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CZ12 wins grand prix at Okinawa

Jackie Chan’s treasure-hunting hit CZ12 won the Uminchu Prize Grand Prix in the Laugh Category at the 5th Okinawa International Movie Festival (OIMF).

Run on the themes of “Laugh and Peace”, the festival boasted a jury headed by Hollywood filmmaker Joel Schumacher. Chan thanked the fest for what he called a “pre-birthday gift” saying: “I’m so happy that you love Chinese Zodiac, which I spent six years for preparation and one year filming.”

The Peace Category Uminchu Prize Grand Prix, which combines “deliberations” by fan juries chosen from all over Japan and the audience vote, went to Tien Yu Fu’s Taiwanese film The Happy Life Of Debbie, starring Jade Chou.

The Special Jury Prize / Golden Shisa Award went to director Anurag Basu’s Barfi! and a Special Mention went to director PJ Hogan’s Mental.

OIMF recorded its highest ever attendance this year with 422,000 admissions, up from 410,000 last year. The festival is run by Japan’s oldest and most powerful talent company, Yoshimoto Kogyo, which is this year celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Organising committee president and chairman and CEO of Yoshinoto Kogyo, Hiroshi Osaki, said: “Okinawa is a beautiful place and very much a community where the traditional and the new coexist. But it’s mostly only ever talked about either because of the US bases or summer vacations. I wanted to change that. In Japan, everything is centralised in Tokyo. I wanted to see if having a festival here could grow the local culture with film media and send out a message to the rest of Asia as well.”

The fest supports and screens “community-based movies” that highlight local settings and stories, including films such as MG-2416, a story about big city assassins sent to the ancient town of Marugame who are so taken by the food and culture there, they forget their mission.

Schumacher lauded the festival’s efforts saying: “It has such a great community outreach. I’d say the majority of festivals are based on ego and vanity - and are turning so international it wouldn’t matter where they were held - but I think there’s a definite desire at Okinawa to encourage creative local filmmaking.”

In tune with Yoshimoto’s talent-nurturing initiatives, OIMF this year also featured a Second City workshop with the Japanese-American star Masi Oka from TV series such as Heroes and Hawaii 5-0.

The festival took place March 23-30 at Okinawa Convention Center in Ginowan and Sakarazuka Theater in Naha.

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