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
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