Gardena Buddhist Church to Screen ‘Lost’ Documentary

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GARDENA — The rediscovered and restored documentary “Issei: The First Generation” will be screened by Gardena Buddhist Church’s ABA organization on Sunday, June 29, at 11:30 a.m.

Filmed in 1983 in and around Walnut Grove, “Issei” was shown only twice in 1984 on local television in the Bay Area. Buried in the vaults for 30 years, this unique film was produced by poet and filmmaker Toshi Washizu.

Fifty-four minutes in length, “Issei” is about Japanese who immigrated to the West Coast at the turn of the century. These pioneering men and women tell their own stories of struggles and triumphs in a new land. Actress Amy Hill narrates the film, which has subtitles for the Japanese interviews.

With the generous help of UCLA Professor Lane Hirabayashi, holder of the Aratani Endowed Chair, Washizu has generated a newly restored, wide-screen, digital version of the film. Hirabayashi will be present to introduce the film and to answer questions.

“Issei” is one of the few films that documents Japanese Americans in rural settings generally, and the San Joaquin Delta area specifically, making it a valuable contribution to the history of the first-generation Japanese experience before, during, and after the war. Envisioning life through the eyes of the Issei generation helps others understand the lifelong emotional impact that the unjustifiable incarceration had on Japanese immigrants and their offspring. The Issei gave the Japanese American youth the opportunity to rise above injustice and live without the hindrances of racism that once heavily plagued their community.

Among the survivors of this remarkable generation who began the Japanese American tradition were 95-year-old Yasu Kawamura, who along with her husband settled in Walnut Grove, where the couple managed a barbershop; Kumajiro Murakami, 102, who tells of how he immigrated first to Hawaii, where he worked on a sugar plantation, and later to California to become one of the first pioneers of the strawberry industry in Watsonville; and Taka Washizu, 84, who tells of hardships before, during, and after the war, working with her sharecropper husband in Walnut Grove.

Light snacks will be served. The church is located at 1517 W. 166th St., Gardena. Register by contacting Patti Nishimura at (310) 527-7265 or [email protected] with the number of people attending.

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