Name:

10th Okinawa International Movie Festival

Dates:

Thursday, April 19 – Sunday, April 22, 2018, Four Days

Venues:

Naha City: Laugh & Peace Entertainment School Okinawa/ Naminoue Umisora Park / Kokusai Dori / Yoshimoto Okinawa Kagetsu / Sakurazaka Theater / Tenbusu Naha / Hyatt Regency Naha, Okinawa / Naha city hall / Shintoshin Park / Cinema Q /

Shuri Castle

Ginowan City: Tropical Beach

Chatan City: Mihama American Village, Mihama 7 plex

Kitanakagusuku Village: Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom

No. of Films Screened: 51 titles

Special Invitation: 14 / Local Origination Movies: 14 / TV DIRECTOR’S MOVIE: 8

Comedy of Japan / Comedy of World: 2 / Sakurazaka Film University: 5

Special Screening : 3 / Okinawa Historical Movie: 4/ My Favorite Movie: 1

No. of Volunteers throughout the festival: 126

No. of attendees: Approximately 250,000 people

Past results: 1st 110,000 (4days), 2nd 380,000 (8days), 3rd 310,000 (8days), 4th 410,000, 5th 420,000 (8days), 6th 360,000 (5days), 7th 400,000 (5days), 8th 350,000 (4days), 9th 330,000 (4days)

Opening Ceremony

Held at ANA CROWNE PLAZA OKINAWA HARBORVIEW on April 19.

Attendance: 1000 people

Naha Kokusai Dori Red Carpet

On April 22nd, approximately 1000 guests walked the 150 meter long red carpet in the main street of Naha.

Local origination project, JIMOT CM REPUBLIC

JIMOT CM REPUBLIC FINAL was held the best local commercial representing 46 prefectures of Japan and 41 municipals of Okinawa.

46 Prefecture JIMOT CM Grand Award (Prize of 470,000 yen)

– Kyoto-fu Kyotango City
SDGs goal #11

JIMOT CM Foreign sector Grand Award

– YouMe Nepal representative director
SDGs goal #4 and #17

41 municipals of Okinawa JIMOT CM Grand Award (Prize of 410,000 yen)
-Yonabaru-City
SDGs goal #11

For more information, please access http://oimf.jp.e.abg.hp.transer.com/ and http://www.image.net/

Daily Report: Thursday April 19

The 10th Okinawa International Movie Festival kicked off on Thursday April 19. The opening film program was called “Sakurazaka Film University” and it was held at the Sakurazaka Theatre, a much-loved and longtime venue used by the fest in the capital city of Naha.

First up was a screening of the Indian film Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. It is a sequel to the 2015 action fantasy epic Baahubali: The Beginning. Although the first film in the series was made for the Indian market, its large-scale action sequences, over-the-top visual effects and non-stop pace made it a visual feast that found fans around the world. Japan is no exception, and the second film in the series was eagerly anticipated.

However, this was no ordinary screening. It was special interactive event hosted by movie writer Maho Morita. Morita introduced several of Japan’s top comedians, including Razor Ramon, Nobuhiko Otani and the duo Peach Castle, who distributed light sticks and tambourines to the crowd. It was explained that this would be an “audience participation” screening.

Audience members chanted the name “Baahubali! Baahubali!” when the handsome lead character appeared to tame an elephant on a rampage through a crowded market. They shook their tambourines in rhythm with the music. With everyone having so much fun, the screening perfectly matched the 10-year theme of the festival… “Laugh & Peace.”

The next film to screen at Sakurazaka Theatre was Riding Uphill, which is set in Kokura, Fukuoka Prefecture, where Japanese professional bicycle racing began.

Koji (Kenichi Abe) is a former baseball player whose life has been going downhill ever since he was kicked off his team 8 years ago. When someone suggests he give bicycle racing a try Koji pours himself into training, despite being twice the age of the other riders.

After the screening, actor Kenichi Abe and director Kan Eguchi spoke to the audience. Abe, who brings both tough and heartfelt qualities to the character, recalled how important the role was for him when he auditioned. “I decided if I didn’t get the part, I would retire from acting,” he said. Thankfully for film fans, he did get the part. Eguchi said, “There are a lot of guys like Koji in Kyushu,” naming the island where the film takes place. He went on to explain that both he and Abe are from the area. “Men are just tougher there,” he said.

The Okinawa International Movie Festival has long included the program Local Origination Movies, works shot in regional areas of Japan. The next film shown, A Mermaid in the Gem, featured the beautiful beaches and skies of the Okinawan island of Ishigaki.

It tells the story of famous actress Nagomi Okimoto (former pop idol Makoto Okunaka) who is called back to Ishigaki to do retakes for a film based on a local legend of a mermaid who will turn to stone unless she is given a gem. While preparing for filming, Nagomi herself gets an expensive gem from her boyfriend (Takafumi Imai), leading to complications.

After the screening, there was an appearance by actor Akira Ishida, who also wrote the script, and director Takeshi Jac Kosaka. Ishida said that aside from the beautiful sky and sea, one thing that makes Ishigaki special is that when someone goes out drinking, it is very easy to get to know strangers. He explained that an older man who appears in the film was a resident he met this way, and he also cast local school kids.

The Opening Ceremony for the 10th OIMF took place at the elegant ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel. Filmmakers, reporters and other guests were welcomed by a performance of a traditional Okinawan folk dance. There was also a video showing highlights of the first 10 years of the festival, starting in 2009, and featuring famous guests, such as Okinawan-born Namie Amuro.

MCs Ayako Kisa and Yuichi Kimura introduced Hiroshi Osaki, Chairman and CEO of Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., Ltd., which organizes OIMF. Famous comedian Kiyoshi Nishikawa announced that the festival had begun and thanked the crowd for supporting the festival for 10 years.

Osaki said that the festival has gone on for 10 years, but he hopes it will continue for 100 years. He hopes that after one century, a new entertainment industry from Okinawa will go out into the world. He said that is why he started a movie festival, as well as a school, the recently opened Laugh & Peace Entertainment School Okinawa.

Daily Report: Friday April 20

Friday, April 20th, the second day of 10th Okinawa International Movie Festival, saw bright sunshine and a tropical atmosphere at the Naminoue Umisora Park. It was filled with onlookers who were there to enjoy dance performances by students from Yoshimoto’s newly formed Laugh & Peace Entertainment School Okinawa and students from the Hinton Battle Dance Academy. The show was titled “The Greatest Showman Greatest Laugh & Peace Show” and was a based on numbers from the Hollywood movie The Greatest Showman.

First-year students from the Laugh & Peace Entertainment School took the stage and danced to “This is Me,” a tune from The Greatest Showman. The young dancers from the Department of Performing Arts in the Performer Course acquitted themselves admirably in this ambitious piece. Hinton Battle, a Broadway legend who has won 3 Tony Awards, produces the dance program at the school.

Hinton Battle appeared stage and announced 1st year students who were training in ballet, hip hop, modern and tap at his school, the Hinton Battle Dance Academy, would perform next. 20 First-year HBDA students danced a 7-minute jazz piece and demonstrated their remarkable technique. Hinton noted, “I personally teach the students once a week and observe all the classes.”

The Movie Festival also put on a major conference on Friday afternoon in the building of the Laugh & Peace Entertainment School Okinawa. It hosted a key session focused on the Russian animation industry, which has interesting parallels with the Japanese industry, but is also quite unique.

On the panel was Dmitry Birichevsky, Minister Counselor of the Russian Embassy in Japan, who started by asking attendees if they enjoy watching animated shows on TV with their families. When everyone raised their hands, he said it is much the same in Russia, but it was not always that way. Birichevsky explained that when he was a young boy, Soviet animated shows were aimed at children and featured only animal characters.

To show how the industry has evolved, subtitle translator Natalia Yurkanova gave a presentation on its history. She explained that the animation studio Soyuzmult film was founded in 1936 and grew so quickly it was soon known as “the Disney of Russia.”

After viewing some clips, one panelist, the actress Saki Inagaki Sakura, said she was surprised by how much the style of animation varies from one show to another. Yurkanova explained that under policies introduced by Russian President Vladimir Putin to increase film production, the number of animation studios has risen to 70.

Film screenings highlighted the second day of the festival as well. The screening of one of the films in the “Special Invitation” section of the 10th Okinawa International Movie Festival was very much a homecoming for the cast and crew. The romantic drama Jimami Tofu was shot at locations around Okinawa, as well as Singapore, the home country of its two directors. Okinawan-born actress Rino Nakasone noted that she often sees films at Sakurazaka Theatre, and was thrilled to see herself on the screen there. Star and co-director Jason Chan recalled “when we first came here two years ago to film, there were so many things about Okinawa we fell in love with. The movie is our love letter to Okinawa.” Co-director Christian Lee said he was thrilled to learn that the Japanese premiere screening sold, as did screenings in Singapore and Hawaii, but was quit to add that this was not because of the creative team, but because of “your culture, your history, everything about Okinawa.”

Chan plays Ryan, a Singaporean chef who is introduced to what Okinawans call “life medicine,” meaning good home-style cooking, by Nakasone’s character Nami. Having studied trendy cooking in Tokyo, Ryan is intrigued by the “elegant but understated” presentation of Okinawan food. He becomes an apprentice to the restaurant’s owner Sakumoto, played by another Okinawan actor, Masane Tsukayama. Nami falls for Ryan, but he cannot get over his ex-girlfriend, the successful restaurant critic Yuki (Mari Yamamoto).

Two classic films from the oeuvre of legendary martial artist Sonny Chiba, Doberman Cop and Terror of Yakuza, were shown on Friday. Chiba’s career in Japan dates back to the 1950s and he is also highly popular overseas, where he has worked with one of his biggest fans, Quentin Tarantino. Although Chiba was born in Fukuoka, he has a special connection with Okinawa and the Okinawa International Movie Festival, which he has attended several times.

Chiba appeared at the screenings and told the audience that he identifies with the character he plays in Terror of Yakuza, who says he only wants to protect Okinawa as it prepared to return to Japanese control in 1972. The actor/marital artist said the people of Okinawa persevere despite their troubled history. “That is why I always find something dramatic when I come to Okinawa,” he said. “If I go out drinking, I talk to people. Someone will tell me about their life, and I say ‘That sounds like it could be a movie! Tell me more!’”

Daily Report: Saturday April 21

Saturday April 21st, the third day of 10th Okinawa International Movie Festival, started out with an informative presentation on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the UN has established and Yoshimoto Kogyo has been working on for the past few years.

Jeffrey A. Brez, a United Nations official in charge of NGO relations, is attending the festival to spread the word about SDGs. “193 member nations had to agree on these 17 goals, and that was a big achievement,” Brez explained at the seminar in the morning of the 21st at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Naha. He added, “there was a two-year period in which businesses and general society provided feedback. All of the 17 goals are achievable, but ambitious. Can we end hunger? Yes, there is enough food for everyone.”

Also presenting at the seminar was Kaoru Nemoto, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Tokyo, who explained how a movie festival got involved in a UN program. “The United Nations is not necessarily a good storyteller, but entertainers are very good at relating to people through laughter,” she explained. “So I made a plea to Yoshimoto Kogyo to help us disseminate the message about SDGs. The first promotion we did was this festival last year, when public recognition of SDGs in Japan was almost zero. But a recent survey shows recognition has risen to about 15 percent.”

Next up for the day was Yoshimoto Kogyo’s conference on launching an entertainment industry hub in Okinawa. The company is making great efforts to create the hub in Okinawa, not only for Japan, but for Asia and the world. The conference took place at noon at the Laugh & Peace Entertainment School Okinawa. It outlined plans for what CEO Hiroshi Osaki calls an “Asian Entertainment Platform” that will, find and develop talent and create a way to share content.

“We lost the 20th Century to the United States, because Hollywood succeeded in producing and distributing movies cheaply,” Osaki said. “And we are losing the 21st Century, because we do not have enough Japanese content.” But he does have a plan to change that.

Osaki explained that the new platform is not ready to be launched, but he wanted to take the opportunity to speak about it at the 10th Okinawa International Movie Festival. Yoshimoto Kogyo is working with two other companies on the project. Transcosmos Co. will help with the digital construction of the platform, while cyber-security firm Blue Planet-works will make sure content cannot be pirated.

Content will be delivered in a wide variety of formats. “We want to make things like TV shows, but not quite like the shows on TV,” Osaki said. The range will not be limited to films and series, but will include music, comic books, games, social media and virtual reality. Monetization will also take many forms, including subscriptions, pay as you go, ads and even tipping content creators.

Another facet of the 10th Okinawa International Movie Festival is the commercial contest “Jimot CM Republic,” which features 30-second videos built around one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Anyone could participate simply by putting a video online with the hashtag #JIMOTCM. Submissions were separated into three categories: 41 towns and villages of Okinawa, the other 46 prefectures of Japan, and the rest of the world.

The finalists were screened at an award ceremony on Saturday at Naminoue Umisora Park. Jeffrey A. Brez served as one of the judges. “I want you to believe that SDGs are really achievable,” Brez told the audience. “I hope you will feel that as we watch these commercials together.” Kaoru Nemoto, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Tokyo said “this contest is just one of the efforts to raise awareness of SDGs that started at the festival last year, and we plan to continue till the year 2030.”

Finally, on Saturday evening people poured into a theater at the Mihama 7-plex in Chatan town, Okinawa, for the Japan Premiere of the stunning film Born Bone Born (called Senkotsu in Japanese). This feature film by director Toshiyuki Teruya is based on his short film, which picked up awards at the Short Shorts Film Festival and the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival, both in Japan. This feature has been invited to screen at the 40th Moscow International Film Festival later this month and is a monumentally powerful work.

It depicts the ancient Okinawan ritual of washing the bones of the deceased on the 4th anniversary of their death to send the departed off to the next world. The film effectively draws the nexus between life and death using the living tradition of bone washing, which used to be common throughout Okinawa but is now confined to a few islands.

Daily Report: Sunday April 22

The 4th and final day of the 10th Okinawa International Movie Festival, April 22nd, kicked off with a morning screening of Peng Xiaolian’s homage to Shanghai, Please Remember Me, at the Sakurazaka Theater in Naha. Despite unspooling at 1040am the theater was packed with viewers eager to see Ms. Peng’s latest work. The respected auteur has directed such previous features as Wild Swans and Shanghai Story.

This complex effort depicts what it’s like to live in contemporary Shanghai while also paying tribute to the city’s illustrious past and questioning the meaning and worth of being a movie star. On top of all that it’s also a touching love story. Ah Mei (Jia Yiping) is a cinematographer in Shanghai who dedicates his life to low-budget projects and efforts that recall the glory of Shanghai’s film industry before the Revolution. He’s forced to live in a rundown shikumen (old style Chinese house down a narrow lane) that is threatened with destruction. Indeed all the other tenants have left. His life is shaken up when Cia Yun (Feng Wenjuan), a pretty actress from his small home city, turns up. She has dreams of becoming a big star in Shanghai but is dismayed to learn Ah Mei isn’t interested in high-profile projects. Cia also seems to have romantic intent toward Ah Mei, who lives in a world of images and historical cinema.

The final day of the Festival featured a red carpet event, where movie fans could not only see their favorite stars, but even get autographs or take selfies together. Sudden heavy rain and thunder pushed the start from noon to 3pm, but hundreds of fans lined both sides of Naha’s historic Kokusai-dori street, patiently waiting for the rain to let up. When the call was made for the event to go ahead, stars began to appear on the red carpet stretching from Mutsumibashi Intersection down to Tenbusu Plaza. There were also representatives from sponsors such as Orion Beer and Nihon Terebi, NGOs and local municipalities.

There were teams from several Okinawan-set films, including Memories of Whale Island, Jimami Tofu and Born Bone Born. Fans cheered when they saw the director of Born Bone Born, Toshiyuki Teruya, an Okinawan-born comedian well known on Japanese television and a familiar presence at the 10th Okinawan International Movie Festival where he has served as MC at several events.

Toshiyuki Teruya was not the only Okinawan star to walk the red carpet. There were also actor Shogen, from the inventive drama Smokin’ On The Moon, Rino Nakasone from the food drama Jimami Tofu and actress Meisa Kuroki, who got a huge reaction from the crowd with her first appearance at the Okinawa International Movie Festival. “It took 10 years for me to be invited,” joked Kuroki, who hosted a new event at the festival named “My Favorite Movie.”

Popular actor Hiroshi Abe took time to shake hands and sign autographs along the red carpet, saying “I am so thankful people are here to support us even in the rain.”

The 10th Okinawa International Movie Festival officially came to an end in the early evening of April 22 with a closing ceremony. The MCs were the Yoshimoto Kogyo comedy duo Garage Sale, which includes Toshiyuki Teruya, who also directed the film Born Bone Born that screened during the festival. The topic of their humorous banter was the heavy rain, which caused the red carpet event to be delayed and the closing ceremony to move indoors. They joked that they have already checked the weather forecast for next year’s festival and found that it will be raining every single day. Naha Mayor Mikiko Shiroma was more serious on the subject, saying the rain this year was hard to deal with, but at the festival next year or the year after that, it will be something that people will have strong memories of. And Yoshimoto Kogyo CEO Hiroshi Osaki insisted that he loves rain, saying it makes everything look unified.

Then it was time for the awards to be presented. Actress Meisa Kuroki presented the Audience Choice Awards. The Chinese historical epic In Pursuit of the General was selected by audiences as their favorite film in a language other than Japanese. And the body-switch comedy Reon was the best-loved film in Japanese.

Even after the Festival officially ended with the closing ceremony, the party continued with a concert at the harbor side Naminoue Umisora Park in the evening. The event was free to the public and thousands of people filled the park, despite the rainy weather earlier in the day.

Okinawan musicians from several groups, including Kariyushi58, Begin and Kiiyama Shouten, came together to play on the same stage. They performed pop and rock numbers flavored with Okinawan instruments and melodies. Rimi Natsukawa sang several Okinawan ballads, while solo artists Hiro and Hiroaki Kato took turns singing with the all-star backing band.

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