Okinawa Film Fest: Top Asian Industry Figures Call for More Regional Cooperation

The Okinawa Film Festival's main screening venue

As the beachside Japanese film event gets underway, regional players Media Asia, Content Land and Yashimoto sign an agreement to form a new company to develop pan-Asian projects.

Asian production companies need to focus more on producing content that works across the world’s most populous continent, leading industryites told a conference at the sixth Okinawa International Movie Festival. Co-productions and festivals alike have a role to play in boosting cooperation, the figures said, and business benefits could be huge. 

“It’s good that Japan is reaching out. We have always been thinking about an Asian market, and here you can see Taiwan-Japan or Hong Kong-Japan projects. Of course everyone is very interested in China. It’s all a game of balances,” said Gordon Chan, the film director who recently became head of film at Media Asia.

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The lineup for the March 20-24 event includes the Japanese premieres of Grudge Match and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, along with a screenings of U.S. hits Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and Gravity, according to organisers, Yoshimoto Kogyo.

Running from March 20-24, with its "Laugh & Peace" slogan, Okinawa’s focus is on popular hits rather than art house fare. The main competition will be divided into “Laugh” and “Peace” categories, including titles such as Denmark's Antboy and Korean film Mr. Go, as well as domestic productions, Isao Yukisada's The Round Table and Hiroshi Shinagawa's One Third.

The Creator's Factory section will screen films from emerging filmmakers, competing for the opportunity to have a production funded by Yoshimoto Kogyo.

Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity will be shown on the giant beachside screen that is brought in for the festival and plays host to live performances for many of Yoshimoto's comedy acts.

Chan was speaking on the sidelines of the Okinawa Contents Bazaar Showcase, a content matching forum for Japanese TV stations, which collectively own Yoshimoto, to meet with its overseas partners, including CAA. The event was held at the Okinawa Gender Equality Center. Chan said that censorship works against some projects in China but it offered tremendous opportunity.
Media Asia, Content Land and Yashimoto will link up to form a company, Yoshimoto Media Asia Content Land Inc, to develop pan-Asian projects.

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Delegates at the meeting hoped that cooperation would take place despite tensions between the region’s two biggest economies, Japan and China. The two are at loggerheads over an archipelago of uninhabited, but resource-rich, islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. The islands are controlled by Japan, but are claimed by China and Taiwan.

“Political tensions between Japan and China mean it’s more important than ever to create friendship and Japan needs to do more to do better,” said Ichiya Nakamura, a professor at the Graduate School of Media Design at Keio University, and formerly manager of the rock band Shonen Knife.

Pramote Chokesiriculchai, president of the Association of Content of Thailand, said Thailand was working to become a center for content production in the region.

“The digital era is coming to Thailand, and we hope that we will be the base for ASEAN content production. We hope to put Thailand into the family channel area for the Asia market, so we need big cooperation with big companies to make this dream come through,” said Pramote.

“We have already started investing in Myanmar TV, been talking to three or four big companies. We look forward to all this cooperation to make Asian news and entertainment networks for the whole world.

Ayako Nakayama, Taiwan director of Yoshimoto Kogyo’s international business development unit, said that Taiwan was a great access point for the wider Chinese market.

“We are in talent management, production and PR. The Asia market exerts its talent under the slogan Y.E.S. -- youth, entrance and stage. Taiwan is the entry point to the wider Chinese market and we want to create many different contents and shape them on the stage,” said Nakayama.