DisOrient Film Festival: Heroes and Icons

“Heroes and Icons” included three short features. The outstanding documentary of the festival showed in this time-slot, and that is A Flicker in Eternity. This film stands out because of the powerful voice of Stanley Hayami, a Japanese-American youth in the 1940s, and because of his excellent and charming sketches, which are used to great effect in the film. The film-makers animated some of them, adding movement to a story that depends largely on the voice actors who read Stanley’s words and those of his sister who fills in the rest of the narrative.
Stanley was fifteen when he and his family, who owned a successful nursery in Glendale, California, were interned in a camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Stanley drew pictures of the camp, and of his house in California. He was a thoughtful boy who wondered about his place in the universe (“a flicker in eternity” comes from a journal entry); and he worried about his grades and passing algebra. When Stanley got older he was “strongly encouraged” to enlist, becoming part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a Nissei regiment that was the most decorated army unit in WWII. Stanley’s story is tragic. It is not, unfortunately, unusual. A Flicker in Eternity brings Stanley back to life for 26 minutes.

Sharon Yamoto and Ann Kaneko directed A Flicker in Eternity. This film is available on DVD and I recommend that you go buy it right now.

Lil Tokyo Reporter is a period-piece, a gently fictionalized short film about Sei Fujii, a Japanese American in Los Angeles. Fujii, a real historical character, ran a Japanese language newspaper and radio broadcast in Little Tokyo. In this movie he confronts the gangsters who are running a “gentlemen’s club” and fleecing the Nissei farmers and growers of their hard-earned savings. The film is beautiful. In the Question and Answer section at the end, I was surprised to find out how much of the film was CGI. They could not find a neighborhood or a back lot anywhere that had the right look, and the director informed us that there wasn’t a single real car in the film. The costumes were beautiful. This film was directed by Jeffrey Chin.

The last film was a brief – 12 minute – homage to Keye Luke, famous for being Charlie Chan’s “Number One Son” but also for being the real first Kato in the 1940’s Green Hornet serial. Luke’s film career was long and huge; I was surprised to find out how many films he had done. Keye Luke, directed by Timothy Tau, was shot in sepia tones with period clothing and dialogue, but a contemporary sensibility and a bit of a nod and a wink to the modern audience. For a bio-pic, this was very refreshing.

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