The 13th Okinawa International Film Festival came to a close after a weekend of screenings of sterling creations from some of the brightest talents in the Japanese film industry.

With the catchphrase "This Year's Little Festival," the event, held over the weekend of April 17-18, included screenings of 26 features and short films, plus art exhibitions, and presentations by film distributors.

Last year's festival was cancelled due to the coronavirus epidemic, so the organisers of this year's edition were careful to avoid large-scale gatherings. They did all they could to ensure that screenings were held in conditions that minimized the spread of the disease.

It is a tribute to their conscientiousness that the event succeeded in attracting 25,000 visitors, including those who watched the distributed content. This is quite a drop from 2019, when 300,000 movie lovers attended screenings over four days, but a boon considering the straightened circumstances.

Since its first edition in 2009, the Okinawa International Film Festival has evolved to become a comprehensive entertainment festival for and about Okinawa. This year's events were held in various parts of Okinawa prefecture, but centered on film screenings at the Sakurazaka Theater in Naha.

They included five archive screenings of old films about Okinawa, eight new locally produced films, and eight silent film classics screened in association with the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival.

The locally-made films were produced under the auspices of the Creator's Factory U-25 Video Competition, an all-island festival held with the aim of discovering and nurturing the next generation of young Okinawan filmmakers.

Among the stand-out movies at this year's festival was Afterimage of a Dream (夢の残像) by Tsukasa Kishimoto, which stars Yoshito and Masahiro Arakaki. Nobuteru Uchida's Women (女たち), starring Yukiko Shinohara and Kana Kurashina, was also a hit with audiences, as was Restart (リスタート), directed by Hiroshi Shinagawa and starring EMILY and SWAY.

Another film to garner fulsome praise was Made in Heaven (メイド・イン・ヘヴン). Helmed by Masato Tanno, it was the vehicle for dazzling performances by Satomi Tezuka and Tomiyuki Kunihiro.

The festival's Grand Prix was won by Satoshi Okawa's Arayashiki (阿頼耶識). Upon receiving his prize, Okawa said, "I made Arayashiki before I entered film school, so I wasn't an experienced producer. All the same, the production staff are chuffed to bits with the end result, so I feel well made up."

The Judge's Special Award went to Sea You Again by Tsubasa Nishimura, who said, "I made this film a projection of myself. It's something I didn't get round to doing when I was younger, so it's very much grounded in the story of my youth."

All of the films were also available to watch online for the duration of the festival, and there are plans in the works to make past screenings available on YouTube.

For more information about the Okinawa International Film Festival and the films screened for its 13th edition, visit the festival's home page.

By - George Lloyd.