Behind “The Cove”-The Quiet Japanese Speak Out is filmmaker Keiko Yagi’s response to The Cove, which won the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature in 2010. In her bold pursuit of the truth, Yagi produces a film that breaks down the whaling industry, explains the historical significance of whaling, and bravely highlights the one-sidedness of The Cove. In her first film, Keiko Yagi tirelessly works to convey the culture of Japan to the world. Daring and thought-provoking, Behind “The Cove” reminds audience members that film is a powerful medium, and editing can create a powerful narrative. (LMB: 3.5/5)
Review by FF2 Associate Lindsy M. Bissonnette
As described in Keiko Yagi’s documentary, Behind “The Cove,” the Japanese have been hunting whales for centuries. The blubber is transformed into oil, the meat is consumed, the bones are used to make dolls, brushes, corsets, and other parts of the whale are used to create shoelaces, wallets, headdresses, bags and more. Some parts of the whale are even used for scientific research. The entire animal is used and no part is wasted. It is a spiritual, and more importantly, a sustainable industry and art form, which has been destroyed by unsustainable and wasteful western practices.
The documentary also takes care to explain that the whaling industry, though ongoing for centuries, picked up after the world war when the Japanese people were starving. Men from all over the country would go whaling together to bring back food to the people. Back then, whale was 70% of the protein source in the average Japanese diet. When whalers docked their ships, parcels from loved ones and school children would be waiting for the them, expressing their thanks and gratitude.
All over Japan are graves and memorials dedicated to whales. Children in school even learn how to dissect whales so as not to waste any part. This understanding and appreciation for the animal has been passed down for generations.
Throughout the documentary, the people of Taiji express their concern over the demonization and dramatization of hunting in The Cove. In one interview it is described as “a documentary that creates its own reality.” After its release, groups of journalists, reporters and activist groups invaded the town of Taiji to photograph and film fishermen on their way to work, sometimes even laying down in front of their vehicles to prevent them from working. Determined to show the world the Japanese people’s side of the story, Keiko Yagi interviews main cast, Richard O’Barry, and director, Louie Psihoyos, of The Cove to hear their opinion on how the people of Taiji have been affected.
One take-away about whaling in Behind “The Cove” is that cows, sheep and pigs that are bred for consumption have much worse lives than that of a whale, which spends its life in the open ocean. One woman says “it’s our soul food and I don’t want to lose it” and Richard O’Barry even goes so far as to say “it’s easy to be a vegan in Beverly Hills.”
Writer/Director Keiko Yagi is ruthless in her determination to share and explain the culture of Taiji, Japan. Even though Behind “The Cove” is her first project, her understanding of the power that film is capable of is evident. Personal feelings about the whaling industry aside, this is a documentary that reminds us all that there are always two sides to every story. The Cove has been used as a weapon against the cultural practices of the people of Taiji, and Yagi’s work, she hopes, will help the world see the other side to this story.
© Lindsy M. Bissonnette FF2 Media (11/26/16)
Top Photo: Protestors of the whaling industry photograph Keiko Yagi as she films them.
Middle Photo: Japanese painting depicting the honoring of whales.
Bottom Photo: A memorial to the whale.
Photo Credits: Cinemaflix
Q: Does Behind “The Cove”-The Quiet Japanese Speak Out pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
There are several conversations between Keiko Yagi and people she interviews, some of whom are women. They discuss the whale’s importance in the history of the Japanese culture, and the way that The Cove has affected their lives.