Newsweek magazine has stirred the waters of controversy with a cover story on a Japanese fishing village's dolphin hunt, a practice that gained sudden international attention in 2009 due to the documentary "The Cove." In response to the article, the film's director released haunting footage of dolphins being slaughtered, footage he says was too graphic for the film.
Written by Bill Powell, the Newsweek story zeroes in on the annual dolphin drive hunt in Taiji, Japan, where thousands of dolphins and porpoises are slaughtered for their meat or sold into captivity. The piece focuses on the impact that "The Cove" -- which follows a group of activists on a covert mission to unveil the gruesome slaughters -- had on Taiji villagers, who allege that filmmakers harassed them, exploited their tradition and may have doctored footage to enhance the color of the cove's water as it becomes saturated with dolphin blood.
“Mistrust of the filmmakers and anti-hunt activists is so intense that some villagers, who say the water never turns that red during the killing, believe the producers later added the lurid color with special effects," writes Powell. "The filmmakers adamantly deny this."
Leaping to the defense of his Academy Award-winning film, "The Cove" director Louie Psihoyos, who is also the president of the Oceanic Preservation Society, published a blog post that reads, in part: “Mr. Powell’s article contains false equivalence and journalistic cowardice that insists that every story must have two sides. It’s also devoid of basic fact checking.”
“I thought maybe this story is a last-ditch effort to revive a brand [Newsweek],” Psihoyos told The Huffington Post over the phone.
Psihoyos said he and his crew in no way added special effects or enhanced the color of blood in the gory scenes involving dolphin killing. While filming the Taiji cove sequences, concealed by camouflage on a nearby cliff, Psihoyos captured footage far too gruesome for the public eye and left it out of the film, he also said.
“I thought if we released that footage it would be too damning to the fisherman, to see those dolphins tied up in the beach, writhing. We just thought this is too brutal, too gruesome to show," Psihoyos told HuffPost. "In the other footage we showed, at least the dolphins were dying in the water.”
To emphasize the barbaric nature of the hunt, Psihoyos on March 31 released hours of never-before-seen, unedited footage. The videos (below) show four different camera angles of the Taiji cove, where fishermen with spears are pictured slaughtering groups of dolphins as blood gradually turns the seawater crimson.
“The blood that you see, we didn’t touch a pixel of that footage," Psihoyos told HuffPost. "It’s pretty clear if you’re looking at the bloody cove when the sun rises. My camera is on the opposite side of the color spectrum, so when the sun hits the water directly, it’s red as can be. Everything you see there is pixel-for-pixel as we shot it.”
WARNING: These videos contain graphic scenes of animal slaughter.