'The Cove' to play at Tokyo film festival

Dolphin documentary included despite initial rejection

TOKYO -- The Tokyo International Film Festival's news conference Wednesday was dominated by the announcement that "The Cove," previously rejected by the fest, has been included in the lineup.

TIFF chairman Tatsumi "Tom" Yoda said Wednesday that the documentary about dolphin hunting in Japan would screen at the festival but denied that the decision was down to external pressure, saying it was because of "great interest in the film from around the world."

Yoda declined to explain in further detail why the film had now been included after its initial rejection, saying that the festival didn't do so for other films and would maintain the same policy for "The Cove."

The film, shot undercover by dolphin trainer-turned-activist Ric O'Barry in the Japanese fishing village of Taiji, has put the media spotlight on the annual dolphin hunt.

Activists and supporters of the film have criticized TIFF for not including it in competition, though the festival doesn't have a documentary category and focuses exclusively on features.

This year's competition films include Japan's "Acacia," directed by Jinsei Tsuji and starring legendary ex-professional wrestler Antonio Inoki in his debut role -- as an ex-wrestler. Both director and star appeared onstage to promote the film, which will have its world premiere at TIFF.

"Snowfall in Taipei," a China/Japan/Hong Kong/Taiwan co-production from Huo Jianqii, will also take its world bow alongside "Manila Skies" from Filipino director Raymond Red.

There will be 22 films in the Special Screening section, 10 in World Cinema, 30 in the Winds of Asia-Middle East, 10 in Japanese Eyes and nine in the Natural TIFF selection.

The controversy surrounding "The Cove" ensured a large foreign media presence at the packed news conference despite the new prime minister officially taking office across town after the opposition's recent historic landslide electoral victory.

The 22nd Tokyo International Film Festival is set for Oct. 17-25.

The competition lineup follows:

"ACACIA," Jinsei Tsuji (world premiere)
"The Dark House," Wojtek Smarzowski (international premiere)
"Eastern Plays," Kamen Kalev (Asian premiere)
"Eight Times Up," Xabi Molia (Asian premiere)
"Heaven Eternal, Earth Everlasting," Li Fangfang (world premiere)
"Manila Skies," Raymond Red (world premiere)
"Optical Illusions," Cristian Jimenez (Asian premiere)
"Rabia," Sebastian Cordero (Asian premiere)
"Road, Movie," Dev Benegal (Asian premiere)
"Snowfall in Taipei," Huo Jianqi (world premiere)
"Southern District," Juan Carlos Valdivia (world premiere)
"Staten Island," James DeMonaco (international premiere)
"Stories," Mario Iglesias (international premiere)
"Ten Winters," Valerio Mieli (international premiere)
"The Trotsky," Jacob Tierney (international premiere)