“The Cove,” the Louie Psihoyos-directed outrage doc about dolphin drive hunting, capture and killing in Taiji, Japan, isn’t turning out to be the relative box-office hit it seemed on track to become after winning an audience award at Sundance and gathering glowing reviews. Having only pulled in a total of $422,812 so far in limited national release, the film was used as the lynchpin of an LA Times article last week about the struggles of environmental docs to attract crowds.
Now the filmmakers are throwing down a very public gauntlet to the Tokyo International Film Festival for rejecting their film (a dubious way to publicize your film, as AJ Schnack points out) — the festival, which has a green theme this year, hasn’t yet announced its lineup. Producer Fisher Stevens emailed Deadline Hollywood Daily to say “the main goal for making the film was to shut down the cove in Taijii, Japan, where 2,300 dolphins are killed every year. Most of the Japanese population has no idea that this is going on. What better way to let them know than to premiere it on the green carpet of this years festival.” Psihoyos said similar things to Peter Howell at the Toronto Star, adding “It is essential that Japanese people see this film. They have the same reaction as an American audience, but they have the added emotion of shame.” And Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere is, for whatever reason, trying to put the responsibility for what comes next on jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu.
I’ve expressed my issues with “The Cove,” but beyond them, since when does a festival have a moral obligation to accept any film? And beyond that, “The Cove” is made by a group of Americans, funded by an internet billionaire, in order to scold and, as the director puts it, shame an entire country — where it’s now also expected to be welcomed? Imagine a doc in which, say, a Swedish crew sneaks into a slaughterhouse in the Midwest, films and castigates the conditions, mocks the security with which it’s met and the area in general, bullet points national health problems linked to beef hormones and then concludes that it’ll be great to reproach and enlighten the ignorant American population. And then imagine how well that film would go over here.
[Photo: “The Cove,” Roadside Attractions, 2009]