’s lack of political sophistication is
downright face-palm worthy. She constantly levels charges of hypocrisy against
western environmental groups, using policies of the American government as
ammunition, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more virulently
anti-American subset than eco-terrorists. Clearly, the Sea Shepherd protester’s
“Thanks, but no Yanks” t-shirt was lost on her.
strategy of highlighting American historical outrages reaches the level of
self-parody when she lets a crank protesting outside the White House rage
against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Pearl Harbor was no big deal he argues, because
America was already actively working to undermine Japan’s dominance in the
Pacific. Yes, but if he wants to play that game, most historians would argue we
should have been even more proactive countering Imperial Japan, given the war
crimes that were perpetrated during “The Rape of Nanking” and the incendiary bombing
of Chongqing (three years before Pearl Harbor).
How ludicrous is it that a documentary intended
to fisk The Cove ends up
re-litigating the War in the Pacific? There is a fair amount of material in Behind that could embarrass the
anti-whaling syndicate if it were effectively marshaled, but Yagi lets it die
on the vine. It is almost tragic, because the beleaguered good people of Taiji
deserve a better defense. For now, this is what they have. Good luck to it when
Behind “The Cove” opens tomorrow
(11/25) in New York, at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Documentary, Japanese Cinema