'No Strings Attached,' 'Aftershock' among screeners

TOKYO — The Okinawa International Movie Festival has unveiled the line-up for its third edition, skedded to unspool March 18-27 in Naha, Okinawa.

The creation of Yoshimoto Kogyo, the Osaka-based talent shop whose specialty is comedy, the fest has two main competition sections — Laugh (laffers) and Peace (non-laffers), each with a Grand Prix decided by aud vote and a judge’s prize awarded by five yet-to-be- announced jurors.

Three of the 25 films in the competition are directed by Yoshimoto funnymen and seven have been produced in collaboration with Yoshimoto and TV stations.

But the competition will also screen 15 titles from abroad, including the World Premiere of the Ivan Reitman laffer “No Strings Attached,”

starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, and Feng Xiaogang’s “Aftershock,” a disaster epic that beat “Avatar” at the Chinese box office.

Opening the 2011 festival is the new comedy “Manzai Gang,” by Hiroshi Shinagawa, director of the 2009 hit gangbanger dramady “Drop,” as well as a Yoshimoto talent.

To stimulate regional production, the festival has launched two new programs for this year’s edition. One, the Local Origination Project, consists of seven films made in cooperation with Yoshimoto and seven localities around Japan, from Niigata to Okinawa. Though the stars may be from the Yoshimoto roster, many locals also appear on screen.

Another is the Yoshimoto-sponsored Jimot Commercial Competition, which solicited ideas for TV ads from regions around Japan with the aim of publicizing local products and attractions.

Out of 565 ideas submitted 10 have been made into ads for the competition. The winner gets 470,000 yen ($5,652), as well as an airing on terrestrial TV.

To attract business types as well as film fans (a total of 380,000 last year), the festival, in cooperation with Yoshimoto and Creative Artists Agency (CAA), is launching the Okinawa Contents Bazaar.

As Yoshimoto Entertainment CEO Yorihiro Aki explained, the idea is to “create a new model for international co-production” for television entertainment programming. Instead of simply selling formats of Japanese shows to foreign buyers, Yoshimoto and its U.S. partners, including Reveille and Notional, are developing show concepts they hope will appeal to both Japanese and U.S. audiences and then produce them in English and Japanese versions.

Two sample shows that were products of last year’s co-production symposium — “The Last Square” and “Amerika o Warawasero” (Make America Laugh) — have already been made and aired. Yoshimoto hopes to generate more such co-produced shows from this year’s Bazaar.

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