The fourth edition of the Okinawa International Movie Festival (OIMF, Mar 24-31) launched this weekend with increased emphasis on the event’s organiser — comedy giant  Yoshimoto Kogyo — working to establish itself internationally.

Unlike last year’s rainy opening, the sun broke through grey clouds for the late afternoon ceremony on Saturday (24). Walking the festival world’s longest red carpet (at just under 400 metres) were a mix of Japanese and overseas talent including actor Nick Frost and director Joe Cornish from UK film Attack The Block on hand for its Japan premiere, Hong Kong comedy movie legend and competition jury member Michael Hui, Heroes star Masi Oka, singer-actor Akira and famed Okinawan comedy duo Garage Sale. Attendance for the opening day was up 25% at 35,000 compared with 28,000 in 2011.

Following OIMF’s motto the feature competition is divided into the “laugh” and “peace” categories. Among world premieres are Masaaki Taniguchi’s Signal, Chinese romantic comedy Love Is Not Blind and Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s Blazing Famiglia. Tanya Wexler’s US-UK co-production Hysteria, Eat Drink Man Woman sequel Joyful Reunion and Jean-Marc Vallée’s Café De Flore screen as Asian premieres.

On Sunday (25) approximately 8000 people gathered on the beach to watch a free showing of Yoshimoto talent Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Scabbard Samurai on the world’s largest outdoor screen, shipped from Switzerland. Comedy retrospectives and domestic and Asian shorts co-sponsored by OIMF are also part of the programme.

On the business front, Yoshimoto publicly signed a partnership agreement with pan-Asian satellite entertainment channel Azio, headquartered in Taipei and broadcast out of Hong Kong. Re-christened Yoshimoto Azio TV, Yoshimoto aims to introduce its brand of Japanese comedy, variety programming and merchandise to Azio’s 15m subscribers across Asia, Europe and North America.

Unable to attend last year due to the Mar 11 disaster, representatives from Hollywood agency CAA and several US production companies held meetings with TV producers from Japan, mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, and Thailand as part of OIMF’s Contents Bazaar (Mar 25-26). Acting as a creative bridge between domestic broadcasters and the US, Yoshimoto and CAA have already produced five original game and variety programmes including Serious Fun hosted by Masi Oka.

At the concurrent Contents Land market (Mar 25-31) local and overseas film, TV, digital content and event producers exhibit their latest offerings. The push for a higher global profile comes ahead of Yoshimoto’s 100th anniversary in April.