Berkeley Library to Screen ‘Blossoms and Thorns,’ ‘Farewell to Manzanar’

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BERKELEY — Berkeley Public Library presents a free two-part film discussion series called “Our Stories, Our Voices,” exploring the wartime experience of Japanese Americans in California during World War II.

Each session will include a film screening followed by discussion and Q&A moderated by a range of special guests.

A 1940 photo of the Oishi family in their Richmond greenhouse from the documentary “Blossoms and Thorns.”

Local members of the Bay Area Japanese American community of all generations are especially encouraged to attend. This will be a unique opportunity to learn more about this troubling chapter of American history, when the U.S. government authorized the relocation and incarceration of approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast — through their stories, told in their own voices.

The first part of the series takes place on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 2 p.m. with a screening of the short documentary “Blossoms and Thorns: A Community Uprooted” followed by a panel discussion with local community members moderated by filmmaker Ken Kokka and cultural historian Donna Graves.

Stemming from a community effort and sponsored by the Contra Costa Japanese American Citizens League, “Blossoms and Thorns” is a powerful new documentary film about the World War II experiences of Japanese American flower growers in Richmond. Panel participants include Raymond Fujii and Kaz Iwahashi, whose families owned flower nurseries in Berkeley prior to the war, and Wilton Lee, whose family cared for a San Pablo Avenue florist shop owned by the Nabeta family during the war.

The second part of the series takes place on Monday, Jan. 14, at 5 p.m. with a screening of the 1976 made-for-television film “Farewell to Manzanar,” followed by conversation and Q&A with the film’s director, Oscar and Emmy winner John Korty, and author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston.

“Farewell to Manzanar” was the first commercial film written, performed, photographed and scored by Japanese Americans about the internment. The teleplay was adapted from Houston’s compelling memoir about the camps, as seen through eyes of a young girl.

Rarely seen for 35 years, the film was recently released on DVD for the first time by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles to reach a new generation of viewers.

Berkeley Public Library is located at 20290 Kittredge (at Shattuck). For more information, visit www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org.

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