by Kyoko Hasegawa
TOKYO, Japan - A town at the centre of a controversial dolphin slaughtering documentary could sue the film makers, local fisheries officials said Wednesday, as it premiered at a Tokyo film festival.
"The Cove", an award-winning film depicting the annual slaughter of dolphins in the Japanese coastal town of Taiji, has caused uproar in the town, with film makers accused of covertly shooting footage using divers and hidden cameras.
The Taiji fisheries cooperative, which strongly supports the dolphin hunt, has written a letter of protest to the organiser of the film festival, an official told AFP.
"We've heard that the film includes factual errors, and so we may take some sort of action, including legal steps, if we watch it and find problems," said the official, who declined to be named.
The movie had its Japan premiere Wednesday at the Tokyo International Film Festival before some 300 movie-goers and journalists.
Comments in a question-and-answer session varied from revulsion at the graphic scenes of the dolphin slaughter in a secluded cove to a spirited defence of Japanese traditions and fishing and food habits.
"Although it's a difficult issue as it involves fishermen's jobs, it's also difficult to argue that all Japanese traditions have to be maintained," Makoto Iwahashi, a 19-year-old student, told AFP after watching the film. "I think if we find something wrong in our tradition, we should correct it."
Killing dolphins is not prohibited by the International Whaling Commission's ban on commercial whaling, but Japan's Fisheries Agency restricts the practice by handing out annual quotas to several fishing towns.
This year, Taiji was allocated a quota of about 2,300 small cetaceans - such as dolphins, whales and porpoises, said prefectural official Shimamura. The film's director, Louie Psihoyos, said the film was not an attack on Japan and his team was negotiating with Japanese distributors over a possible deal for the film to be shown in Japanese film theaters.
"All the profits we will be able to make from this film will go to fishermen in Taiji - if they agree to stop dolphin-hunting," he said.
The Taiji fisheries official said the town would keep hunting dolphins.