Cocktail Party Addresses a Crucial Issue in Okinawa
In the afternoon of Friday October 12 KIFF screened an important and powerful work called Cocktail Party. It addresses one of the most disturbing and difficult issues facing Japan and specifically Okinawa today, sexual assault by US military personnel. Realistic and nuanced, the film stays away from black and white, good vs. evil characterizations. Instead it shows how a crime like this can develop without any of the principles being psychopaths or hateful people.
Known for his award-winning documentary work in Japan, Cocktail Party is Regge Life’s first narrative feature. It’s based on the Akutagawa Prize winning novella of the same name by renowned writer Tatsuhiro Oshiro. Life sets up the scenario where petty officer Lance Wilson (Andrew Spatafora) has returned from a night on the town where he disappeared for a while with Naomi (Saori Goda), a 19 year-old woman he met in a bar. Allegations of rape soon surface and in addition to the woman’s trauma US military-Okinawan social and business relationships are threatened. Rather than simply making the film about a crime, Life depicts the complicated and interwoven social fabric of the island, and the repercussions for someone who raises allegations of rape.
Cocktail Party created an intense and palpable atmosphere in the Cinema Palette theater in Kumoji, downtown Naha. Cleary this was more than a simple film screening, relating to people’s lives as perhaps no other English-language film has. Audience members shouted at the screen, gasped and sighed, and more than a few shed tears at this story which captured a tragic reality in Okinawa. This film, made by an American director in both Japanese and English, allows Okinawan residents to see themselves as part of a global community, one which does not accept this kind of crime perpetrated on Okinawan people.
Regge Life spoke to the audience after the screening. He explained, “I didn’t want to make a film where I had to take a side, one side versus the other. It was hard to find a middle ground until I was introduced to the novel Cocktail Party. Oshiro-san’s writing explored what I call the grey area, the middle, the place where Okinawans and Americans come together.” The film screened at the Okinawa International Film Festival in 2016 and the response was overwhelming. Life noted, “People I didn’t even know came out of the movie theater hugging me and thanking me for making this movie and expressing not what they thought I was going to express, the American point of view, but expressing what Okinawans had to feel about their own struggle in their own country.” The film will open in regular theaters in Okinawa next month and Life added, “I cannot wait for Yoshimoto to show the film in Okinawa and continue that response and continue opening the dialog and between Okinawans and Americans there about what’s going on in Okinawa.”
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