Pro-whaling officials have reacted angrily to news that a documentary about a gruesome annual dolphin cull in a remote Japanese fishing town has bagged an Academy Award.
The Cove, directed by photographer Louie Psihoyos, won Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars on Sunday after winning acclaim from around the world – except from Japan.
"That movie is so full of lies that it is an insult," said Hideki Moronuki, a former spokesman with Japan's Fisheries Agency who was interviewed by the documentary crew. The movie claims that Mr Moronuki and thousands of others have been poisoned from eating dolphin meat containing high levels of mercury and later resigned from his post, both of which he denies.
Filmed secretly over several months in the whaling town of Taiji, the documentary used hidden cameras and microphones to depict the annual slaughter of about 2,000 dolphins, which are herded into a secluded cove and hacked to death.
The film-makers say the town is poisoning its citizens with the mercury-tainted meat and covering it up, a claim denied by its mayor Kazutaka Sangen. "I think it is regrettable that the film presents as fact material that is not backed up by scientific proof," he said yesterday in a faxed statement.
After receiving his Oscar, Mr Psihoyos said: "The Japanese press likes to present this movie without seeing it as about Japan-bashing," he said. "To me, this movie is a love letter to people in Japan."