Director Keiko Yagi on the importance of “Behind THE COVE” documentary and the New York screening at IFFNY

“Behind the Cove” written, directed and produced by the talented Keiko Yagi is an official selection, competing at the International Filmmaker Festival of New York. The cast includes: Louis Psihoyos, Richard O’Barry, Joji Morishita, Hideki Moronuki, David Hance. The full length documentary will screen on Monday, May 28, 2018 at 1:00 pm, at Producers Club Theaters (358 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036). Director Yagi will be available after the screening for the Q&A. 

After working at Tokyo branches of Paramount Pictures, Keiko started her own company YAGI Film Inc.

With a strong curiosity and adventurous spirit, Keiko has traveled to many wild unexplored regions, including the Amazon, the Galapagos, Cuba, Israel, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and India, etc gaining opportunities to see Japan from the outside.

Focusing on whaling issues, considered to be “taboo” in Japan, “Behind THE COVE” is director Keiko Yagi’s first film, but was officially screened at the 2015 Montreal World Film Festival, one of the major films festivals of the world.

◎anti whaling group 1

Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Filmmaker Keiko Yagi

NY Elite: Congratulations on being an official selection at the prestigious International Filmmaker Festival of New York. What are your thoughts about being accepted at IFFNY 2018 film festival and having your film screen in New York City?

Keiko Yagi: I wanted to live permanently in New York. The reason was because it’s the center of the world, and an influential city. I think that it is a most mixed city in terms of different races and religions. I think that “Behind THE COVE” which touches on race and religion is a perfect content for New York.

Actually, for several months I lived in Astoria, where this festival will be held. The reason is that in the film Coming to America, Eddie Murphy’s character picks the place to live from a globe because he likes the name Queens.

And, to my surprise, the office of this film festival is Paramount Pictures. I was an employee of Paramount Pictures in Japan. This was meant to be.

NY Elite: Out of the 500 submissions world-wide, your film was selected as the top 40 for IFFNY. What does this mean for you in terms of representing your country/city at this international film competition?

Keiko Yagi: I think that the international whaling issue will lead audiences to think about fake news, the horridness of the realities of prestigious international conferences, racial discrimination, religion and food, game and livestock, and global warming.

“Behind THE COVE” contains all of these issues, so it’s meaningful that it was chosen at an international film festival. I want everyone on the planet to go beyond borders and talk about various problems together through the topic of whales.

NY Elite: With what project are you partaking at IFFNY 2018? What is it about?

Keiko Yagi: Negative media coverage on the never-ending whaling issue prompted documentary filmmaker Keiko Yagi to find out more about the topic. What she found through her experiences there and elsewhere was a much bigger story than she had initially imagined.

SPOILER ALERT:  I was surprised that dolphins and whales are being used by the militarily.

NY Elite: Who else is involved in the making of this project? Tell us a little bit more about the story and who is in it.  

Keiko Yagi: I received great support from my colleagues in a film workshop, and Russell Goodall who did the narration and translation.

2.with Mr.Russell Goodall, Special Person as Narration, Photo by Behind THE COVE Team

Keiko Yagi with Mr.Russell Goodall, Special Person as Narration, Photo by Behind THE COVE Team

No distribution company wanted to touch my film because of the whaling issue, and I was having a difficult time doing PR for the film. My friends from a film workshop who was learning about film distribution agreed to work on this film and strongly supported me. I did hire some professional promoters, but my friends did a more effective job. I knew my friends were interested in film distribution because they were in the workshop, so originally I thought that they would get some real experience through my movie, but now I think that it would have been impossible without them.

And Russell who did the narration was more than qualified for this film. The reason is that he is from New Zealand, an anti-whaling nation (although Russell himself is not), and with the film touching on the deep relationship between religion and food, I was surprised to later learn that Russell’s father is a Christian missionary in Japan, and his grandfather worked as a whaler for a short time in Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Russell often helped me understand the Christian view of animals according to the Bible.

NY Elite: What message do you want to convey with this project?  

Keiko Yagi: Since Donald Trump became president, there is a lot of focus on fake news and propaganda, but I believe that it is indeed the media that drives the world.

I think that whatever is conveyed by the media moves the world, rather than discussions in international conferences. When people come in contact with one-sided fake news, I want them to imagine all the real stuff that goes on behind the scenes.

I also want to bring to light the perception of history.

NY Elite: The Red Carpet Opening Ceremony and the Awards Gala will take place at the renowned Kaufman Astoria Studios of New York. Do you plan to attend the IFFNY Festival taking place on May 25-29, 2018? What do you want the audience at IFFNY to take away from this film?

Keiko Yagi: Yes, I will attend.

Two main points that I want the audience at IFFNY to take away.

1) The purpose of international conferences

In Japan, there is a unique custom in which we are taught to endure matters (and keep silent) even if we are criticized. As a result of this, there are many things about the Japanese that have been widely misinterpreted and misunderstood. And one of these misunderstandings is that the Japanese are a cruel people when it comes to the whaling issue.

Through my film, I would like audiences to take a fresh look at the state of current international conferences, international tribunals, and the Washington Convention etc.

2) The global environment.

In regard to the global environment, I want audiences to be aware that there is a vicious circle of increased carbon dioxide and marine pollution due to excessive livestock and deforestation.

There are also harmful effects on humans through hormonal agents given to livestock for premature maturation.

There are also adverse effects by protecting certain animals based on effective reasoning that they are ‘cute’. I think that the earth ecosystem will crash unless we once again rethink whether human beings can return into the food chain or not.

NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

Films that have a message which makes you think about it after watching it.

Keiko Yagi: Another quality that makes a film better for me is whether it has an element in it that broadens the views of the audience after watching it.

NY Elite: Top 3 favorite films/projects you have been involved in?

Keiko Yagi: This isn’t a film I was involved, but my favorite films are those made by Charlie Chaplin.

The reason is because they are tragic comedies. His films are successful in telling about sad things through humor.

As I made my film “Behind THE COVE”, because the whaling issue is a difficult topic, I was conscious of conveying my message by including humor.

NY Elite: What are your career highlights and achievements thus far?

Keiko Yagi: Here are some fun experiences while I worked at Paramount Pictures in Japan.

Although I could not speak much English, using my passion rather than my language abilities, I escorted the company president when he came to Japan, and consequently received high evaluation.

I was appointed the leader when the company had to move into a new building, and also a section leader for starting up new businesses.

On specific events: When advertising for the animated film “Madagascar”, I negotiated with a building owner that was so strict that they would not allow cats in the building, finally getting permission to bring a real lion, a main character from the film, into the building.

NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

Keiko Yagi: Arrangement of kimonos.

Merging and connecting old culture with the present age. 

NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?

Keiko Yagi: Do not make any excuses like I have no money, career, nor track record, but try making something anyway. Your priority should not be a successful career, or becoming a film director, but you should consider what you want to do, and what your message is. 

NY Elite: What’s next for you?  

Keiko Yagi: I would like to verify international conferences and conventions that prioritize the interests of individual countries and to raise issues, to protect the earth by transcending all borders.


2 thoughts on “Director Keiko Yagi on the importance of “Behind THE COVE” documentary and the New York screening at IFFNY

  1. Pingback: 【捕鯨】捕鯨擁護「ビハインド・ザ・コーヴ」がNYで映画賞 「教育的側面ある」と評価

  2. Pingback: 【捕鯨】捕鯨擁護「ビハインド・ザ・コーヴ」がNYで映画賞 「教育的側面ある」と評価 - 話題のまとめニュース

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