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 Director's Statement

COCKTAIL PARTY, the film like the Akutagawa Prize winning novella that inspired it, was born of an independent spirit. The story depicts the underrepresented perspectives of the Okinawan people as it provides insight into a situation of military deployment that has lasted nearly 70 years. If we can understand the complicated human relationships that have developed in Okinawa, we may be provided with a blueprint for future relations between Americans, military and civilian, and the people who live where the United States operates permanent military bases. 


The film also challenges the prejudices felt towards the Okinawan people not only by members of the US military but also by representatives of the Government of Japan who continue to ask Okinawa to bear the burden of numerous military bases. Through the story of Uehara confronting his demons from the past as he tries to aid a young businessman’s quest for justice, while at the same time searching for a way to save his business, illustrates the double edged sword faced by all Okinawans. They want their island back, but the base is an undeniable source of revenue and livelihood for many. 

The project was born from my fascination with Okinawa that dates back to my first trip to Japan in 1990.  As a NEA/Bunka-cho Creative Artist Fellow, I spent six months in Japan observing the work of the esteemed director Yoji Yamada.  As I was winding down my time in Japan and thinking I would probably never return again, I travelled to Okinawa because it was known for diving.  My first night on the island of Zamami is unforgettable.  The owner of the small inn found me seated alone and asked if I wanted to take a walk.  I agreed and she took me on a tour of the cliffs where Okinawans jumped to their deaths fearing torture at the hands of the US military, a rumor that had been spread by the Japanese Imperial army. Finally at the end of the walk, we climbed to the top of an observation post.  This was where US commanders stood as they began the assault known as the Battle of Okinawa.  On the way back we stopped at a small shrine and I placed a paper crane amongst many. The cranes symbolize peace.  From that moment, I wanted to make a film about Okinawa. 


Okinawan stories figured into all my documentaries made in Japan from 1992 to 2000 but it was after a presentation in the US of one of those films that a representative approached me from Fulbright and invited to submit a proposal to travel to Okinawa as a Journalist Fellow.   From 2003 to 2004 I spent 9 months in Okinawa researching many stories but it was the novel “Cocktail Party” by Tatsuhiro Oshiro that made the strongest impression. Unlike most of the literature that took a very strident anti-base, anti-US stance, “Cocktail Party” examined the grey areas, the conflicting relationships that can occur as the result of long-term occupation.  Oshiro generously granted me permission to develop the novel for the screen and worked with me to create a contemporary story based on his Akutagawa Prize winning novel.

The production struggled for many years to get made. Financing was difficult and at one point I was unsure the film would be made.  The project was picked to participate in TIFFCOM (Tokyo International Film Festival Content Market) in 2012 and that provided a boost in visibility. Finally by means of my teaching young filmmakers and a relationship with Emerson College in Boston, that a way out of no way was created.  Colleague and noted cinematographer Harlan Bosmajian (LOVELY AND AMAZING and EARLY MORNING) came on board and along with a cadre of film students and professionals, we began filming.  Because of the mixed cast of Americans and Japanese, casting proved to be a challenge but luckily there were some fine young actors in Boston and New York to portray the Marine roles and I made an astounding discovery of a good number of Japanese born actors living in New York who welcomed the opportunity.  I brought in a former Marine to drill the actors with Marine behavior and adjusted the dialogue to capture the style and flair of the military.  With the assistance of my Supervising Producer, Sayuri Nakata-Alsman, we rehearsed the Japanese cast in a separate location bringing together the two teams on the set.  Over the course of four years, on soundstages in the US and exterior filming in Okinawa the movie was made.


COCKTAIL PARTY also allows an audience to see themselves as part of a global community. The desire of the Okinawan people to determine their own future and live a life without the shadow of a military presence is a life we would wish for ourselves.

Regge Life:  Known for his award winning documentary work in Japan, COCKTAIL PARTY is Regge Life’s first narrative feature. He received his M.F.A. in directing film and theater from New York University; and is the recipient of 3 CINE Golden Eagles, an NEA/Bunka-cho Creative Artist fellowship under the mentorship of Yamada Yoji, a Fulbright Journalist scholar, a Japan Foundation Fellow and a Sony Innovator.  He wrote and produced REUNION starring Denzel Washington and produced NATIVE SON, the life and work of Richard Wright, for Discovery Networks. His most recent documentaries are LIVE YOUR DREAM: The Taylor Anderson Story, chronicling the lives of two Americans who lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and REASON TO HOPE, about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

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