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Japanese Minister Yukino Edano Discusses Plans to Turn American Bases in Okinawa Into Entertainment Villages.

By Liza Foreman




They say that laughter is the best medicine and thepeople of Okinawa should know.

The southern outpost of Japan is famous for the longevityof its inhabitants, many of whom flocked to the 4th OkinawaInternational Movie Festival (March 24 – March 31, 2012), where the core themeswere laughter and peace.

The peace section is for good reason. Here on themain island of Naha, which played host to the festival, some of the worstscenes of destruction took place during WWII.

American bases still cover around two thirds of theland which, in atypical style for Japan, is covered in strip malls and modernhousing, which are the results of a darker political past and a far cry fromthe exquisite desert islands a short hop away.

But maybe not for long.

Attending the festival was Japan’s minister foreconomy, trade and industry, Yukio Edano, who responded to proposals by thefestival’s organizers, Yoshimoto Kogyo, to turn Okinawa into an entertainmenthub and to possibly using the American military bases to create entertainmentindustry villages. According to the proposal, the first step would be to launcha film school by the end of this year and possibly transform the bases by 2022.

“There have been some discussions about vacating thebases, but it is too early to tell what will happen there yet,” said Edano at apress conference.

The festival, which has a budget of $9 million, isthe brain child of Yoshimoto, one of the most powerful players in theJapanese entertainment business, whose core business is comedians.

102 films played during the eight-day festival andscores of Yoshimoto stars performed and presented their own features. Therewere 350,000 admissions last year.

Yoshimoto has produced around 100 films by its comedians.

“We wanted to cheer up the people of Okinawa,” saidthe Yoshimoto  chairman and CEO, HiroshiOsaki, who attended the festival.

The event included two business markets. Creative Artists Agency had a boothand hosted several clients  inOkinawa, including Michael Ewingfrom Callahan Filmworks (scripted); Ithan Goldman from ISH Entertainment(non-scripted); Jim Berger from High Noon Entertainment (non-scripted);and Cris Abrego from 51 Minds Entertainment (non-scripted). The veteranreality producer and comedian signed with CAA in March.

Yoshimoto and CAA have a joint venture to developtelevision programming for the international market. Yoshimoto also announced anew venture with a Taiwanese television group to distribute its programmingthroughout Asia. Hans Schiff attended on behalf of CAA.

 In addition to the Tokyo International Film Festival,Okinawa is shaping up to be a second major platform, which can help presentinternational titles in Japan, which remains difficult for foreign films topenetrate, and also help present Japanese talent to international audiences.

International films presented here include PaulFeig’s “Bridesmaids” from the U.S. and “Café de Flore,” the French-languagefilm from Canadian director, Jean-Marc Vallee. Kevin Parent co-stars withVanessa Paradis and attended the screening. Michel Hazanavicius was due toattend his screening of “The Artist” but cancelled after landing in Tokyo.British director Joe Cornish and actor Nick Frost attended for their film, “Attackthe Block.”

Yoshimoto star Hitoshi Matsumoto made a mark with hisscreening of “Scabbard Samurai.” The film recently played in Deauville andthree of Matsumoto’s films were screened at La Cinematheque Francaise in Marchand taken into their collection.

Yoshimoto has offices in Paris and Los Angeles andthroughout Asia.




About Liza Foreman