Okinawa International Movie Festival closes with awards, and a bang or two.

by Christopher O’Keeffe

After a hectic week of comedy, music and even a film or two along the way, the 5th Okinawa International Movie Festival has come to a close.

On the final day the weather was beautiful with the sun shining throughout, perfect for the music event which took place on the open air stage and featured performances by native Okinawans Kariyushi 58, idol group NMB48 along with appearances from other musicians and comedians. The early evening saw the festival’s closing ceremony, at which the competition section winners were announced.

Jackie Chan’s latest, Chinese Zodiac was the recipient of the Uminchu Prize Grand Prix in the ‘Laugh’ category, proving the enduring popularity of the star with audiences.

In the ‘Peace’ section another film from China took the prize: The Happy Life of Debbie. Director Tien Yu Fu and actress Jade Chou were present to pick up the award for a film which caused quite a buzz amongst critics present at the festival.

We grabbed interviews with some of the biggest names at the festival, including Joel Schumacher, Hideo Nakata, NMB48 (!), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Atsuko Maeda, Patrik Eklund and Olle Sarri — we’ll be publishing them over the coming weeks with highlights in our next print issue.

The Special Jury prize and recipient of the Golden Shisa Award was Indian comedy Barfi, with the award was collected by Associate Producer Rucha Pathak, who said: “Barfi is an Indian sweet and I hope the film was as sweet as it tastes.”

Head of the festival jury, Hollywood director Joel Schumacher, also announced a special mention for PJ Hogan’s enjoyable semi-autobiographical comedy, Mental. After the sun had set the final festivities took place on the beach stage in front of the gigantic imported screen, something of a symbol of the festival. After juror Demon Kakka finally showed us what he does with some songs, popular band The Boom took to the stage to play the ceremony out with some of their biggest hits.

It was a nice evening which really summed up the spirit of the festival, the huge crowd that had turned out provided a feeling of warmth and happiness representative of the festivals tag line: ‘Laugh and Peace’.

The band were joined onstage by a local Okinawan Taico drum group, which added to the spectacle and the community spirit pushed by the event. The band briefly exited the stage so that a mass of Yoshimoto, the festival organiser and biggest comedy agency in Japan, talent could make a final appearance and sing us out with the festival song, ‘Egao no Manma’. The ceremony finished in classic matsuri style with fireworks taking off over the ocean putting an end to a very enjoyable week and a great excuse for a trip to Okinawa.

Image (c) 2013 Okinawa International Movie Festival / Yoshimoto Laugh & Peace