LIFECYCLE PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS
A FILM BY REGGE LIFE
“In The Cocktail Party, writer-director Regge Life takes on the controversial subject of the American military presence on Okinawa and renders it powerful and personal. The essence of effective historical drama is to translate large geopolitical abstractions into concrete human interactions – and that is exactly what The Cocktail Party does. US-Japan relations, racial tensions, military presence in civil society, violence and rape, guilt and innocence, justice and injustice, truth and deception … all these forces come into play in this compelling new film.”
Japan Society of Boston
When I first began work in 1972 on translating Oshiro Tatsuhiro’s novella “Cocktail Party,” winner of Japan’s most prestigious literary prize, I never imagined that the issues it addressed in the 1960’s—frequent crimes committed by American soldiers in Okinawa, then under U.S. occupation, and the American military’s interference in prosecuting them--would continue to plague local residents even after Okinawa’s return to Japanese administration that year. As dramatically portrayed in Regge Life’s film version of the novella, updated to the present-day context, four decades after “reversion,” American occupation of Okinawa continues. Life’s film provides valuable insight into the world-wide issues of rape and the subsequent pressures imposed on its victims.
Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies
Regge Life’s new feature film COCKTAIL PARTY tells a story that is about real life. Just following the story as it unfolds will keep you entertained, with its drama, its twists and turns. The drama is compelling because all the people involved want to do the right thing, but of course their goals are not the same. As the story evolves each turn brings the appreciation of a new perspective. One of the strengths of Regge Life’s story-telling is that he wants to welcome his audience on a thoughtful and adult journey through a world we can understand even if we’ve never been to an American military base overseas. Life’s film is not polemical, not biased for one side against the other, but like all of his work, it is thoughtful, and insightful, and satisfying.
Ronald Suleski, Director
Rosenberg Institute for East Asian Studies Suffolk University, Boston
Cocktail Party is not simply a rape story, one of the unfortunately many emerging from Okinawa: it is subtle and delves into the complexity behind injustices of advantage, insensitivity, violence and explores the nuances of culpability. The dramatic performances are excellent and there’s not a wasted emotion or moment. Arrogance and indecision, truth and ambiguity all come into play around a moment of passion and dominance or something dreadfully lost in translation. Applause to Regge Life for another excellent film appearing to be “about” Japan but about so much more.
A Recipient of Order of the Rising Sun
Cocktail Party illustrates the complexity of life in Okinawa, an island in which the significant presence of American troops since the end of World War II factors into much of daily life. Based on over 10 years of research, the film focuses in on the rape of a young woman by a US Marine to highlight the deeply emotional, conflicted, and complex state of life in contemporary Okinawa. Regge Life, the film’s Director, has spent the last 25 years interacting with Japan and examining ways to improve US-Japan relations, enabling him to understand and capture elusive tensions and topics in this relationship. Educators, policymakers, and those interested in US-Japan relations should watch this film to deepen their understanding of the challenges facing Okinawa and the ways in which macro-level policies in the US and Japan impact lives on the ground.
United States-Japan Foundation
I enjoyed the film a lot. I thought it was interesting to have the woman be Japanese, but involving a history of rapes of Okinawan women by US military. Making the woman Japanese complicates the picture, I think. It is not only Okinawans vs US military, but adds another element that is midway.
I found the ending to be dramatically surprising. On the one hand, the viewer wants to believe that the US soldier/rapist is going to be caught. And yet it does not end there, but instead in the much more problematic cliff-hanging non-resolution.
I do want to emphasize that I enjoyed the film and reinforced what I was trying to do in my class, which was to talk thought the many complex issues facing Okinawa. Sexual assault is not unique to Okinawa, of course. But unequal power relations and layers of these are endemic to the Okinawan situation vis a vis both Japan and the US.
Chistine Yano, Professor
University of Hawaii
I realize what a difficult work that is to transpose to film and see the changes you've made. It was a wise decision on your part. I also appreciated the updating (post-1995) and the complication of race relations on the US side and ethnic relations on the Japanese/Okinawan side. I am struck by the ambition of your film and grateful for this chance to view it and think about it.
Norma Field, Professor
Emeritus University of Chicago
The film addresses not only an Okinawan problem, but one that resonates world wide. Still, the complications of power in Okinawa and its history make it particularly meaningful. I liked the lack of a conventional closure at the end, made the girl less a symbol and more of a person with agency, whatever one thinks of her decision. To my mind, the Okinawn man was interestingly ambiguous,becoming clearer as the film progressed.
Life has stripped down Oshiro’s tale to the essentials of the original, to
an anatomy of the rape incident and, as is to be expected of an artist, he designed a surprise by placing the time not in the 1960s or earlier but in the present. Therefore the post-reversion, SOFA criminal indictment system had to come into play, and we are treated to a graphic explanation of what detention is like under the Japanese policing and detention systems. In his novella “Cocktail Party” Oshiro challenges self-perception, modifying the Okinawan victimhood discourse by suggesting that Okinawans in the Imperial Japanese Army may have been involved in atrocities in wartime China (and elsewhere) side-by-side with mainland soldiers. That insight does not emerge in the film scenario, but there is a hint, by way of metaphor, that the 1945 rape of Okinawa persists in the experience of Naomi Ohashi, albeit a Japanese mainlander. But is there more there than that metaphor; is there any message in the relationship between Okinawa and mainland Japan in that a mainlander and thus wartime and post-war Japan can also fall victim to rape’? The questioning and interrogation of the supposed victim and the alleged suspect is well developed, cutting back and forth to highlight and explore the problems of the effects of the demon alcohol, risk taking, the urge to prolong ‘a good time’, the instinct to justify oneself, equivocation, fear of family and battalion reaction and the prevaricating refuge in ‘I have no memory of that’ gambit. This is a film that was 13 years in the making and one which has some very powerful moments. It was worth that wait.
Professor Emeritus of Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts Fellow of the Royal Historical Society