Japanese, JA Representation at CAAMFest36 Found in Historic and Modern-day Stories

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SAN FRANCISCO — Japanese representation is diverse at the Center for Asian American Media’s annual festival showcase, CAAMFest, this year.

In its 36th year, CAAMFest36 presents portraits, stories, and performances from the past and present by Japanese and Japanese American filmmakers, subjects, and artists in a variety of mediums including films, live theatre performances, and musical acts.

CAAMFest36 opens with “An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy,” a film celebrating the life and career of Bay Area native Norman Mineta. He was born in San Jose, where he served as mayor from 1971 to 1975, to Japanese immigrants who first were denied citizenship due to the Asian Exclusion Act. As a child during World War II, he was held at an internment camp for years.

CAAMFest36 presents the world premiere screening of the film on opening night, Thursday, May 10, at 7 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, where Mineta will also be honored by the City of San Francisco in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The film is directed by Dianne Fukami, who also serves as co-producer with Debra Nakatomi.

Three other films at CAAMFest36 also depict stories regarding World War II or internment.

“Go For Broke: An Origin Story,” directed by Alexander Bocchieri, is a narrative feature film about the jarring discrimination the young Japanese American men of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team faced at home before becoming the most decorated unit for their size and time in battle.

The Registry,” directed by Bill Kubota and produced by Kubota and Steve Ozone, details the efforts of Japanese American translators in the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service during World War II.

“Three Boys Manzanar,” directed by Preeti Deb, revisits a former internment camp in Inyo County, with Mas Ooka and his granddaughter.

The “Tokyo Beats” shorts program presents three films from Japan that illustrate the difficulties of succeeding in Tokyo, where conformities fit the norm.

“Let’s Go Home,” directed by Takuya Matsumoto, is a humorous and warm-hearted story about a man’s reluctance to face the conflicts in his life after failing to make it big in Tokyo.

“Our Man in Tokyo: The Ballad of Shin Miyata,” directed by Akira Boch, is a documentary about a record label owner who devotes his life to bridging the gap between Chicano and Japanese culture.

“The Band’s New Stage,” directed by Takeshi Tanaka, is a tale about dreamer Aoki, who promotes his no-name band as a famous group from Tokyo in the far reaches of the Oki Islands.

Other films with Japanese or Japanese American representation include the following:

“Jimami Tofu” (part of “Food Film” program), directed by Jason Chan and Christian Lee, combines food, love, and culture in a discovery tale about two chefs. The film is set in Okinawa and funded by the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco.

“Futbolistas 4 Life” (CAAMunity Screening with the Center for Sport and Social Justice), directed by Bay Area native Jun Stinson, follows two young immigrant soccer players from Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood on a journey toward adulthood.

“American Dreaming” (“Fighters and Dreamers” shorts program), directed by CAAM alumnus Matthew Hashiguchi, takes a look undocumented immigrant college students in Georgia, who are often prevented from enrolling in public schools.

“Floating Light” (“In Transition” shorts program), directed by Japanese Canadian Natalie Murao, finds Dana and Sam pulled early from summer camp and planted in the midst of their late grandfather’s Buddhist funeral ceremony.

“Liminal Space/Crossings” (short preceding “Power in Unity” CAAMunity Screening with the S.F. Public Library), directed by Jim Choi and Chihiro Wimbush, documents the installation of artist Summer Mei-Ling Lee’s work “Liminal Space/Crossings,” a piece commissioned by the Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco.

“My Immigrant Story” (“Memories to Light” shorts collection), directed by Yuriko Romer, narrates home movies reflecting on a family journey to the U.S.

“On the Line” (“Memories to Light” shorts collection), directed by Tina Takemoto, looks at Japanese American women who cleaned tuna, worked an assembly line, and found same-sex intimacy amid fish guts while the men were off to sea.

“Othello-san” (“In Transition” shorts program), directed by Theodore A. Adams III, is a story about a celebrated African American actor who enrolls in a prestigious theater school in Japan.

“Pachinko” (“Life, Animated” shorts program), directed by Luis Grane, is a mind-bending look at Tokyo, where cartoons and reality coexist, and pachinko balls represent American influence.

“San Jose Tofu Co.” (“Fighters and Dreamers” shorts program), directed by Sean Au, examines Bay Area native Chester Nozaki’s decision to close the much hailed San Jose Tofu Company.

“Sanzu no Kawa” or “The Rivers of Three Crossings” (“Altered States” shorts program), directed by Cyrus Yoshi Tabar, follows a young boy struggling to overcome his sister’s death.

“Strawberries Will Save the World” (“Life, Animated” shorts program), directed by Yoko Okumura, shines a light on a Japanese native and her obsession with strawberries.

Historical and modern-day Japanese representation is also found in CAAMFest36’s live performance and musical programming. The festival’s closing night, Thursday, May 24, at the Herbst Theatre, presents “Aunt Lily’s Flower Book: One Hundred Years of Legalized Racism,” a live performance featuring spoken-word artist Brenda Wong Aoki with music from her Emmy-winning husband and Mark Izu with koto master Shoko Hikage. The performance shares a collection of personal memories recently discovered from a family diary detailing the true stories of Wong Aoki’s family in the 1940s.

Other performances with Japanese or Japanese American representation include:

Rapper Lyrics Born and musician G Yamazawa (pictured), as part of “Directions in Sound: Hip-Hop.”

Standup comic Atsuko Okatsuka (left), with D’Lo and Jenny Yang, as part of “Disoriented Comedy Show.”

For more information and to purchase tickets for CAAMFest, visit www.caamedia.org.

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