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‘Chinese Zodiac,’ ‘The Happy Life of Debbie’ Share Top Prize at Okinawa International Movie Festival

1:53 AM PST 04/01/2013 by Gavin J. Blair
"Chinese Zodiac" (CZ12) took joint top honors in Okinawa

The “people’s festival” on Japan’s southernmost island closes with record attendance.

TOKYO – Jackie Chan's Chinese Zodiac(CZ12) and Taiwan’s The Happy Life of Debbieby Tien-Yu Futook joint top honors at the fifth edition of the Okinawa International Movie Festival (OIMF), which closed Saturday after attracting record attendance.

VIDEO: Jackie Chan on Making 'Chinese Zodiac'

"Wow! It's indeed good news and a pre-birthday gift to me. Thank you so much for this award, which is very encouraging. I'm so happy that you love Chinese Zodiac, which I spent six years preparing and one year filming,” said Chan in a statement.

Both films were awarded cash prizes of $10,600 (1 million yen) for their wins in the twin “Laugh “ and “Peace” categories, named for the theme of the festival.

STORY: Jackie Chan's 'Chinese Zodiac' to Hit U.S. Screens by Summer 2013

The Happy Life of Debbie, the tale of an Indonesian woman who traveled to Taiwan to marry a local man, had created a buzz with audiences all week on its Japan debut.

Chan's Chinese Zodiac was largely panned by critics on its release at the end of last year and fared poorly in his native Hong Kong, but went on to take nearly $140 million in mainland China.

A total of 422,000 admissions were recorded at the festival, including 53,000 at the opening red carpet event on Mar 23. Attendance at the numerous events held along the beachfront, many of them featuring comedy double-acts from Yoshimoto Kogyo, the organizer of the fest and Japan's biggest talent agency, which has thousands of comedians on its books. No fewer than 144 Yoshimoto Kogyo artists appeared on stage during the eight-day run of the fest.

OIMF has aimed to be a people's festival rather than an industry event, and this is reflected in its programming, live shows featuring local performers as well as a laid-back atmosphere true to its tropical island setting.

“We wanted the festival to be for local people, but they have supported and embraced it even more than we'd hoped for,” Hiroshi Osaki, CEO of Yoshimoto Kogyo, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Other honors, awarded by a jury headed by Joel Schumacher, included a special jury prize to Indian film Barfi!, directed by Anurag Basu, and a special mention for P.J. Hogan's Mental.

A new “Creators Factory” award, aimed at nurturing up-and-coming talent, went to Kiki Sugino for producing Odayaka, for which she also won best actress, and will receive backing from Yoshimoto Kogyo for her next production. Meanwhile, Korea’s Hyun Joong Kim won best actor for his music video Lucky GuyNext year’s OIMF is provisionally scheduled for the same dates, Mar 23 – 30. 

Twitter@GavinJBlair

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