PALO ALTO — “Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful” and “A Flicker in Eternity” will be screened this weekend on the Stanford University campus as part of the United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF).
One of the oldest solely documentary film festivals in the U.S., UNAFF was established in 1998 to honor the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has grown and earned the respect of audiences and filmmakers alike for its independence and integrity. In addition to providing early outlets for films, many of which later went on to win major awards and accolades, UNAFF prides itself in creating a community forum for discovery and dialogue about different cultures, issues and solutions.
This year’s theme, “Human Dignity,” succinctly symbolizes the purpose of the festival. Over an 11-day period at venues in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, San Jose and San Francisco, UNAFF is showing timely stories on topics like renewable energy, cyber-crime and Internet freedom, interracial marriage and tolerance, looted art, wars in the name of God, torture programs and medical ethics, battle for water over oil, human trafficking and modern slavery, philanthropy and social change.
For the full program and details, visit www.unaff.org or call (650) 724-5544.
• “Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful” (66 minutes) on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 4 p.m. as part of Session XXIX at Annenberg Auditorium, Cummings Art Building, 435 Lasuen Mall.
Throwing thousands of years of tradition to the wind, Keiko Fukuda chose to follow her own destiny and become the highest-ranking woman in judo’s history. “Mrs. Judo” tells the inspirational story of her lifelong journey, spanning four continents, nine decades, and two distinct cultures, to overcome adversity and ultimately transform into a living legend.
Fukuda was born in 1913 in Tokyo, where two generations earlier her samurai grandfather was the first martial arts master to Jigoro Kano, who went on to found judo in 1882. In 1934, Fukuda was invited by Kano to join his new women’s division, a progressive idea at a time when males dominated the sport.
Judo’s black belt has ten degrees, but gender discrimination dictated that women hit a ceiling at fifth degree — until 1974. Facing her own struggle for independence as a young woman, Fukuda bucked tradition, choosing not to marry when she realized that as a wife she would have to give up her beloved judo.
Her teacher charged his students with the responsibility to spread judo around the world, and after Kano died in 1938, this became her life’s vocation. Today, at 99, Fukuda still teaches judo three times a week. After 77 years of practicing judo, she now holds judo’s highest rank, tenth dan, and has earned the prestigious title “shihan” (grand master). Fukuda is the last living disciple of Kano and the only living link to judo’s origins.
The director, Yuriko Gamo Romer, is an award-winning independent filmmaker. She commutes up and down her back stairs to the offices of Flying Carp Productions, where she’s working the distribution of “Mrs. Judo.” She was born in Japan, grew up in the U.S., and is fluent in both languages and both cuisines. She has a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking from Stanford, a brown belt from World Oyama Karate, and a lifelong passion for making things from real and found objects.
Both Fukuda and Romer will be on hand to take questions from the audience.
• “A Flicker in Eternity” (26 minutes) on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 11:15 a.m. as part of Session XXVII at Cantor Arts Center, 328 Lomita Dr.
This is a true story of Stanley Hayami, a young boy who chronicled his turbulent life and times in a diary that he kept while living behind barbed wire from 1942 to 1944. Deeply personal, poignant, and funny, this coming-of-age tale chronicles a life with remarkable promise.
Each page echoes with the ebullient voice of a young man destined for a brilliant future. “Hayami is going to the top!” he declares in one diary entry. His life was to end when he joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team — killed protecting his fellow soldiers.
Fortunately, his imagination lives on in the beautiful words and inventive drawings that put a page-turning human face on an extraordinarily shattering chapter in American history. It is a story that combines the brightness of youth, the ignominy of incarceration, and the tragedy of war.
Co-director Sharon Yamato is a writer/filmmaker who wrote, produced and directed “Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn,” a film funded by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Project. She is the author of “Moving Walls: Preserving the Barracks of America’s Concentration Camps” and co-author of “Jive Bomber: A Sentimental Journey,” a memoir of Bruce T. Kaji, founding president of the Japanese American National Museum.
As a consultant to JANM, she has served as editor of the Museum Magazine and project director of “The Encyclopedia of Japanese American History from A to Z” (revised edition), “An American Son: The Story of George Aratani,” and “More Than a Game: Sport in the Japanese American Community.”
Co-director Ann Kaneko is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker, fluent in Japanese and Spanish. She was selected as best emerging feature documentary director at the New York Asian American International Film Festival for “Against the Grain: An Artist’s Survival Guide to Perú,” which highlights the life and work of four Peruvian political artists.
For the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women, Kaneko wrote and directed “100% Human Hair,” a zany musical set in a Korean-owned wig shop. Her film “Overstay,” about foreign workers in Japan, has been presented extensively at festivals, museums and universities. She has shot and edited numerous segments for PBS’ “Newshour With Jim Lehrer.”
• “Tokyo Waka: A City Poem” (63 minutes) on Tuesday Oct. 23, at 5 p.m. as part of Session XVIII at Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Encina Hall, 616 Serra St.
Tokyo is a digital metropolis and wellspring of spectacular pop culture, its commercial crossroads carpeted with people day and night. Above them, watching from perches on buildings and power lines, are more than 20,000 crows. As their numbers soared in recent years, Tokyo fought back: trapping them, destroying nests, and securing trash. The crows adapted; they are among the smartest of animals. The 13 million people of Tokyo now live alongside them in a stalemate.
“Tokyo Waka” tells this story, and a larger one as well. A Buddhist priest comments on garbage as the remnants of desire; a gardener considers the relentless persistence of nature amidst urban grit; a homeless woman talks about forging community in her tent village deep in the corner of a city park. “Tokyo Waka” gives these smart, opportunistic crows their due, but the film is ultimately an episodic and discursive poem about the life and culture of Tokyo, one of the great cities of the world.
Co-director Kristine Samuelson has been a documentary filmmaker for over 25 years. Collaborating with her partner, John Haptas, she has made many documentary essays, including “Riding the Tiger”; “The World as We Know It”; “Empire of the Moon”; “Wrong Place, Wrong Time”; “The Days and the Hours”; and “I Can See Everything.” All have screened in festivals worldwide. Prior to their collaborative work, Samuelson made other films, including “Arthur and Lillie,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.
She is a professor at Stanford, where she has served as chair of the Art and Art History Department and director of the Film and Media Studies Program. Samuelson was a 2010 U.S.-Japan Creative Arts Fellow.
Haptas’ editing credits include “Soundtrack to a Riot” for “Frontline World” (Emmy nomination), “Hunting the Hidden Dimension,” a program on fractal geometry for PBS’ “Nova” (Pierre-Gilles de Gennes Science Film Prize), and “Inside Guantanamo Bay,” a two-hour National Geographic Explorer special (Emmy Award nominations for best documentary and writing). He is currently editing a film about Susan Sontag.