TOKYO – A court Friday ordered protesters to keep away from a theater that plans to show the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” about a dolphin hunt in a Japanese village.

The movie shows scenes of the bloody but legal dolphin slaughter filmed using hidden cameras, and portrays local fishermen as rough goons. Nationalist groups say it shouldn’t be shown because it is anti-Japanese, distorts the truth and has connections with an anti-whaling group labeled a terrorist organization by the government.

The dispute over the film developed into a debate over free speech after initial screenings were canceled by theaters to avoid noisy protests. After prominent publishers and directors voiced their concern, at least 22 theaters have now agreed to show it.

Yokohama New Theater, a small cinema in a city next to Tokyo that plans to show the film starting July 3, has been targeted repeatedly by protesters with bullhorns and signs. There were no protests there Friday after the main group responsible received the court order.

The order was issued by the Yokohama regional court at the request of the theater, according to Unplugged, the movie’s Japanese distributor.

Unplugged requested and received a similar order from a Tokyo court earlier this year after repeated protests at its headquarters and at the home of its president, she said.

Nationalists have said the film has connections to Sea Shepherd, an anti-whaling group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by Tokyo for its militant actions against Japanese whalers. The movie includes a sympathetic interview with Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson.