20 days ago a Wall Street Journal article by Tokyo-based correspondent Yuka Hayashi reported that The Cove‘s capturing of the Best Feature Documentary Oscar “could give the film an audience its makers had wanted to reach: ordinary moviegoers in Japan. The movie has had only a single viewing, at the Tokyo International Film Festival [last] October, and hasn’t yet been distributed in commercial theaters in Japan because of objections from the town it features.”
It further reports that “Japanese theaters have stayed away from The Cove because of protest from Taiji, a fishing town of 3,800 people in Western Japan that bills itself as the ‘birthplace of Japan’s commercial whaling.’ The town’s officials requested the film’s Japanese distributor to drop it, saying it was shot without permission of its people and constituted libel.
“To address Taiji’s complaint that the film was shot without permission from fishermen and other people in the town, their faces will be glazed over. It will also include a note pointing out the controversial nature of an expert’s comment in the film regarding the high mercury content of dolphin meat.” Controversial but not inaccurate.
I’m posting this because last night I ran into Cove producer Fisher Stevens (at the final performance of The Pride at the Lucille Lortel theatre), and he told me that Medallion Media, the film’s Japanese distributor, has postponed the Cove‘s theatrical release (reportedly set for “May or June,” according to Hayashi) due to some manner of pressure from some governmental agency, or perhaps from the courts.
Stevens said today that his sales agent has told him that Medallion had agreed to a May 15th release date, but has recently pushed it back to July 15th over apparent concerns regarding a possible Taiji libel suit. “We told them they have to release the film,” Stevens said. “They’re doing what they can but can’t keep postponing.” In fact, he said, “We’re pushing them to move it back up [to May 15th].”
Stevens also mentioned that pressure has been brought to bear to force the distributor to re-cut the film, alluding to what Hayashi reported almost three weeks ago.
To learn a bit more I wrote Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, whose negotiations with the Tokyo Film Festival led to The Cove being screened last October, but nothing so far. I also cc’ed Lincoln O’Barry, the son of Ric O’Barry — zip.