"East Side Sushi"
“East Side Sushi”

SAN JOSE — In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and the 125th anniversary of San Jose Japantown, the first annual San Jose J-Town Filmfest will be held from May 29 to 31 at JTS (Jacinto “Tony” Siquig) Northside Community Center, 488 N. Sixth St., and the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, 535 N. Fifth St. The schedule is as follows:

Friday, May 29

“Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement” (2014) at 7 p.m. at JTS Northside Community Center. Q&A with filmmaker Marissa Aroy and Luis Valdez, noted playwright and founder of El Teatro Campesino, follows the screening. Special music event with Sonido Clash at 8:15 p.m.

“Delano Manongs” tells the story of farm labor organizer Larry Itliong and a group of Filipino farm workers who instigated one of the American farm labor movement’s finest hours – the Delano Grape Strike of 1965, which brought about the creation of the United Farm Workers Union (UFW). While the movement is known for Cesar Chavez’s leadership and considered a Chicano movement, Filipinos played a pivotal role. Itliong, a cigar-chomping union veteran, organized a group of 1,500 Filipinos to strike against the grape growers of Delano (Kern County), beginning a collaboration between Filipinos, Chicanos and other ethnic workers that would go on for years.

Saturday, May 30

All screenings are at JTS Northside Community Center.

“Hibakusha” (2012) at 11 a.m. This animated short film directed by Choz Belen and Steven Nguyen centers around Kaz Suyeishi, a woman in her late 50s who begins to reminisce about her earlier years living in Hiroshima during the aftermath of the atomic bombing.


“Kumu Hina” (2014) at 12:45 p.m. Directed by Emmy-winning directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, this film is a profile of Native Hawaiian teacher and cultural activist Kumu Hina, a transgender woman embarking on marriage with a younger man. Hamer and Wilson create a full and lively picture of Hina’s charismatic leadership as role model and communicator of Hawaiian language and heritage as she embodies the ancient tribal tradition of the mahu, a revered two-spirit person who combines male and female energies.

“Skin Stories: The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tattoo” (2003) at 3 p.m. Directed by Emiko Omori, Lisa Altieri and Karin Williams, this documentary features traditional tattooing ceremonies, compelling interviews, and a breathtaking collection of tattoo body art tracing the roots of tattoo, highlighting individual stories and the evolution of cultural traditions in the Pacific.

“East Side Sushi” (2014) at 5 p.m., followed by sushi reception at 7:15 p.m. Directed by Anthony Lucero, this drama tells the story of Juana, who can slice and dice anything with great speed and precision. After working at a fruit-vending cart for years, she decides to take a job at a local Japanese restaurant. Intrigued by the food, she learns to make a multitude of sushi on her own. Eventually, Juana attempts to become a sushi chef, but is unable to because she is the “wrong” race and gender. Against all odds, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, determined to not let anyone stop her from achieving her dream.

“The People I’ve Slept With” (2009) at 8:30 p.m. Directed by Quentin Lee, this comedy follows Angela Yang (Karin Anna Cheung), a young woman who enjoys sex and has had a number of partners. As mementos, she photographs her lovers and gives each of them a nickname. When she finds out she’s pregnant, she decides to keep the baby. She then sets out to locate the five men who might be the father and decides if she can have a more permanent relationship with any of them.

"The People I've Slept With"
“The People I’ve Slept With”

Sunday, May 31

“Issei: The First Generation” (1984) at 1 p.m. at JAMsj. Shown only twice in 1984 on San Francisco television stations before falling into obscurity, this long-lost documentary recently resurfaced thanks to the efforts of Lane Hirabayashi, a UCLA professor of Asian American studies, who tracked down the film’s director, Toshi Washizu.

“It is probably the best single documentary about the first generation’s experiences in rural California that I know of because the Issei are able to tell their own story, in their own words,” said Hirabayashi, who is also the George & Sakaye Aratani Chair in Japanese American Incarceration, Redress and Community.

Tickets are $8 for individual films; $20 for two-pack combo on Friday or Saturday night; $75 for festival pass (all seven films and two special events). Tickets are available online at http://jtownfilmfest.brownpapertickets.com.

Fiscal sponsor: Contemporary Asian Theater Scene (CATS), www.catsasiantheater.com.

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