A special program of cinematic works by and about Japanese American senior filmmakers will be showcased as part of a collaboration between Visual Communications, the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center, and Sustainable Little Tokyo as part of opening weekend activities for Nisei Week 2018.
The program, “Home Is in the Heart,” set for Saturday, Aug. 11, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. at 341 FSN (formerly the Matsumura Gift Shop, in the heart of Little Tokyo’s historic First Street North), is organized by VC and SLT to uplift the creative voices of seniors in the Japanese American community. It will be hosted by VC staff and interns and feature a Q&A with the directors after the screenings.
“The concept of ‘home’ seems to be under assault, given a new wave of community redevelopment and displacement,” said Abraham Ferrer, VC archives and distribution manager and co-curator of “Home Is in the Heart.” “Thankfully, the artists of our Digital Histories senior filmmaking program are able to articulate the stories that celebrate the Little Tokyo community as well as those communities of Crenshaw, East L.A., and Orange County, and tell us why these communities are valuable and worth preserving for future generations.”
Added VC Exhibitions Associate Yong-Yi Chiang, “We’re excited to share these special films with the audiences that come and visit Little Tokyo. The works by VC’s Digital Histories filmmakers speak to the social and cultural forces that affect Little Tokyo and the larger Asian American communities in ways that can’t be told in any form other than through cinema.”
The program will include the following films:
• “Note to Self” by Carol Shubin follows 22-year-old Casey’s struggle to balance responsibilities while finding joy. Reflecting on her childhood memories, Casey discovers that happiness is a choice and it’s the simple things that keep her grounded.
• “Holiday Bowl” by Mitchell Matsumura pays tribute to the community-favorite gathering place, Holiday Bowl. Celebrating the community that was created through food and bowling clubs, the film reflects on the vibrant life found at the cafe from its creation in 1958 to its closing in 2000.
• “The Arts District Without Artists” by Steve Nagano documents Little Tokyo artists in their fight against gentrification, an issue that is relevant to current events. After years of living and working in one of the first designated artists-in-residence buildings in Los Angeles, artists are evicted from their homes by the subsidiary of an international bank.
• “The Finale Club” by Robert M. Shoji examines the confluence of music, race, and politics in 1946 that led to the inception of the Finale Club, where jazz musicians like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis began their careers. The film sheds light on a time when Little Tokyo was Bronzeville due to the displacement of Japanese Americans and racist housing policies that pushed African Americans to fill in the vacancies left behind.
• “Dancing Through Little Tokyo” by David Osako recounts his personal journey to reconnect with his roots through Little Tokyo’s Nisei Week. Through various forms of dance, a legendary Japanese choreographer, and Elvis impersonators, he creates new meaning for himself as a Japanese American.
• “On My Honor: Bill Shishima, Volunteer Extraordinaire” by Fran Ito celebrates the life of Bill Shishima and his continued dedication to serving his community, whether as a Boy Scout, teacher, docent, or tour guide. “On My Honor” looks into Shishima’s upbringing in El Pueblo, Los Angeles, and his experiences in internment camp, and how such experiences led him to become a community leader in Little Tokyo.
341 FSN is located at 341 E. First St. All films presented in this program are underwritten by grants from Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Aratani Foundation, and individual donors. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.; a reception will be held in between the two screenings at 2:30 p.m. To RSVP, visit http://vconline.org/homeinheart. For additional program information, call (213) 680-4462.