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: 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

Cruising The Coast: The 2009 Newport Beach Film Festival

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The essence of the Newport Beach Film Festival ranges within its geography which comes together. Established within the Fashion Island complex right on the coast, the highlight of the operation becomes perception. While the upshot becomes a highly attended, locally supported product, there is a lack of connectibility in terms of the filmmakers. However there is a touted independent spirit which when combined with the interactive nature of the foreign film spotlights comes off as wonderfully programmed. The lack of celebrity infusion creates a more local experience but the energy, while elusive, still points to success.

Shorts Love seems to be an inherent background for the essence of the programming with different ideals being explored. In the subsection of “Another Love Story”, “Split Hands”, despite a scitzophrenic narrative fares the best dramatically while “Picture Day” and “Jimmy’s Cafe” with their elements of disconnection within mundane progression come off a little too stilted.  The subsection of “Complicated Love” fares a little better because of the more eccentric nature of the subject matter. “The Tab” has highlights in its mockumentary style of comedy but stumbles at the end while “Rope” maintains its wistfulness due to the utter committment of the lead actress. She makes the connection to the bonding mechanism real. “Kate Wakes”, bouyed by a understated performance from Adam Goldberg, tries to be sweet but comes off slightly frayed. “Worst Date Ever” by comparison just seems to want to ingratiate the reaction factor. The next subsection entitled “Love Is Strange” ends the factor with the best witnessed short in the form of the simple and effective “My Four Inch Precious” from Florida State’s film school while “Tea & Remembrance” shows glimpses of greatness but a lack of throughline.

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Monster From The Id The quite effective documentary seems almost out of place on the festival scene since its breakdown of philosophy, psychology and hopefulness would be quite effective on History or A&E. That said it balances the essence of what 50s sci-fi movies intrinisically created in the public consciousness and how that alternately provoked an essence of history. There is a “what if” mentality that reaches and speaks into the 21st Century and is perfectly timely. The doc talks of movies seeing scientists formerly as heroes and its integration with the way the youth viewed the world which is now replaced by movie stars. The perception is quite adept despite the lack of intrinsic detail but it becomes more broad in the later breakdown. Still the theory and its presentation of the future of space travel is generally hopeful.

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Suspect X – Japanese Spotlight This battle of the minds integrating the mind chess in the cover up of a murder lacks overall logic despite its basis on that fact. However because of the duel-like tat between the two leads, the tension is kept maintained but reflects more like an Asian version of “Law & Order”. Its strength is within its details as specific wordplay and placement of clues works well but not overwhelmingly slow. At the end, there is not revelation and the heartbreak tends to shortchanged the narrative despite some flourished acting. The after party at Kimera shined with a shadowy reflection that while inherently Asian hined at fusion. Crab stuff sushi rolls balanced the Karl Strauss Amber Ale as the wraparound bar slithered the snakelike U formation which kept privacy but lacked a flow.

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Seraphine – French Spotlight The essence of what defines “artist” takes on a paradox in this film. With a fine standout role in the lead role by Yolande Moreau, the essence of stripped down performance becomes almost lethal. Within the visage of this cleaning lady/painter on the cusp of war, the narrative lacks sentimentality instead opting for a practical if not lucid basis on which to show this woman dealing with life. Her mindset floats between basic motor elements and a deeper understanding of truth. As the narrative explores more depth than would be expected, the essence of misperceived greatness and loss is revealed in subtle key changes that make you feel for this woman. The afterparty at French 75 Bistro had a definite Moulin Rouge style to it with the bar area buzzing with interaction despite a lack of roaming french tastes.

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Il Divo – Italian Spotlight This ode to “Scarface” in a reverse fashion has a “Godfather” essence in terms of its use of lingering basis. Made from the inards of Italian cinema, this film represents both an edgy manifestation of the wielding of power, evidenced in a nuanced if almost alien-like performance from Toni Servillo as Giulio Andreotti, along with a classical elegance bathed in a endless stream of data. The film balances between these essential cinematic sequences optimizing opera and silence and then simple long-take character scenes. This juxtaposition creates an imbalance of effectiveness but jars you in terms of its ability. The beginning aspects hint a larger possibility underneath which meanders a little bit to the end in congruence with staying true to the actual story and not baiting too much in poetic license. But nevertheless, this is a very ambitious and virulent perception of Italian politics from a student of cinema. The after party at Canaletto simmered in white as the “2001” elements of the bar gave an ethereal feeling as the essence of the night washed over in a blaze of indiscretion.

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Closing Night Party While most of the films were held at Fashion Island, the final was miles away on a removed peninsula at Via Lido. While more effective in terms of a final venue, location balance created a time lag. While waiting for the party to begin, Malarky’s Irish Pub by walking distance allowed a short pint of Guinness while locals swirled with the black cocktail contingent staring in contentment. The restaurants pulsed upon the opening of the tent with the onion rings and chili from Tommy’s Cafe. Also making the grade was a spicy wrap of with chicken tantalizing the tongue as Perrier bubbled from flittering eyelashes in a roped mix of flashbulbs, talk and whispered glances.

The 10th Annual Newport Beach Film Festival succeeds in their enhancement of a film festival for locals that knows how to maintain its virility. Despite low attendance on the first day attended, the support of the community in tandem until closing showed an intense belief in the power of culture despite a somewhat misguided program structure in terms of the overall breakdown. However a commendable integration of political and cultural highlights stood out in spades giving the confab specific identity.