Saturday, June 26, 2010

It's official, The Cove will open in Japan!

By Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

I’m back in Miami now. I can’t tell you all how tumultuous the last few weeks have been. Once people see The Cove in Japan, they will have such a better understanding of the captivity issue, the IWC and more importantly, the senselessness and brutality with which these dolphins are dying. Once that happens, the Save Japan Dolphins Team and I can help the Japanese people end the slaughter of dolphins once and for all!

So when theaters started cancelling their bookings, I got very worried. When nationalist extremists managed to shut down several campus screenings, I was convinced that this film would never make it into theaters. I started to really question Japan’s resolve as a democracy.

But sometimes it only takes one person to stand up and say something is wrong. In this case, Unplugged’s CEO Takeshi Kato would not rest. Kato-san has traveled from city to city – Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, to name a few – meeting with theater owners. He was able to convince several theaters to not only keep the film but to come forward and stand up for the right to show it. If you ask me the nationalists picked the wrong door to knock on when they went to Kato-san's house to protest.

PHOTO: Unplugged CEO Takeshi Kato

He gathered others that are concerned about freedom of expression, and we put together a symposium at the Tokyo Bar Association. Four of the theater owners came forward, along with notable journalists, film directors and pundits. In all, the following people participated in this large press event:

  • Mr. Shinodo, Editor in Chief of Tsukura Publishing
  • Kei ishizaka, popular cartoonist
  • Kunio Suzuki, former leader of the nationalist group Issuikai
  • Soichiro Tahara, renowned journalist
  • Yoichi Sai, film director
  • Mr. Matsumara, theater owner, Osaka
  • Ms. Kamiya, theater owner, Kyoto
  • Mr. Hirano, theater owner, Nagoya
  • Mr. Nagasawa, representative, Forum Theaters

PHOTO: Renowned journalist Soichiro Tahara and film director Yoichi Sai

More than 100 Japanese media representatives attended with 11 camera crews, including the majors, TBS and NHK.

Each theater owner spoke to the fact that they felt threatened, but that they deeply felt it is important to stand up. Kato-san announced that six theaters will open the film on July 3, with 16 more the following week.

I can’t thank Kato-san and his team enough. Especially Miyuki Takamatsu, who has been running all the press and has been our rock since we got to Japan.

Without doubt, this is the best outcome of my many weeks in Japan. When I arrived, The Cove movie was relatively unknown, with protestors dominating the media against it, and theater owners backing out. In a very short time, Kato-san and his team, as well as our Earth Island Save Japan Dolphins Team, turned the issue completely around. The Japanese people are now discussing free speech and important Democratic issues, all because of the dolphins!

Domo Arigato!

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