IR Print Quick Take: Rise Of The Actresses – The 2019 Okinawa Film Festival [Okinawa, Japan]

It was very hard not to pay attention to the many talented Actresses gracing the red carpet and the screenings of the 11th Okinawa Film Festival. This year, among others, the festival had invited from Japan: Honoka Matsumoto and Ayame Misaki as well as from Myanmar: Wutt Hmone Shwe Yi.

Beyond their enchanting beauty, one can only be impressed by their charismatic screen presence that not only already put a spell on the Asian market but with talent that should spread to The West and Hollywood very soon. Between a busy schedule on the red carpet and series of interviews with the Asian and international press, these fine young ladies granted an interview to speak about their current endeavors. Grab some sushi and a glass of sake, the séance is about to begin.

Tell us a little more about your roles that are playing here at Okinawa Film Festival…

Ayame Misaki: I play Yuko, a pregnant woman in the new family comedy from Gori: “Bone Born Bone”. The movie takes place in Okinawa. [The story follows] the anniversary of the death of the wife and mother of one of the families on the Island. It is time to honour the dead by practicing the ritual of bone washing, which involves the exhumation of the corpse and the washing of the bones. In fact, the movie is about the symbols of Life and Death. As a pregnant woman I represent Life.

Honoka Matsumoto: I have two films here: “My Life Upside Down” and “My Father, The Bride”: two films with a great sense of humor and a great sensibility. They are all about family dynamics and how it is important to find ways of communication inside of the family unit. It shows also how the notion of family is different today and goes beyond the standard definition, and how it goes beyond genders as well. Ultimately we need to focus on love, the love that binds us together. I think it also shows how the notion of family has changed in Japan lately. It used to be a very patriarchal society and it still is; but, in many instances, we see how women today are much more independent and truly play a pivotal role at home and sometimes even in the corporate world.

Wutt Hmone Shwe Yi: My film is “My Country My Home”. It’s the emotional story of a young girl who finds out she comes from Myanmar but even so she grew up in Japan. Her dad decides to go back to Myanmar and she has a tough time dealing with this decision because she loves Japan.

In what way do you think these movies fit with the themes of the festival: Peace and Laugh?

Ayame: The whole movie is about love and peace with some settled humor at times. So it does fit perfectly the themes of this festival. Also, we filmed this movie in Okinawa for a month so it’s like a home coming situation showing our film at the festival. It’s interesting because our film is about the clashing of a family who is going to learn how to live again together beyond their grief. At the end, they are at peace with themselves and each other.

Honoka: Laugh and Peace are at the heart of my two films playing here for sure. It’s all about loving with a smile, a sense of humor. It’s always easier to make people happy by smiling and making them laugh, right?! Yes, having fun is important and laughing and being in a happy state of mind can only lead to Peace.

Wutt: My movie is totally about the love and peace that my dad has for his country Myanmar. And so am I. I do have a love for my dad and for Japan. The mood of the movie is light and therefore there are also smiling moments…which fits perfectly the spirit of the festival of Okinawa.

What does the word “Peace” mean to you?

Ayame: There are many meanings to the notion of Peace. Peace is something that can be a very personal approach. The many versions of Peace can lead to the big Peace we need in the World. Maybe this movie in some way shows that if there is Peace in the family there could be Peace in the World..?

Honoka: Peace is One People, One Planet! Peace is also about the love of your family, and anywhere you are you have to feel this love, this peace. I don’t think we should focus on differences between us but on what can unite us. Peace is universal.

Wutt: Love and Peace are the most important things in Life. Without them you can’t survive. If you’re peaceful within you can spread that peace around you.

What challenges did you face making these films?

Ayame: Without a doubt “being” pregnant was a huge challenge as I carried a fake silicon belly under my clothes at all times, before and during the shooting. For me it was important to “feel” pregnant on top of “looking” pregnant. What is funny was to see the reaction on the faces of other people in the street, and in restaurants, who thought I was truly pregnant! Even at night or under the shower I wasn’t removing my fake belly. That’s commitment!

What are your hopes with a movie like this? What impact do you think this film can have on people? And did it change you?

Ayame: I hope people get a better understanding of their own family. I think this movie shows how important family is. It is the most cherished thing we have. So we need to get along with each other and find ways of communicating our various feelings in spite of the possible differences we might experience at the time. It also shows that Love prevails and is the most important thing on earth. We need to cherish Love. It is the true force that unites us.

Honoka: I hope people realize by watching my film that nobody can live on your own and by yourself your entire existence…we need each other. If you keep everything within, if you don’t open to others, you will eventually blow up and break down. It’s important to always express your feelings whether they are happy or sad feelings. You need to learn to trust others and count on others.

Wutt: I hope people realize that we are, in part, one people and one planet. We need to unite people of all race, genders and cultures. And it’s very important to respect and tolerate each other. We need to better understand each other and this leads to World Peace.

By Emmanuel Itier

IR Print Quick Take: Made In Japan Animation – The 2019 Okinawa Film Festival [Okinawa, Japan]

The ultimate experience while at the Okinawa Film Festival was the visit of the CGCG Animation Studio which has the biggest motion-capture set up in Asia.

Not only is CGCG Studios doing motion capture but they also are producing 3D computer graphic video using motion capture technology. The studio is now located in Tokyo and Okinawa in Japan as well as Taipei in Taiwan with just under 200 employees under the direction of CEO, Koji Matsumoto. Needless to say CGCG has become the most competitive partner for movies, tv and gaming with series such as “Blade & Soul”, game “Kamen Rider Battride War” or even the iconic “The Clone Wars” produced mainly in the Taiwan operation.

On a sunny afternoon, Mr. Takeshi Yamazoe welcomed our team to the CGCG Studio in full motion capture costume to explain us the process of filming sequences using these high tech resources. Mr. Yamazoe explained how the studio is unique as it belongs both to the city of Okinawa and to private investors. It is also used as an education center as well as a commercial vehicle to produce state-of-the-art programming. Motion capture is now used in most special effect driven features, animated series and games manufacturing. With the team of CGCG studio the future is bright in this Okinawa hub.

To further our animated experience we also got introduced to the maverick young prodigy: Ujicha, director of “Violence Voyager”. For his animated short, Ujicha, who graduated from Kyoto Sag Art University, used the technique called Geki-mation which is a process where paper cutouts are moved in front of a background and special effects are added. This is a unique technique giving a vivid, life like appearance to the animated endeavor.

There is a richness and diversity to the CGCG studio team which contributes to their leadership position in the region as master magicians in their field.

By Emmanuel Itier

Fest Track Film Preview: BUSHWICK BEATS

It is time to celebrate the independent spirit of courageous filmmakers. One of these new voices is within “Bushwick Beats”, a film set in the heart of Brooklyn’s hot Bushwick neighborhood. The film is a brilliant construct by six promising young directors: Anu Valia, A. Sayeeda Moreno, Chloe Sarbib, Brian Shoaf, Sonejuhi Sinha and James Sweeney. The theme of unconditional love is in the heart of each segment which is moved in tandem by the journey of our heroes, whether through a single mother with ALS, a vampire or two lovers stuck in separate timelines. To carry these bittersweet and often humorous rides the directors have enlisted a charismatic cast of established actors such as Britt Baron (“Glow”), Henny Russell (“Orange is the New Black”), Britne Oldfor (“American Horror Story”), Mugga (“Billions”) , Nadia Dajani (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Keenan Jolliff (“Monsters And Men”) and Hazelle Goodman (“Hannibal”). Overall there is a common thread that surfaces within the experience of this film, a thread binding all humanities into one. It tracks the eternal struggle of inner accomplishment as well as finding a place in a complex existence. With a maverick sensibility, these filmmakers with their first full-length feature create a style as an opened arabesque, a fine sommersault of grace and precision coming to a festival soon.

By Emmanuel Itier

IR Print Quick Take: Laugh & Peace – The 2019 Okinawa International Movie Festival [Okinawa, Japan]

For most tourists in the World, Okinawa is this iconic Japanese Island some 400 miles from the mainland of Japan and where it’s always a “feel good” feeling to escape, rejuvenate in this paradise similar to Hawaii. For others it’s also the gruesome reminder of the ugly battle of Okinawa during World War II that caused so many lives from both sides and left a bitter taste in the mind and spirit. Therefore, for all these reasons, it’s not a surprise that the legendary Yoshimoto Kogyo entertainment conglomerate chose to give birth 11 years ago to the “Laugh and Peace” Okinawa International Movie Festival.

During this 4 day event, we, as participants, were lucky to encounter the rising Stars of Japan such as beautiful Actresses Honoka Matsumoto, Ayame Misaki and inspired Director Yûichi Hibi who showed his long awaited film “Erica 28” with the legendary late Krin Kiki. Plus we also met the talented Wutt Hmone Shwe Yi from Myanmar. We will have a focused story with interviews from these new exciting stars in our next coverage of the Okinawa International Movie Festival. It truly was amazing to encounter such talents and be able to report to the West that they all are ready for their big break in Hollywood! Kanpai!

On top of discovering new talent, new films, new savors and colors from this mesmerizing Okinawa, this was also the opportunity to learn about the new educational endeavor launched by Yoshimoto Kogyio and under the direction of chairman Hiroshi Osaki entitled “Laugh & Peace_Mother”, which a new platform powered by the NTT Group. Overall, one can only be impressed by this perfectly executed event full of surprises and tasteful programming.

And as a testament of the good taste from the locals attending the festival, this year’s Audience Award went to the very funny and charming Japanese film: ‘Handling Method for Grumpy Woman’. Director Shusuke Arita, who accepted his trophy, for sure had a smile of peace, laugh and love. Coming next year, the 12th Annual Okinawa International Movie Festival with welcome with peace and laughter.

By Emmanuel Itier

IR Print Interview: KUNG FU PANDA: THE EMPEROR’S QUEST [Dreamworks Theatre – Universal Studios Hollywood]

Coming in June this summer, the newly re-invented Dreamworks Theatre and the release of a specially-made short film: “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest” are being introduced at Universal Studios Hollywood. It took a year and a half to get to this long- awaited moment where kids from all over the world will be completely immersed in a 360 degree visual and sound adventure. Jon Corfino, Project Director & Show Producer at Universal Studios Hollywood Creative, sat down to discuss bringing together this new experience

What is truly unique about this new Kung Fu Panda attraction?

Jon Corfino: We have spent lots of time and effort to re-create the Dreamworks Theatre. It has a Mission Revival architecture with a touch of Art Deco from the 1920s. Guests line up at the entrance of the theatre and pass a ticket booth meeting a sleeping-on-the-job Pinocchio (from the “Shrek”. Movies). [They will] discover a very lavish outdoor garden with details from the many animated features produced by Dreamworks. In the lobby, they will also experience a mural show with the various familiar Dreamworks characters explaining that it’s time to go on a “Kung Fu Adventure”. The whole point is to immerse guests into the world of Dreamworks with lots of visual illusions projected onto all the surfaces and the walls. In normal time, all of the walls are solid grey, but as you enter this place, an amazing set of visual effects [is projected] giving the guest the illusion you are in fact in a lavish theatre from the Golden Age of Hollywood. What is unique is the use for the first time of the integration of interior projection mapping in order to immerse guests in a 180 degree adventure. It is as if the whole theatre comes to life in front of your eyes. We are also be using 7 Christie 4K boxer cinema projectors and a 360 degree surround sound audio. And, as an extra bonus, we will have sweeping physical effects from water to wind in order for the audience to truly be part of this adrenaline ride!

It’s the perfect illusion?

JC: Absolutely! We have created a total illusion of a world that is not just here but only projected into this reality. This is also the only show where it’s worth sitting a little bit in the back since you are surrounded by an action evolving from the front screen to the side walls. You will see “Kung Fu” fighting right under and on each side of your eyes.

What was the biggest challenge putting together this attraction?

JC: Usually when you have this type of mapped projection it’s done outside on buildings having a specific geometry. Therefore, you can use the angle and the bumps of such geometry [to establish the image]. But here, we have flat walls and we had to create a sense of volume, of depth. We had to do almost a 3D mapping projection. Therefore the task was quite complex. But, at the end, I know we made it work and you will be fooled by what you see. You will believe! Like you believed in the magic we had created in the Harry Porter Castle main attraction. By the way, this is not a 3D attraction because 3D is better used when the action comes at you from the center and front of the theatre. But here, because the action is taking place all around you, it would not have been as effective with 3D and therefore we decided to use the mapping technology of projection instead. This is all about your peripheral vision and about immersing yourself in the Kung Fu Panda world!

Special Thanks To The Universal Studios Team [Athenia Veliz-Dunn & Heather Mann]

By Emmanuel Itier

IR Print Interview: Grace Jones For “Bloodlight & Bami” [Toronto International Film Festival 2017]

Grace Jones has been a force of nature throughout her entire career. Whether acting, singing or as an artist, she has always taking chances but it is also about the journey within and out of the spotlight. Jones and the director of the documentary Sophie Fiennes sat down at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival to discuss personal style, body confidence, the influence of Jamaica and flying amongst the stars.

What was the intention doing this movie?

Grace Jones: It was for sure a “rencontre”, a get together between Sophie Fiennes the director and through my brother. She had done a movie with my brother [Noel] who is a preacher in Los Angeles and I was invited to the screening. And this is how I fell in love with Sophie’s work…

Sophie Fiennes: I like to say we met in Church! Haha!

GJ: She is so funny. And in a way Sophie and my brother have the same mind and vision of life. And I do have deep discussion about the meaning of life with my brother. We love to dig into various philosophical ideas and twist them around. And it’s never an argument but a sharing of various ways of believing such and such things. Sometimes it’s a mirror image of opposite thoughts but it’s always stimulating and enlightening to talk with my brother. This way you learn more about each other. And this is the way your mind expands. And I do have a similar relationship with Sophie in that way. Our minds expands with our deep conversations. It’s funny because Sophie and my brother are born the same month. They are both Aquarius. Sophie is an Artist like me…she is very visual. She is about the depth of what you see and what you hear.

Where does your visual style come from?

GJ: It is for sure a combination of many things. First it’s about Jamaica! There were tough rough days [growing up] in Jamaica with no electricity most of the time. So I think this immediately informed me with a specific sense of lighting…a very organic and natural approach. We used oil lamps and this gives a very deep sense of lighting instead of these awful neons. I hate neon light.

SF: And I did try to bring a sense of this rich visual sense you only get in Jamaica. And this was truly amazing to film over there. And I always try to show Grace’s point of view. I wanted people to see what she is looking at.

GJ: And my visual style comes also from my pure imagination…from what is there in my mind. I also learned at an early age to do crochet and to sew thanks to my mother and my aunt. And this nourished my fashion style for sure. You do develop a sense of detail when you start at that age and working from scratch.

SF: And also working with all these great creators such as [Jean-Paul] Gaultier and [issey] Miyake certainly helped you develop your own style…

GJ: Absolutely! And when I started to model they were attracted to me and the way I would present myself…a total stranger way back, with only the equivalent of 5 euros!! I believe there are magnets in the world we don’t see. And certainly we are attracted each other with these various designers…like the opposite sides of magnets do. It’s simply mesmerizing how you are drawn to somebody at a certain time. I remember a place where I used to shop called The Drag Queen and I would buy very old antics for nothing and put myself together an amazing look. And people would go crazy for it. It was a very instinctive process. It’s funny how people would find accessories and clothes for me just based on how I look physically. I’m lucky to have a body that talks to people and makes them see what I should wear or not.

Where is the balance of difficulty to reveal enough of yourself in this film without totally lifting the veil of mystery of Grace Jones?

GJ: it was a difficult task to go far enough to explain where I come from and who I am without exposing everything and all of my secret gardens. There is so much more about me beyond what this film is showing. Yes…there is still a mystery about myself that even as myself I don’t know! I trusted Sophie a lot to show what she wanted to show without fully getting me “naked”…even so I’m quite naked in the movie! Haha!

You did full frontal!

GJ: Did you notice that?! I didn’t! Haha! I’m surprised there was no more frontal nudity as I’m a nudist and I am always naked at home! Everything sees me naked all the time!

Were you always that much at ease with you body?

GJ: Not at all! Are you kidding?! I had a very tight church upbringing and therefore nudity was out of the question! But little by little I freed myself from this upbringing. I revealed to myself my true nature, and it is the one of being a nudist! Haha! I joined a nudist colony and this is how it freed me from being so tight with my body. I had a hippy boyfriend and I was even with a Hell’s Angel at time. But yes, I was surprised that there wasn’t more shots of me being naked in this film. And this is not about sex…this is just about the organic pure beauty of the body BEING. Being naked and being FREE.

It’s also quite amazing how the music structures the movie?

GJ: Right! I love it as music is me and I am music! My music is like my beautiful children. I love to play with them and I don’t feel I sing them. I live them and perform them in so many different ways. Sometimes I even rap them because my voice is not where it should be. I’m very playful and it’s amazing to be able to do this with your Art. I love also going to the opera style and I learned it from Pavarotti. It was amazing to sing with him and it taught me so much…

What did you discover about yourself that you didn’t before and why do you think Grace Jones is so relevant today?

GJ: It’s a mystery to me but I’m amazed how anybody is still in love with my music. I’m still in the present and I’m still vibrant. I never look back and live in the past. I think people love this ALIVE aspect of me. Maybe I give them a sense of energy…a sense of fully “alive and kicking”. I surprise myself after all these years to still never be bored with my life and performing my songs…!

Is it true nobody knows really your age?

GJ: I’m ageless! I don’t age! It’s in the genes of my family! Only the FBI knows my age because lately they asked me to come in to renew my passport. I don’t know why, they were saying I’m under the radar. And they checked my age and they couldn’t believe it! I guess I have been blessed. It’s the land of Jamaica. It makes you immortal, ! Haha! My dad passed at 84 and he didn’t have a single line! And it’s amazing I’m still going strong, especially after everything I’ve taken and drunk! But of course when I was very young I was super healthy and I still swim. I love to swim as I feel out of space. This is where I have always wanted to go: in space. Do a concert with Michael Jackson and David Bowie and sing in outer space. Well, I guess that plan is slightly compromised for now! I guess at the end it’s all about balancing your gravity and keep the floating going in your mind…in your inner world. Just saying…!

Interview By Emmanuel Itier