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Director of 'The Cove' rebuke hopes for constructive, Japan-led debate at whaling body

Director Keiko Yagi talks about the issues surrounding whaling on a visit to Los Angeles, California, for a film festival, on Aug. 18, 2018. (Mainichi)

LOS ANGELES -- Ahead of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) this month and the criticism of Japan's whaling industry that is expected to follow, the Mainichi Shimbun sat down with the director of a documentary made in response to the heavily critical film "The Cove."

"Behind 'The Cove'" director Keiko Yagi, 51, was inspired to make her response to the anti-dolphin hunting documentary with one of her own after a 2014 decision by the International Court of Justice. Japan was ordered to halt research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean, and wondering if this would mean the end of the consumption of whale meat in Japan, she began interviewing people related to the issue.

The 2010 Academic Award-winning documentary "The Cove" gathered attention for covering dolphin hunting in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, in western Japan from the highly-critical view of anti-whaling groups. Yagi traveled to Taiji, staying there for a long period of time in order to express Japan's side of the story which was left untouched in "The Cove" in a documentary of her own.

When her documentary was first screened in the summer of 2015, the international media reported that a Japanese person was trying to present evidence to refute the claims made in "The Cove," and she says that audience members told her that it was the first time they had ever heard the other side of the whaling debate.

"The opinions of both sides were presented in the film, sorting out misunderstandings," Yagi said. This past February, she picked up the award for best director of a feature documentary at the London International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema. "It's important for Japan to tell its side of the story to international society," she said.

Of the IWC, Yagi pointed out, "In reality, the commission's authority is hollow." Amid a conflict of opinions between member countries for and against the practice of whaling, the commission failed to hold constructive debate or make substantial decisions, resulting in the continuation of "unfortunate gatherings," she said.

With the Japanese government proposing restarting a portion of its commercial whaling and changing the IWC's decision-making procedures, among other suggestions for the meeting, Yagi said, "I'm waiting to see if Japan can take the lead and reform the IWC."

(Japanese original by Hiromi Nagano, Los Angeles Bureau)

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