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
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
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