This groundbreaking event aimed to bring a diverse array of international films and esteemed guests to Okinawa for the very first time. Festival ambassador SHOGEN had expressed his elation, stating, “As an actor, I had attended various international film festivals worldwide, but my hometown of Okinawa had never hosted one. I was genuinely thrilled and proud to announce that we made it happen.”

The Competition this year was spearheaded by Amir Naderi, acclaimed Iranian New Wave Director, serving as the Jury President. The esteemed panel consisted of actress Ito Ayumi, recognised for her roles in director Iwai Shunji’s films such as SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY (1996); award-winning Japanese producer Sento Takenori, known for works like RING (1998), M/OTHER (1999) and director Shinji Aoyama’s EUREKA (2000); Sabrina Barachttie, Founder and President of the Udine Far East Film Festival; and Beckie Stochetti, Executive Director of the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Here are the 9 finalists in the competition:
ABANG ADIK | directed by Jin Ong | Malaysia
THE SURVIVAL OF KINDNESS | directed by Rolf de Heer | Australia
THE MIMICRY | directed by Yu-Lin Chung | Taiwan
GOD IS A WOMAN | directed by Andrés Peyrot | Panama, Switzerland, France
ORPA | directed by Theo Rumansara | Indonesia
ONE WITH THE WHALE | directed by Pete Chelkowski and Jim Wickens | USA
BEE AND THE SPECTRUM OF MISUNDERSTANDING | directed by Fabien Laubry | France
INTIMATE SPACE | directed by Michio Koshikawa | Japan
LONELY EIGHTEEN | directed by Tracy Choi | Macau, Hong Kong


THE MIMICRY from Taiwan, an adaptation of Kao Yi-Feng’s short story of the same title, clinched the Best Film award, presented by Jury President Amir Naderi. THE MIMICRY employs a magical yet realistic style, vividly portraying apartment stories by utilizing anthropomorphic techniques that mirror the protagonist’s observations. Director Yu-Lin Chung expressed heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to bring his film to Okinawa, experiencing its diverse multiculturalism and spirits—an experience that resonates and intertwines with the film’s message. Jury President Amir Naderi lauded the film, commenting, “Every frame is meticulously and beautifully crafted with precision. Director Chung is poised to become one of the most influential directors from Taiwan over the next 30 years.”


The standout success of this year goes to ABANG ADIK, directed by Malaysian filmmaker Jin Ong. The film delves into the challenges faced by stateless individuals dealing with discrimination and hardships in Malaysia. It achieved a remarkable feat by securing three awards: the Audience Award, the Jury Award, and the Best Leading Performance Award, presented to actor Kang-Ran Wu. Alongside the triumphant ABANG ADIK was the American documentary ONE WITH THE WHALE, directed by Jim Wickens and Pete Chelkowski, which also received a Jury Award. This documentary presents a heartwarming yet gripping narrative about a family striving to reconstruct their identities while navigating between ancient and modern worlds. Director Jim Wickens expressed, “The world is becoming faster and more chaotic, with fewer people taking the time to quietly listen to what others have to say. I hope to remind people of this.”


The inaugural edition of the Cinema at Sea Pitching Forum served as a platform where emerging filmmakers showcased their projects to local and international decision-makers. It gathered talented directors and producers from across the Pan-Pacific region, spanning from South America’s Peru to Oceania’s New Zealand, Tonga, and Australia. It also included talents from East Asia, Southeast Asia—such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan—and Japan. Stories born from diverse genres and perspectives carried unique individuality, enriched by the distinctive cultural and societal backgrounds behind each narrative.

With a total of 15 projects featured in the pitching forum, they included:

AUTUMN RIPENS | directed by Momi Yamashita | Japan
BORDERLESS DIMENSION | directed by Possathorn Watcharapanit | Thailand
GONE WITH THE GODS | directed by Mayu Nakamura | Japan
HEADLESS THEO | directed by Jan Carlo Natividad | Philippines
I THOUGHT JESUS WAS KOREAN | directed by Elina Osborne | New Zealand
KINGDOM OF KINGS | directed by Sebastian Hurrell | New Zealand, Australia, Tonga
MAGNETIC LETTERS | directed by Demie Dangla | Philippines
MARIA | directed by Manuel Alberto Maia | Indonesia
MENGGALAKKAN MAKSIAT | directed by John Gordon Fernandez, Gwai Lou | Malaysia
MOVING WOMAN | directed by Tokio Oohara | Japan
NASHEED nATION | directed by Aliff Ihsan Rahman | Malaysia
NUMAKAGE PUBLIC SWIMMING POOL | directed by Shingo Ota | Japan, France
SCENERY OF SCHOOL TRIP | directed by Po-Shun Lu | Taiwan
SHOPPING MALL BOY | directed by Sebastian Ng | Malaysia
THE LIGHT OF MASAO NAKAGAWA | directed by Hideki Nakazaki | Peru, Mexico, Germany

With an impressive assembly of 21 decision-makers at the pitching forum, they included:

● Sabrina Baracetti, Founder and President of Udine Far East Film Festival, Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche
● Thomas Bertacch, Founder of Far East Film Festival and CEO of Tucker Film
● Paul Haas, Sales and Acquisitions at m-appeal
● Teruhisa Ymatmoto, The Walt Disney Company Japan Ltd
● Hiroyuki Tanimoto, Manager at Visual Industry Promotion Organization (VIPO)
● Keiko Funato, Sales & Acquisitions of ALPHA VIOLET
● Will Manalang, President of FUSEE
● Justine O., Producer of A SONG SUNG BLUE (2023)
● Jenji Sekine, President of United People
● Go Abe, Producer of GODZILLA-1.0 (2023)
● Alemberg Ang, Producer at Daluyong Studios
● Sam Chua, Producer at Potocol
● Sarah Kang, Producer from Seesaw Pictures
● Alex Lee, Doc Edge Festival Director
● Victoria Leshchenko, Programmer at DOK Leipzig
● Christ Payne, Head of International Relations from New Zealand Film Commission
● Gugi Gumilang, In-Docs | Docs by the Sea Executive Director
● Maria Ruggieri, Head of Sales & Acquisitions from Asian Shadows
● Kazutaka Watanabe, Producer
● Ellen Y. D. Kim, Program Director of Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival
● Han T. Sun, Founder of Hooray Films

The Japanese documentary NUMAKAGE PUBLIC SWIMMING POOL, directed by Shingo Ota and produced by Kyoko Takenaka (Hydroblast) and Maxime Lauret (Hydroblast), emerged victorious, clinching the inaugural Pitching Award and securing a cash prize of ¥100,000. This documentary centers on the imminent closure of Numakage Public Pool, set to be dismantled after its final summer season in August 2023, to pave the way for the construction of new condominiums.


The Doc Edge Festival New Zealand bestowed the Doc Edge Award upon MAGNETIC LETTERS, directed by Demie Dangla from the Philippines. This documentary delves into a biography, wherein a daughter grapples with her distant and awkward relationship with her father. She navigates this emotional terrain by reconstructing fragmented memories gleaned from cassette tapes dating back to the late 1980s and the 1990s.

In conclusion, the inaugural edition of Cinema at Sea resonated as a resounding success, signifying a notable milestone in the realm of international film festivals. Showcasing a diverse spectrum of films, documentaries, and captivating narratives within the pitching forum, this platform illuminated emerging talents alongside established filmmakers. The festival’s dedication to honouring cultural diversity, fostering innovation, and embracing storytelling excellence was unmistakable. As this year’s event concludes, Cinema at Sea embarks on its next voyage, leaving a wake of inspiration, collaboration, and eager anticipation for the forthcoming thrilling cinematic odysseys.

Cinema at Sea – Okinawa Pan-Pacific International Film Festival
2023 November 23rd – 29th
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