The huge downpours couldn’t temper the enthusiasm of the thousands who turned up to see their favorite celebrities at The Okinawa International Movie Festival, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this April.

The popular event was launched in 2009 by Yoshimoto Kogyo Co, Ltd CEO Hiroshi Osaki who felt inspired after a visit to Cannes. He wanted to create a fun, laid-back film festival with a heavy focus on comedy.

A decade on and it’s still going strong despite not having the international feel it once did. In the past well-known foreign guests such as The Lost Boys director Joel Schumacher and Jackass star Johnny Knoxville graced the red carpet. These days it is all about domestic names. The biggest stars to appear this year were Okinawan model Meisa Kuroki and Flea-Picking Samurai lead actor Hiroshi Abe.

Meisa Kuroki

Hiroshi Abe

As always there were a number of Yoshimoto comedians in town, including Toshiyuki Teruya, better known as Gori, who was promoting his film Born Bone Born which premiered at the festival. It’s an intriguing dark comedy that centers around the ritual of senkotsu – an Okinawan custom in which the bones of deceased relatives are washed a few years after the funeral. Other films shot in Okinawa (at least partially) included the Singapore-Japanese production Jimami Tofu and Memories of Whale Island, a Vietnamese-Japanese movie starring Win Morisaki, who recently made his Hollywood debut in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Ready Player One.

A scene from the movie “Born Bone Born”

Renpei Tsukamoto’s light-hearted comedy Reon, about a female officer and an autocratic male CEO whose bodies are switched after a car accident, was presented with the Audience Award on the closing day of the festival, while Chinese movie In Pursuit of the General picked up the foreign-language film award. Directed by Teng Junjie, it tells the story of two warring states from 2,000 years ago.

South Korean actress Kang Ji-young who stars in “Reon”

A total of 51 movies were screened over the four days, however, this festival is about far more than just the films. Incorporating comedy routines, dance performances and music, it’s a celebration of Okinawa’s culture and history. Osaki said that he hopes this is just the beginning and the festival goes on for another 90 years. Yoshimoto is certainly determined to leave its mark in the area having recently opened the Laugh & Peace Entertainment School of Okinawa in an attempt to help with the development of local entertainers on the island.

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