Okinawa International Movie Festival 2013: A Celebration of Laughter & Peace (Part 2)
I chose to dedicate my second full day at the 5th Okinawa International Movie Festival to exploring some of the shorts in the Local Origination Project section. These Community-Based Movies received funding from their respective region in return for highlighting values, interests and attractions unique to that specific area. The results were eclectic, ambitious and surprisingly entertaining, as the filmmakers pushed themselves to tell meaningful stories, while also exploring a variety of genres, styles and themes.
While the title doesn't offer much of a clue, Taniguchi Hitonori's film is a loving homage to the work of directors like Quentin Tarantino, Tobe Hooper and Iguchi Noboru. Centring around the small community of Marukame in Kodokawa prefecture, the story follows Shinsuke as he returns home from the big city, and embroils his care-free brother (who works security at the local museum of modern art) in a complex web of chainsaw-wielding assassins and mucus-spewing villains that could threaten the lives of the entire town.
The high energy and outlandish characters draws strong comparisons with the work of Iguchi, Nishimura Yoshihiro and the rest of the Sushi Typhoon stable, but there is a degree of artistry and craftsmanship that sets Taniguchi's film apart. From its coolly composed cinematography, to its refreshingly smart, good-natured script, MG-2416 was quick to pique my interest. Themes of home truths and small-town values, coupled with the integration of local artistry and cuisine, are juxtaposed against the playful mania of Taniguchi's aesthetic, but instead of jarring, the results are refreshingly effective.
Another tale in which food plays a prominent role, Nakajima Ryo's film from Kadokawa-cho in Miyazaki prefecture is the story of two brothers who run the local bento restaurant. When their elderly chef is hospitalised, Takuma and Azuma call upon their old classmate Yuna to help them. Yuna has spent many years in Tokyo, and struggles to adapt to the slow pace of small-town life. But as the community rallies ahead of the Danjiri Festival, and rival factions within the town begin facing off against each other, Yuna comes to recognise the hidden values and treasures in Kadokawa.
Full of humour and heart, Umisuzu Meshi was possibly the most accomplished piece of Japanese film-making I saw at the festival. It's beautiful quayside setting, quirky characters and light but unashamedly earnest tone came together perfectly in celebration of a community in love with its food and traditions. On the basis of this simple yet effective short, I cannot wait to see more of what Nakajima Ryo has to offer.
Duty Cyborg Itoman
I was really keen to check out some of the homegrown offerings from Okinawan filmmakers while I was on the island, and this one in particular caught my eye, not least because it was directed by Gori (aka Teruya Toshiyuki), a member of popular comedy troupe, Garage Sale. Frustratingly, however, none of the five locally-produced films screened with English subtitles.
I braved Duty Cyborg Itoman regardless, and must admit that while it was more dialogue-heavy than I would have liked (and therefore harder to follow, being in a language I don't understand), there was definite craftsmanship on screen that was impossible to ignore. While it might seem somewhat futile to review a film based solely on its aesthetics, there was no denying how beautifully this was shot, particularly when compared with other films I had seen in the Ultraman-esque superhero genre. In addition, the film was extremely well directed, with the pacing and execution of scenes beautifully staged. Physical and sight gags all hit home and even when others relied on dialogue I didn't understand, the film still held my attention.
An unusual inclusion in the Local Origination Project section was this Hong Kong-set short from Horie Kei. Filmed in a combination of Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese, it nevertheless proved an easy-to-follow chamber piece set entirely within the confines of a Hong Kong cafe. Ishida Akira and Ikehata Reina play a Japanese couple who run the restaurant, who are taken hostage when a mysterious mainland customer suddenly pulls a gun and refuses to leave.
Hiro Hayama (familiar to Hong Kong movie fans as the star of Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy) pops up as a Japanese businessman also caught in the melee, and there's an amusing cameo from Ip Man director Wilson Yip too. While the script and performances are nothing too remarkable, the film captures the neon-streaked, smoke-filled aesthetic synonymous with classic 80s Hong Kong Action Cinema, and made for a welcome diversion from the Japan-centric focus of the rest of the programme.