Okinawa film festival to share laughter and peace

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The Independent Online

For a small chain of islands, Okinawa has had an unhappy and often violent history, which makes the organizers' choice of laughter and peace as the message of the Second Okinawa International Movie Festival all the more symbolic.

The film festival will run for nine days from March 20 as part of a broader festival designed to promote Okinawan culture to a broader global audience. Formerly known as the Ryukyu Kingdom, the islands were annexed by Japan in 1870 - yet they still retain many clear cultural differences from mainland Japanese.

Okinawa is also one of the key domestic tourist destinations in Japan, famous for its palm trees, coral reefs and laid-back lifestyle.

"Okinawans are magnanimous in character and have a peace-loving demeanor," Hirokazu Nakaima, governor of the prefecture and honorary chairman of the film festival, said in a statement. "Thus, with its splendid theme of 'laughter and peace,' the Okinawa International Film Festival is ideally suited to Okinawa."

The event will feature 26 films from around the world grouped into two categories - laughter and peace.

In the laughter section, South Korean title My Girlfriend is an Agent features Kim Ha-Neul and Kang Ji-Hwan, while On His Majesty's Secret Service has been a big success at the box office in Hong Kong after its release last year.

The Hangover has also received applause since its release in the United States last year.

A Match Made in Heaven - written and directed by Aditya Chopra - headlines the peace side of the festival, which also includes A Town Called Panic and Bangkok Traffic Love Story.

One part of the competition is open to amateur filmmakers as well as professionals, with entrants vying for the Y1 million (€8,180) first prize for a commercial no longer than 60 seconds that makes the jury laugh.

Organizers hope to entrench the event on the movie festival calendar and attract more people to the prefecture from Asia and the rest of the world.

"I hope that this second edition of the movie festival will prove able to spread the ring of 'laughter and peace' outwards from Okinawa and to the rest of the world," Yoshinori Enomoto, vice chairman of the executive committee told reporters at a press conference outlining the event.

The Okinawa International Movie Festival is the latest addition to the film event calendar in Japan, with the Tokyo International Film Festival by far the largest annual showcase. Started in 1985, TIFF is one of only two recognized competitive film festivals in Asia. Other events in Japan are more specialized - such as the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival and the Hiroshima International Animation Festival - while another newcomer, the Kansai International Film Festival focuses on Japanse movies made by foreign filmmakers.

Okinawa International Movie Festival

March 20-28, 2010

Venues: Okinawa Convention Centre and venues in Naha City, including Sakurazaka Theatre.

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