The issue of commercial whaling in Japan remains a contentious issue, as animal rights activists engage cultural traditionalists on the historical roots of this practice and its contemporary relevance. For this event the documentary filmmaker Megumi Sasaki will screen excerpts from her film “A Whale of a Tale,” and discuss the controversies surrounding this topic.
About the film “A Whale of a Tale”:
Can a small town with a proud 400-year-old whaling tradition survive a tsunami of modern environmental activism? The camera delves into the lives of local whalers, global activists and an American journalist in the “whale and dolphin killing town” of Taiji, Japan, revealing not everything is as black and white as it seems.
In 2010, Taiji, a sleepy fishing town in southern Japan, suddenly wakes up in the global spotlight. A documentary film called The Cove, which denounces the town’s longstanding whale and dolphin hunting practices, has just won an Academy Award. Almost overnight, the town of Taiji has morphed into a battleground as the go-to destination for international activists.
Jay Alabaster, a Tokyo-based Associated Press journalist and twenty-year Japan resident, is sent to Taiji to cover the controversy. He is warned by his boss to “be careful in the dangerous town”, which triggers the sense that something is not quite right with media reports surrounding Taiji.
As the fall hunting season begins, anti-whale and dolphin hunting activists arrive from abroad with binoculars and cameras in hand. Their mission: To expose the “atrocities” committed in Taiji via the web.
Every time dolphins are captured in the hunt, tension in the cove grows. Activists yell and thrust cameras in whalers’ faces. Local police and the Coast Guard stand by. Camera crews arrive in droves. A Japanese nationalist van harasses activists over a loudspeaker.
For the local whalers, hunting is their livelihood, pride and identity. Catching whales and dolphins – as they do other fish – has allowed them to feed their families and support the town’s economy.
The activists fight back, saying the whales and dolphins are not fish, but intelligent mammals deserving special protection on a global scale. Hunting and eating them is barbaric, and selling them to aquariums is comparable to a slave trade.
Will Taiji survive under global pressure? Following the town’s fate for six years, A WHALE OF A TALE tells a story not yet heard in the global controversy of whale and dolphin hunting. Through the point-of-view of an American journalist, the film unearths a deep divide in eastern and western thought about nature and wildlife, raising questions about cultural sensitivity in the face of global activism.