Reel Asian 2017: Our Review of ‘A Whale of a Tale’

Reel Asian 2017: Our Review of ‘A Whale of a Tale’

Economy plays a role in a Whale of a Tale. The topic weighs heavily in the festival movies I’ve seen this month. This documentary profiles a Japanese town. Some of Taiji’s citizens are fishermen, banging on their ships to make noise. This act might not make sense to some people.

However, it does to me and most people who have seen the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. That film demonized these people’s way of living. So much that it attracted activists to the small seaside town and harass the fishermen. The racial politics is obvious here.

Here’s a bunch of white people telling the townies how to live their lives. There’s another white man in Megumi Sasaki’s documentary, a journalist who wants to see both sides of the debate. He does this when the kind of talk about ‘both sides’ makes people cringe in this day and age. But it’s necessary here.

The film guides us to the arguments that environmentalists like The Sea Shepherds use. And shutting most of them down. According to the film, these fishermen know which species of dolphins to hunt. There’s eight of them, and they aren’t on the endangered list. They’re not the boors in The Cove.

Sasaki lets the audience meet the individuals behind the dolphin hunting debate. There’s also animation and archive footage explaining the 400-year-old history of the industry. It shows how sustainable dolphin hunting was until the industrial age hit Japan. Both Japan and the West had the same views on dolphin hunting.

That’s until the environmental movement of the past forty years. The film is comprehensive in its scope but it lingers on the ugly sides of the debate, unfortunately. And it barely discusses viable solutions to keep both sides happy, although that compromise is what the film wants eventually.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.