Film Examines Chinese Immigrant History from Women’s Perspectives

This past Saturday, in honor of Women’s History Month, JANM held a screening of the new documentary film, To Climb a Gold Mountain. The film recounts key moments in the history of Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the experiences of Chinese women. Extensive commentary from writers and historians (including past JANM guest speaker Lisa See) is used to tell the stories, along with period stock footage, vintage photographs, and—in the case of a 19th-century prostitute about whom very little is known—a gripping reenactment.

Anna May Wong. Photo: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Anna May Wong. Photo: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
The film begins on a dark note, recounting the squalid and abusive conditions endured by the first female Chinese immigrants, who primarily served as prostitutes for the bachelor society of Chinese men that worked to build the railroads. Conditions slowly improved as laws changed to allow these men to start families in the U.S.

The rise of the filmmaking industry comes into play next as the life of Anna May Wong, a talented and charismatic actress who pioneered Asian American representation in popular media, is examined. In spite of her widely acknowledged abilities, Wong suffered a bitter disappointment when she lost the lead role in the landmark 1937 production of The Good Earth to Caucasian actress Luise Rainer, who, along with lead actor Paul Muni, played the role in “yellowface.”

The appearance of the glamorous, articulate, Wellesley-educated Soong Mei-ling, who became a world power player when she married Chinese president Chiang Kai-Shek, signifies a historic shift in U.S.-China relations as well as a significant shift in how Chinese people were viewed by the American public. The film ends on a positive and reaffirming note with a profile of Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, who states unequivocally her continuing belief in the American dream.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu. Photo courtesy of chu.house.gov.
U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu. Photo courtesy of chu.house.gov.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with producer and co-director Rebecca Hu, who was brought on to the project by the film’s director and executive producer, Alex Azmi. As a Chinese Canadian, the topic of the film resonated with Hu, but she did not know about most of the women being profiled. Thus, the making of the film was an educational experience for her. She noted that the issues highlighted in the film—such as discrimination against Asians and lack of visibility in the media—are still relevant today, and drew a parallel with recent discussions about the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards.

Hu also shared the good news that To Climb Gold Mountain has been picked up by PBS SoCal. A shorter version of the film that screened at JANM on Saturday—cut to fit PBS’s guidelines—will air beginning on May 17.

To find out more about this film, visit the website, which includes a fascinating gallery of notable Chinese American women, including many who are not featured in the film.

JANM Celebrates The Karate Kid’s 30th Anniversary with Special Guests

L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding "Mr. Miyagi's" WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding “Mr. Miyagi’s” WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

The Tateuchi Democracy Forum welcomed a full house on Tuesday, September 9, as JANM celebrated the 30th anniversary of the beloved film The Karate Kid with a reception, screening, and panel discussion. This highly anticipated event featured live appearances by star Ralph Macchio, director John Avildsen, Aly Morita (daughter of deceased star Pat Morita), and co-stars Billy Zabka (“Johnny Lawrence”) and Martin Kove (“John Kreese”). Among the guests in the audience were Tamlyn Tomita, star of The Karate Kid II; JANM Board of Trustees member Wendy Shiba; and JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima.

Many avid fans of the movie, some of whom had seen it when it first came out in 1984, were in the audience. During the screening, people clapped wildly for classic scenes, such as Mr. Miyagi protecting Daniel from the gang of teenage boys, and Daniel executing his tournament-winning crane kick.

Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid
panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

Jared Cowan, a photographer who recently wrote a cover story about The Karate Kid for LA Weekly, moderated a Q&A session following the film. The stars and director reminisced about the making of the film while Aly Morita shared her childhood memories of her father. The panelists also brought the film’s martial arts choreographer, Darryl Vidal, to the stage for an extended explanation of the iconic crane kick. While inspired by classic martial arts moves, the kick itself was specifically created by Vidal to heighten the drama of the climactic scene.

JANM volunteer Richard Murakami spoke for many in the audience when he offered a heartfelt thanks to the group for creating a sensitive portrayal of a Japanese American man during a time when such portrayals were rare. “It made me proud,” he said, generating a round of applause.

To see more photos from the event, visit JANM’s Facebook page.

Keep an eye on our YouTube channel for video highlights of the evening, coming soon.

Highlights from February’s Target Day with KoAloha Ukulele!

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On February 8, 2014, JANM held the Target Day Free Family Saturdays: Aloha from Hawaii with KoAloha Ukulele family festival. Every corner of the Museum was filled with music as KoAloha Ukulele led free performances, workshops, and more!

Cartoonist Vishavjit Singh leads a cartoon workshop. Photo by Russell Kitagawa.
Cartoonist Vishavjit Singh leads a cartoon workshop. Photo by Russell Kitagawa.

In addition to the performances and workshops, guests also enjoyed ukulele-related film screenings of My KoAloha Story and The Haumana; and a variety of craft activities.

The Adventures of Sikh Captain America, a special program in conjunction with the Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 exhibition, completed the full day of free programming.

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Ryo Montgomery. Photo by Mike Palma.

Throughout the afternoon the Aratani Central Hall was filled with the sounds of spectacular ukulele performances by exciting young performers Jason Arimoto, Tj Mayeshiro (from Hawaii), and Ryo Montgomery (from Australia!).

JANM guests bring their own ukeleles for free classes taught by KoAloha Ukele artists and artist partners. Photo by M Palma.
JANM guests brought their own ukeleles for free classes taught by KoAloha Ukele staff and artist partners. Photo by Mike Palma.

Many guests brought their own instruments for free ukulele classes with KoAloha Ukulele staff and artist partners. These lively classes were enjoyed by guests of all ages and all levels as a number of classes were offered by different artists.

 

Check out these photos from February’s Target Free Family Saturday. Click on the thumbnails to see the full image larger.

The festival closed with an All-Star jam finale featuring Jason Arimoto, Tj Mayeshiro, Ryo Montgomery, and Brian Benevente! Photo by M Palma.
The festival closed with an All-Star jam finale featuring Jason Arimoto, Tj Mayeshiro, Ryo Montgomery, and Brian Benevente! Photo by M Palma.

 

Thanks to Russell Kitagawa, Mike Palma, Caroline Jung, Tsuneo Takasugi, and Tokumasa Shoji for taking amazing photographs!

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Save the date for JANM’s next Target Free Family Saturday on May 10th! In celebration of the new Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game exhibition (opening March 29!), bring the whole family out for free baseball-themed crafts & activities…sure to be a home run! Stay tuned for updates on janm.org/target.

Highlights from the “akaDAN” World Premiere + “Stuntman” Album Release Party

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“As a Japanese American National Museum, why are we hosting a documentary premiere about a Korean American adoptee?” Koji, Manager of Programs at the Museum, asked during his introduction for the screening. “Personally, I identify myself as Asian American first, and Japanese American second.” Having said this, Koji explained that “to understand the Japanese American story you have to understand the Asian American story, and to understand the Asian American story you have to understand the Japanese American story.”

IMG_2259The akaDAN documentary follows Los Angeles-based musician and Korean American adoptee DANakaDAN (Dan Matthews) as he reunites with his biological family in South Korea during the summer of 2013. The documentary is full of interesting twists and turns, including the fact that Dan meets his identical twin brother that he never knew existed. This documentary was not only interesting, but engaging as it had you laughing one second, and tugging at your heart strings in the next.

Two screenings held in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum on the evening of February 1st were packed to maximum capacity. As Dan explained before the screening it was actually a 4-episode feature that was being screened as an 85-minute documentary.

IMG_2258An insightful Q&A session led by Angry Asian Man blogger, Phil Yu, wrapped up each screening. Producers, filmmakers, and the cast answered a variety of questions, ranging from personal questions about Dan’s experience as an adoptee, to technical questions about production.

DSC_2317Following the second screening was an after party in Aratani Central Hall hosted by YouTube celebrities Amy Okuda and Ki Hong Lee. First to open up the after party was Travis Graham with a couple of mellow acoustic numbers. Following Graham was an exciting performance by Paul Dateh, popular for combining hip-hop with his skills on the violin. Closing out the after party was Dan, with words of gratitude, and a powerful line-up of songs from his upcoming album, Stuntman.

The akaDAN documentary was not only entertaining, but by sharing the story of a Korean American adoptee, it gave the audience a sense of how broad the Asian American story is. Being Asian American is a vast quilt-work of stories and experiences, and as Dan explores his story, it encourages viewers to look into their own story, whatever ethnicity they may be, and whatever background they may come from.

Check out these photos from the akaDAN documentary premiere and the Stuntman album release party:

Photo Credits: Richard Murakami, Esther Shin 

*****

JANM members received a special discount for this event! Sign up to be a JANM member now and support the Museum while receiving many benefits!

To stay updated on all of the Museum’s public programs, please visit JANM’s events page, join our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!

Target FREE Family Saturday: Aloha from Hawaii with KoAloha Ukulele on February 8

KAERU_ALOHA2014

KoAloha Ukulele is coming from Hawaii on Saturday, February 8 to lead performances, workshops, crafts, and all things ukulele at our next Target Free Family Saturday. It’s FREE all day!

Bring your own ukulele to learn basic and intermediate ukulele with Brian Benevente of KoAloha Ukulele and other KoAloha artist partners (11:15am/12:15pm/1:15pm/2:15pm). The little ones will enjoy strum-along and sing-along workshops with George “Gibi” del Barrio as “Abba Geebz” (Grandpa Geebz) at 11:30am, 12:45pm, and 1:45pm. If you don’t have your own ukulele, Anacapa Ukulele will be on-site selling instruments!

There will be solo performances by spectacular ukulele performers Tj Mayeshiro, Jason Arimoto, and Ryo Montgomery at 11:30am, 1pm, and 2:30pm. Plus an All-Star jam finale at 3:30pm with all three performers.

Plus, screenings of award-winning films: My KoAloha Story at 11:30am and The Haumana at 1:30pm; make your own candy leis; send an aloha to someone special by making a valentine with a bit of a Hawaiian touch; and fold an origami Hawaiian canoe.

For complete schedule, visit janm.org/target.

Video of TJ Mayeshiro and Ryo Montgomery performing in Korea:

 

Video of Jason Arimoto performing “Kaze Blues,” an original blues ukulele song about the Japanese picture bride experience in Hawaii in the early 1900s:

Awkward ‘n’ Awesome Rock ‘n’ Roll Movie THE CRUMBLES screening at JANM on Sat Jan 25!

crumbles still

THE CRUMBLES is an indie rock slice-of-life tragicomedy about Darla and Elisa, two young women struggling to catapult their talented but directionless garage band to stardom. Called “elegant and affectionate” by the LA Times, this lighthearted romp across the east side of Los Angeles offers a fun and realistic portrait of what it’s like to be in a fledgling band. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2012 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

Directed by Akira Boch and featuring music by Grammy winner Quetzal Flores.

Cast and Crew will be in attendance.

This is a FREE EVENT!

When: SATURDAY, JANUARY 25 @ 7pm

Where: Tateuchi Democracy Forum
Japanese American National Museum
111 N. Central Ave., LA, CA 90012

Sponsored by the Japanese American National Museum

FREE BEER reception to follow, sponsored by Lagunitas Brewing Company

Afterparty at Wolf & Crane in Little Tokyo starts at 10pm

More info: thecrumbles.com

Check out The Crumbles on Facebook

The Crumbles @ JANM Sat. Jan 25

Highlights from the L.A. Premiere Screening of Mrs. Judo at JANM

Mrs. Judo Screening

On November 16, 2013 the Los Angeles premiere of Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful was held at JANM.

Mrs. Judo is a documentary by Yuriko Gamo Romer, that captures the late Keiko Fukuda as she reflects on her life and the choice she made to defy thousands of years of tradition, follow her own path, and ultimately become judo history’s only woman to attain the pinnacle 10th degree.

A live demonstration of “Ju-no-kata”, a signature form of Fukuda-Sensei, precedes the film screening.
A live demonstration of “Ju-no-kata”, a signature form of Fukuda-Sensei, preceded the film screening.

The program opened with a live demonstration of “Ju-no-kata,” Fukuda’s signature form, by Charmaine Galvez & Robin Fernandez of Jundokai Judo and Jujitsu Club of La Mirada. Ju-no-kata is designed to teach the fundamental principles of judo, especially the principle of ju (yielding or gentleness). It consists of three sets of techniques and is performed by a pair of people, one acting as an uke (the person who “receives” an attack) and the other a tori (the executor of a technique).

The panel is made up of Yuriko Gamo Romer, Hal Sharp, Kenji Osugi, and Robin Fernandez.
The panel was made up of Yuriko Gamo Romer, Hal Sharp, Kenji Osugi, and Robin Fernandez.

Following the screening of the film, director Yuriko Gamo Romer, judo demonstrator Robin Fernandez, Hal Sharp of Gardena Judo Club, and Kenji Osugi of Sawtelle Judo Dojo discussed the cultural traditions and relations that continue from Japan to the U.S. through judo.

When it was time for the Q&A session, many audience members expressed positive feedback, and thanked the director for the wonderful documentary.

Check out these photos from the Mrs. Judo Screening!

 

Photo Credits: Russell Kitgawa

Read our interview with director Yuriko Gamo Romer on DiscoverNikkei.org >>

Highlights from the “Unexpected Journeys” Screening at JANM

Life History ProjectOn November 2, 2013, JANM held a premiere film screening for the documentary, Unexpected Journeys: Remarkable Stories of Japanese in America in the Atsuhiko & Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Democracy Forum

Produced by the Museum’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center, and sponsored by NITTO TIRES U.S.A Inc.Unexpected Journeys is a 30-minute documentary of selected interviews of individuals whose lives illuminate the astonishing diversity of the Japanese experience in America.

John Esaki, Director of JANM's Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center leads a Q&A with the interviewees and the project's videographers.
John Esaki, Director of JANM’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center leads a Q&A with the interviewees and the project’s videographers.

Not only did guests get to watch the premiere public screening of Unexpected Journeys, they also got to enjoy a Q&A session led by director John Esaki with interviewees Sumi Hughes, Jean Schneider, Iris Teragawa, Harry Oda, and Lloyd Inui. The Q&A session continued with videographers Akira Boch and Evan Kodani joining the interviewees on stage.

Guests talk amongst friends and the documentary's interviewees, sponsors, and staff over refreshments.
Guests chat with the documentary’s interviewees, sponsors, and staff over refreshments.

After the public screening and the enlightening Q&A session, guests, interviewees and their families, project participants, staff, sponsors, and other special guests were able to greet each other over light refreshments. Among Saturday’s special guests, was Frank H. Watase, who JANM’s media arts center is named after!

 

Check out these photos from the premiere public screening of Unexpected Journeys!

 

Photo Credits: Richard Murakami and Tsuneo Takasugi

Catch the Los Angeles Premiere of “Mrs. Judo” at JANM on Saturday, November 16th!

fukuda_photoOn Saturday, November 16th at 2pm JANM will be screening a full-length documentary chronicling the life long journey of the late Keiko Fukuda, a renowned pioneer of women’s judo. Yuriko Gamo Romer’s film, Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful, documents Keiko Fukuda’s decision to defy thousands of years of tradition, choose her own path, and become judo history’s only woman to attain the pinnacle 10th degree.

 

 

cade-fukuda-1974-liftA live demonstration of “Ju-no-kata”, a signature form of Fukuda-Sensei, will precede the film screening and will be performed by Robin Fernandez and Charmaine Galvez, with narration by Greg Fernandez Jundokai Judo and Jujitsu Club of La Mirada.

A Q&A session will follow screening with filmmaker Yuriko Gamo Romer and panelists who will discuss the legacy of Keiko Fukuda and the Japanese cultural traditions and relations that continue from Japan to the U.S. through judo.

Don’t miss the Los Angeles Premiere of Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful, along with a special judo demonstration, and a Q&A session!

Read an interview with director Yuriko Gamo Romer on Discover Nikkei >> 

Photo Credits: mrs.judomovie.com

 *****

For more information on Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful, please visit: www.mrsjudomovie.com

This screening is part of the Tateuchi Public Program Series, organized in partnership between the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation and the Japanese American National Museum. Tateuchi Public Programs develop presentations that explore the connections between Japan and the United States in the context of politics, art, music, and culture. The program series is created annually with the objective of enhancing understanding between the two countries. Learn more about Tateuchi Public Programs, at: www.janm.org/events/tateuchi

To stay updated on JANM’s events, please visit our events page: www.janm.org/events

 

FREE screening of “Unexpected Journeys—Remarkable Stories of Japanese in America” on November 2nd

1For the past year and a half, JANM’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center has captured more than 25 first-person accounts of individuals whose lives illuminate the astonishing diversity of the Japanese experience in America.

With the support of NITTO TIRES U.S.A. Inc. and its visionary President, Tomo Mizutani, the Watase Media Arts Center staff has been enabled to videotape extensive interviews with Nisei, Japanese-speaking Kibei, Hapa, and post-WWII “Shin Issei.” Their stories have revealed many new historical insights and several previously unexpressed personal perspectives on the World War II era and beyond.

3From the little known early Yamato colony of Japanese in Florida where Sumi (Fukushima) Hughes’ parents settled to the challenges faced by Hamako (Amano) Schneider, one of the first Japanese war brides to be admitted to the U.S. following World War II, the project has uncovered many aspects of history that have remained unfamiliar to the public.

Photographed in Hi-Definition video by the Media Arts Center’s videographers Akira Boch and Evan Kodani, each interview is transcribed, translated when necessary, and digitally archived for eventual use in documentaries, exhibitions, and ongoing JANM educational projects such as the Discover Nikkei website and the Museum’s YouTube channel, janmdotorg. The project also involved follow ups with interviewees and their families to gather, identify, and scan photo albums, documents, and other supplementary resource material.

2After viewing the completed two-to-three hour interviews and assessing the available supplementary photographs and other visuals, the Media Arts staff—with assistance from Japanese staff member Yoko Nishimura of the Discover Nikkei project—edited selected interviews into a 30-minute documentary, Unexpected Journeys, that interweaves short autobiographical profiles with narration, graphics, and music by accomplished composer and musician, Dave Iwataki. To make these stories accessible to as wide an audience as possible the video includes both English and Japanese narration and subtitling to reach both English and Japanese-speaking audiences.

On Saturday, November 2, several of the interviewees and their families will attend a special premiere public screening presented in JANM’s Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Democracy Forum and will be able to meet fellow project participants, staff, sponsors, and other special guests. Light refreshments to follow program.

Lloyd Inui

FILM SCREENING
Unexpected Journeys: Remarkable Stories of Japanese in America
Saturday, November 2, 2013 • 2PM
FREE & open to the public!

This program is sponsored by Nitto Tire and produced by the National Museum’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center.

 

Check out the updated Watase Media Arts Center pages online: janm.org/mediaarts