This year’s 33rd HIFF will feature a film shot on location in Okinawa titled “Dancing Karate Kid (Ryukyu Battle Royale)”. The film is directed by Tsukasa Kishimoto and stars former Johnny’s Jr. idol Joey Beni, gravure idol Yui Koike, and karateka Akihito Yagi.
Synopsis from HIFF’s website by Jason Musni Soeda:
Ken Sawamura is a handsome, young hip-hop dancer traipsing his way through Okinawa. With little more than a ghetto blaster, he wanders into a small town hoping to perfect his own style of dance. His liquid smooth, body waving dance moves capture the attention of Iwao Shinjo, an old Ryukyu dance master who believes “a good dancer is also a good fighter.” Ken begins learning Iwao’s folksy dance steps, not realizing his new routines are taking on the form of legendary Ryukyu karate! Also in the mix is Misako, Iwao’s perky and hot-blooded granddaughter, who sees Ken as potential husband material. This should be an ideal situation, but Ken quickly finds himself at odds with local yakuza, a rival karate club master and a centuries-old Okinawan tradition, “the battle for the bride.”
Screens on Sunday, 20 October 2013, at 4:00 PM.
This film. Amazing. Following up on a post from about a week ago, today was the HIFF 2012 screening of director Claude Gagnon’s “Karakara.” The director was at the screening so there was an interview and Q&A after the film. First of all, he was surprised that the theatre was packed since he called the 12:00pm screening “early” and although I took a few photos with my iPhone, I later kicked myself for not having recorded audio of the interview and Q&A session. There were some interesting things he said about filming in Okinawa but the thing I’ll share with Karakui.com readers is his mentioning Yukito Ara and how much he admires him and the musician’s ability to create modern music that’s still very much Okinawan. The majority of the soundtrack by Yukito-san is instrumental (his soulful sanshin playing) and a song with vocals (the duo he put together with guitarist Isamu Shimoji called SAKISHIMA meeting) comes at the end credits.
The film was chosen as one of HIFF’s “2012 Film For Thought” and there was a brochure passed out at the entrance to the theatre with a nice write-up by University of Hawaii at Manoa Professor Christine Yano. (If you missed it or want to get your hands on one, HIFF has a PDF version available for download.)
I’ve had the opportunity to watch a large number of films shot in Okinawa and the majority of them have relied heavily on a fantasy aspect of the island so although “magic” was mentioned quite a few times in the film, I was relieved that there was no actual magic taking place. 🙂 It was also nice seeing a director who wasn’t from mainland Japan film in Okinawa and I feel that it brought about a different perspective than what I’ve been used to (like the before mentioned fantasy aspect). For that reason, I was surprised to find an optimistic ending rather than one of tragedy (I’m trying my best not to have any spoilers of the film so excuse me for being vague). Among many things related to Okinawa, the film does allude to the U.S. military base problem (it’s mentioned that 20% of Okinawa is military bases) but before getting too political, Youki Kudoh’s character (she’s still so beautiful!) says instead to look at the beauty of the island around you as there’s not much two people can do to change things. (Later in the film there’s a bit that mentions filmmaker Michael Moore to bring it to his attention.)
The film will have a second screening tomorrow (Monday, 10/15/12) at HIFF 2012 and I highly recommend it. There doesn’t seem to be an official English-language website for the film — tho there’s mention that it’s in the works — but there is a Japanese-language one. In the meantime, if you’re interested in the film, I think it’s best to follow their Facebook page which is updated regularly.
Following today’s “filmed in Okinawa” theme, a film titled “Karakara” will be shown on 10/14 and 10/15 at the 2012 HIFF Fall Festival.
From Kururu Vision’s website:
Wishing to find peace of mind, Pierre, a retired professor in his early sixties, ends up making a short, unsettling trip around Okinawa with Junko, a 40-year-old runaway wife. The confused intellectual would rather not get involved with this unlikely and unexpected lover but decides to follow his destiny, wherever it (she?) may take him.
The film was written and directed by Claude Gagnon and stars Gabriel Arcand and Youki Kudoh. What I’m most looking forward to is the film’s soundtrack which is by Yukito Ara of Parsha cluB (my favorite band) and the theme song is by SAKISHIMA meeting.
Say hello if you see me at one of the HIFF shows. 🙂