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Tuesday, September 05, 2017, 19:00 - 21:30

A balanced, nuanced portrait of the still-fractious Taiji controversy

Sneak Preview Screening: A Whale of a Tale (Okujirasama: Futatsu no Seigi no Monogatari)
followed by a Q&A session* with director Megumi Sasaki

Tuesday, September 5 at 7:00 pmWhale of a Tale 356p
In Japanese and English with English subtitles
USA, 2016 95 minutes    
*The Q&A will be in English

Producer, director: Megumi Sasaki
Featuring: Jay Alabaster, Taiji whalers, Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen,
Atsushi Nakahira, Ric O'Barry, Sea Shepard protesters
Film courtesy of Elephant House

There are few FCCJ members who don't remember our overflow screening of "The Cove" in 2009, the first Japan showing of the now-infamous Oscar winner about the dolphin hunts in Taiji. The film had an enormous impact on international public opinion regarding Japan, creating an Us vs. Them mentality, pitting environmentalists against traditionalists, and allowing no space for a dialogue to develop.

Encouraged by social media-savvy activists, protestors have been pouring into the tiny town of Taiji every September during hunting season for the past 8 years. Yet the dolphin hunts continue - and so does the whaling, although most Japanese do not eat whale meat. Organized whaling began in Taiji in 1606, and today, it is not just a food, it is a form of identity. The swarming presence of angry outsiders, and their frequent shouting matches with fishermen, have compounded the travails of locals and exacerbated what seems an impossible situation. With the rallying cry on both sides reduced to a too-simple pro- or anti-whaling stance, the situation has devolved into cultural warfare.

Onto the battleground steps New York-based Megumi Sasaki, whose "A Whale of a Tale" does not issue a call to action, but rather, to understanding. It is perhaps the first unbiased, nuanced view of the ongoing controversy. She is not concerned with recreating the tense drama of "The Cove" to provide a Japan-defending "corrective," but rather, with capturing the current reality on both sides of the yawning divide.

Sasaki reminds us of the salient facts - many of which have been lost in the constant scuffle - but her wisest decision is to focus on the activities of two mediators who provide illuminating perspectives: American journalist and researcher Jay Alabaster, who moved to Taiji in 2013 and has devoted years to befriending and earning the trust of locals; and Atsushi Nakahira, a nationalist and local political group leader, who taught himself English so he could communicate with the protestors. As unexpected peacemaker, he eventually succeeds in bringing the two sides together for a public debate.

If "A Whale of a Tale" doesn't quite turn us all into neutral observers, it moves us closer. Sasaki's lasting achievement is that the film recasts the ugly ideological impasse as one of globalism vs. localism - something we can all understand, irrespective of background. Still, one of the film's inescapable conclusions is that Japan would likely have banned whaling by now if foreign protests hadn't been so aggressive.

Join us for this sneak preview of "Whale of a Tale" before it opens on September 9 in Japan.

For more (in Japanese):
For English-subtitled trailer:

MEGUMI SASAKI directed the multi-award-winning documentary "Herb & Dorothy" (2008), about legendary New York art collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel, and the follow-up, "Herb & Dorothy 50X50" (2013), both of which were enormously successful in Japan as well as overseas. Before making theatrical films, Sasaki was an anchor, reporter and documentary news director for NHK, as well as a freelance documentary news director/field producer for programs on TBS, TV Asahi, Nippon Television and TV Tokyo. She founded Fine Line Media in 2002 to create TV and theatrical documentaries. She has lived in New York City since 1987.

You may attend the Q&A without attending the screening, but you will not have seating priority. Please reserve in advance, still & TV cameras inclusive, at the FCCJ Reception Desk (3211-3161) or register below. All film screenings are private, noncommercial events primarily for FCCJ members and their guests.   

- Karen Severns, Film Committee

Whale of a Tale 290p.jpg
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