We Are Still Here is the Closing Night Film at the Inaugural Cinema at Sea – Okinawa Pan-Pacific International Film Festival


The inaugural Cinema at Sea – Okinawa Pan-Pacific International Film Festival is pleased to announce this year’s program line-up, featuring almost 40 films from around the world, screenings from November 23rd to 29th at cinemas across Okinawa.

“The festival, initiated its groundwork in 2018 with the mission of exploring the Ocean and Pacific regions. Film, acting as a global lens, allows us to bridge the gap between different islands, fostering an inclusive atmosphere in Okinawa, where diverse cultures and nationalities converge. This embodies the essence of Cinema at Sea. Rather than defining boundaries on land, we encourage a perspective that looks outward, across the ocean. By doing so, our individual worlds expand. Our goal is to offer the audience a transformative experience, encouraging them to see beyond conventional limits.”  said festival director Huang Yin-Yu.

Opening Film

The Festival Opening Film, FROM OKINAWA WITH LOVE (2023), directed by Hiroshi Sunairi, premiered at the 2023 DMZ International Documentary Film Festival in South Korea. The film follows Mao Ishikawa, a legendary photographer, who spent her early 20s working as a barmaid in establishments specifically catering to African American GIs stationed in Okinawa.

Closing Film

The Closing Film, WE ARE STILL HERE (2022), premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in 2022. This film interweaves eight powerful tales from indigenous peoples in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific.

 The festival program line-up can be divided into six sections including Official Competition, Director in Focus: Christopher Makoto Yogi, Pacific Islands Showcase, Outdoor Screenings, Special Screenings and VR Section.  

Official Competition

In Official Competition, there are 9 finalists competing including:

  • From Australia, THE SURVIVAL OF KINDNESS, directed by Rolf de Heer and showcased at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, offers an allegorical exploration of race and inequality where a BlackWoman caged on a trailer in the middle of the desert, escapes, and walks through pestilence and persecution, from desert to canyon to mountain to city. THE SURVIVAL OF KINDNESS provides an exquisite, thought-provoking, and immersive experience, seen through a unique lens.
  • The documentary GOD IS A WOMAN, directed by Andrés Peyrot, delves into the lives of the Indigenous Kuna people in Panama’s San Blas islands. The film chronicles their efforts to reclaim a 1975 documentary about their community that was never shared with them. Premiered at the Venice Film Critics’ Week, this documentary portrays the struggles of an indigenous tribe, which is already embracing modernization, against the Western portrayal of their existence as primitive and barbaric.
  • From Indonesian, ORPA, directed by Theo Rumansara, a young girl facing a tragic fate is determined to escape her village and pursue education, braving the challenges of the harsh Papuan Jungle. This movie stands as the inaugural feature film in the history of West Papua.
  • From Alaska, USA, ONE WITH THE WHALE, directed by Peter Chelkowski and Jim Wickens, unfolds a compelling narrative of a family striving to reconstruct their identities amidst the challenges of the rapid, harsh modern world. This touching tale explores their efforts to embrace ancient Indigenous values in the face of contemporary pressures. The film delves into the local indigenous whaling culture, offering an unspoken viewpoint on the delicate equilibrium between ecological preservation and tribal heritage.
  • Produced in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, BEE AND THE SPECTRUM OF MISUNDERSTANDING, directed by Fabien Laubry, tells the story of an autistic girl finding renewed confidence through Japanese anime songs.
  • From Japan, INTIMATE SPACE, directed by Michio Koshikawa, where Masahiro Umeda, a weary traveler, finds himself drawn to the desolate seashore beneath a colossal bridge connecting the Mainland and Shikoku. There, amidst the relentless rain, he stumbles upon a forsaken hostess bar. INTIMATE SPACE challenging the audience’s visual perception through experimental theatrical presentation.
  • From Taiwan, THE MIMICRY, directed by Chung Yu-Lin, is an adaptation of the short story by Kao Yi-feng of the same title. It depicts the magical adventure of a green sea turtle transformed into a human.
  • From Taiwan, ABANG ADIK, directed by Lay Jin Ong, has already received numerous international accolades this year. It has also secured nominations in seven categories at this year’s Golden Horse Awards, encompassing Best New Director and Best Cinematography. This film narrates the struggles of stateless individuals confronting discrimination and life’s hardships in Malaysia.
  • From Macau, LONELY EIGHTEEN, helmed by the emerging female director Tracy Choi, narrates the story of Elaine and her friend, both facing financial struggles, as they enter the entertainment industry to alter their fates during Hong Kong’s most thriving period in film production.

The Official Competition jury is chaired by Amir Naderi, the acclaimed Iranian master director Amir Naderi, who has been recognized at international film festivals including the Venice Film Festival. Under his leadership, the jury panel will select two major awards from the nine selected films: Best Film and the Jury Prize. The festival will also feature an Audience Choice Award, allowing the audience to cast their sacred votes and choose their favorite film.

Director in Focus – Christopher Makoto Yogi

The focus of this inaugural year will be on Christopher Makoto Yogi, born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and with roots tracing back to Okinawa. Christopher’s initial feature, AUGUST AT AKIKO’S (2019), made its world premiere at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam in 2019 and was recognized as one of the ‘Best Films of 2019’ by The New Yorker. His second feature, I WAS A SIMPLE MAN (2021), debuted in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The festival will also showcase Christopher’s short films, MAKOTO: OR, HONESTY (2013) and OBAKE (2011), marking the first-ever presentation of Yogi’s works in Japan.

“As someone of Okinawan descent born and raised in Hawaii, it has always been my lifelong dream to visit Okinawa and showcase my work there. This visit marks my first time in Okinawa, and it is also the first screening of my works in Japan for many. I am looking forward to exploring Okinawan culture, connecting with my family and relatives in Okinawa, and meeting other filmmakers and artists from the Pacific Rim region. I am incredibly excited about this opportunity provided by Cinema at Sea, which has given me the chance to shine a spotlight on my work and share it with others.” – said Dir Christopher Makoto Yogi.

Mabui Special Award

The festival’s Mabui Special Award, “Mabui” meaning soul in the Okinawa language, celebrates film professionals from the Pacific Rim region who have made significant contributions to the history of cinema. In its inaugural edition, the award is presented to director Gō Takamine and his associates from Okinawa, honoring their innovative works in Japanese cinema and art cinema. The festival will screen three of Takamine’s films, including TSURU-HENRY (1998), PARADISE VIEW (1985), and DEAR PHOTOGRAPHY (1973), followed by a panel discussion with Takamine and his team. Additionally, there will be an exhibition of the films’ artwork at the festival center.

VR Program

The VR program stands out as a unique and distinctive segment, marking a revolutionary step for film festivals in Japan. Supported by HTC, this initiative will present notable works such as 5×1 (2018), a collaborative project with the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival led by Hou Hsiao-hsien and Liao Ching-sung. This film is directed by five emerging Asian directors: Qiu Yang, Lee Chung, Midi Z, Tan Seng-Kiat, and Chiang Wei-Liang. Also featured in the program is the acclaimed VR animation THE SICK ROSE (2021), directed by Tang Zhi-Zhong and Huang Yun-Hsien, which gained recognition at the Venice Film Festival and Berlin Film Festival. Additionally, the venue will offer AR experiences, providing Japanese audiences with fresh and innovative perspectives.


The festival will host Outdoor Screenings on the beach in Naha City, Okinawa. The lineup includes the romantic comedy ONE SECOND AHEAD, ONE SECOND BEHIND (2023), directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita. This film, adapted from the Taiwanese version of MY MISSING VALENTINE (2020), incorporates a unique “magic” element to the Japanese version and shifts the setting to the ancient city of Kyoto.

Additionally, there will be screenings of the oceanic music documentary SMALL ISLAND BIG SONG: AN OCEANIC SONGLINE, directed by Tim Cole. Filmed over three years across 16 island nations in the Pacific & Indian Oceans, this grassroots musical explores the ancient musical lineages connected by ocean highways. Besides film screenings, attendees can expect a variety of thrilling peripheral activities and musical performances.

Cinema at Sea – Okinawa Pan-Pacific International Film Festival, led by Japan based Taiwanese director Huang Yin-Yu, brings together professionals from various film festivals in Japan, Taiwan, France, Germany, and other countries. The festival, which began preparations as early as 2018 but experienced delays due to the pandemic, successfully took shape in 2023 with support from Japanese and Taiwanese governments, as well as entities like Hotel Collective and Okinawa FamilyMart. Renowned Okinawan actor Shogen, enjoying international recognition, served as the ambassador. The festival has gained official media support from the Japanese branch of the prominent media outlet The Hollywood Reporter.

Cinema at Sea – Okinawa Pan-Pacific International Film Festival

2023 November 23rd – 29th

Festival Website: https://www.cinema-at-sea.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CinemaAtSea

Instgram: https://www.instagram.com/cinema_at_sea/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Cinema_at_Sea

Press Release

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