F7GU8 premieres in Honolulu, Tokyo and ...Kenya!
Honolulu - You know you’ve struck a chord when 300 people show up for a screening after reading about it that morning. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser ran a feature story about us after a phone interview with Kathryn a week earlier.
People started arriving at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. event on Feb. 5, at Hawaii Pacific University’s Aloha Tower Marketplace. Despite serious technical problems (!) that required Kathryn to talk and answer questions for 40 minutes before the film, the audience was enthusiastic.
Hawaii has a natural audience for the film because so many Japanese war brides ended up there, finding it a place where they could more easily blend in, have Japanese friends and be close to Japan but not actually in Japan, which would be too difficult. Yet, it wasn’t the war brides themselves who were most interested in the film – it was their children, who used the film as an entry to conversations they wanted to have with their mothers.
And despite the presence of many war brides, that story is not widely known. In Hawaii they are more familiar with the story of picture brides, the women who came to marry the Japanese men working on the sugar plantations in the early 1900s.
Kathryn also showed the film to a packed room of the Thursday Luncheon Club – a group of mostly elderly Japanese – at the Makiki Christian Church, to the staff and docents of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and – thanks to Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima and her sister Karen Kimura -- to the Pohai Nani retirement home where their mother lives.
Viewers of all ages were extremely receptive and interested, asking thoughtful questions and laughing often. Nice that we have a film that makes people laugh (and cry). Marlene Blackwell and husband Stuart Holloway gave Kathryn a place to stay, put an hour-by-hour schedule for her on their refrigerator, threw a dinner party, and generally made things happen. A huge thank you for giving Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight such a successful introduction in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, across the world in Kenya...
Above, Karen on top of a film truck to get a photo of the crowd watching the film “He Called Me Malala”
Northwest Kenya - For three weeks, Karen spoke to film and journalism students from the Kakuma Refugee camp under the FilmAid filmmaking workshop program. She showed our trailer, and discussed how the experiences of these 80-something war brides resonated with these young adults, who have spent much of their lives trying to escape conflict, violence and personal trauma. Karen talked about the lessons the war brides and their American husbands, who had fought against the Japanese a few years before, could teach present generations: To forgive one another, understand that everyone had common needs and goals and try to make a life together.
Lucy, with our Japan distributor, Kenji Sekine, of United People Japan
And finally, Tokyo - It was a dream come true for Lucy, as F7GU8 premiered at one of the top indie cinemas in Japan, Uplink Theatre.
Uplink is a local institution and refuge for small-niche-film junkies, with small screening rooms that feel more like living rooms than a movie theatre. Lucy has been visiting Uplink for years - and, as she told the audience, she had never imagined sitting on stage, fielding questions about a film of her own!
The hall filled quickly, requiring extra seats to accommodate the 57 viewers.
A word here about the virtues of watching movies in a real-live, honest-to-goodness movie theatre - THERE IS NO COMPARISON, FOLKS! Being in a nice dark hall, with an excellent sound system and HD equipment, no distractions, it was like seeing a different film. We highly recommend trying to attend one of our screenings at a film festival (please read on) or movie theatre!
The mostly Japanese audience - professors, students, friends, co-workers, family - asked a wide range of questions - What kinds of Japanese customs or exposure to Japanese culture did you have growing up? (very little, actually - the emphasis was definitely on being a Jewish-American and the Japanese roots were stashed way in the background.) What about your father? (Like my mother, he's the kind of person who hates being told what to do and how to live his life - aside from being fond of corny jokes!)
Kinji Kaneko, standing in front of the traditional send-off flag signed by friends and family before deployment
The Uplink screening was followed by a weekend marathon, starting with a showing at the annual Civic Peace Event, in the city of Yokosuka. South of Tokyo, Yokosuka is still home for the US Seventh Fleet - and the naval base where Karen was born. The DVD player unfortunately was so antiquated, folks were craning to try to read the somewhat distorted subtitles, but this failed to dampen enthusiasm. An event meant for 70 ended up being standing-room only.
The event led off with two Japanese war veterans recalling their chilling and tragic experiences. Mr. Kinji Kaneko, 89, served in a suicide boat unit. Long before he was drafted, however, he recalled being indoctrinated in school. Songs like Thank You, Mr. Soldier sound as if they were lifted from North Korean TV:
(rough translation of one verse)
Mother and I are lonely
But we are able to sleep safely
Thanks to Mr. Soldier
For the sake of the nation
Dying in battle
We are indebted to Mr. Soldier
With every able-bodied father and son mobilized, he recalled the children (like our moms!) and elderly were left to work the fields and factories.
The second veteran, Nobuyoshi Oya, 93, lost his parents at a young age, and so was forced to start working early. Fond ot travel, he enjoyed a brief idyllic period posted to then-Peking as a travel agent. In the city's preindustrial past, the skies were "clear and beautiful!" But after a few years he was drafted into the military, captured and then endured years of hard labor in a Siberian POW camp.
Following two men who had actually lived through the war and its aftermath - and speaking to a largely elderly audience, Lucy felt a bit intimidated. But despite the technical glitches, the reaction was quite enthusiastic and positive.
What Lucy wasn't prepared for was a gentleman named Seiji Domoto, who patiently waited in line to have a word, and then began to recall an event that had been seared into his subconscious.
It happened around 1960, when Domoto was serving in the Maritime Self-Defense Force. The MSDF had finished training in San Diego, and were preparing to leave port, when a hysterical, sobbing group of Japanese women suddenly dashed toward the ship. They grabbed a line connected to the vessel, and held on for dear life.
「日本に連れて帰ってくれ！！」"Take us back to Japan! We can't live here anymore!!" the women screamed. They were destitute, he said, having been abandoned by their husbands.
But Domoto and his fellow crew members were under strict orders. With some difficulty, they peeled away the women's fingers, one by one, and sailed away. He never saw or heard of them again.
"I didn't just feel sorry for them," he said. "It was absolutely tragic!"
"You must tell the story of the women who didn't make it," he urged. "Not just the ones who did."
Once we get funding for a full-length film, I told him, we would do our best to present the war brides story in all its complexity.
The somber mood of the afternoon was tempered by a small exhibit of children's poetry and artwork on the subject of peace:
”From your own hands... for happiness”
Our final screening was on Sunday, together with panelists Shigeyoshi Yasutomi and Tomoko Tsuchiya, to a sizable audience at the Overseas Migration Museum. It's a small but fine exhibit and conference hall on the slickly gentrified docks of Yokohama - not far from where our mothers boarded ocean liners decades ago, to make their fateful journeys west.
Similar reactions were expressed at all three events, some of them in written surveys collected after the museum event (we were rated 4 out of a scale of 5 by 81% of respondents!) - that the whole subject of war brides was unknown to most Japanese. Members of audiences at all three events said they were astonished to learn the war brides weren't sex workers (!)
"You gave me a lot to think about," wrote one viewer. "So much of this was brand-new to me," wrote another. "Utterly engrossing."
Did you know March was Women's History Month?
Or that National History Day is coming up? (Neither did we!) But F7GU8's inbox has been filling up with queries from students across the US (from as far away as American Samoa!)... apparently Japanese war brides is a hot topic for school reports in 2016!
A sampling of what kids are asking us - and our replies:
What was the hardest thing to get used to when living in America?
There were many things but one of the hardest was the isolation - there was no way to quickly get in touch with family back in Japan in those days, and no other Japanese lived nearby, so I think they felt intense loneliness at times.
What is one thing she misses from her home country?
photo: Yusuke Kawasaki
Probably fresh foods -- like Japanese pickles!
Did any of your mothers go to "war bride schools"?
Absolutely not! Only about 5,000 of the 50,000 brides attended brides school... my mother had heard of the schools but had zero interest in them - she was deadset on having a career outside the home and wasn't interested in domestic skills. On the other hand, we have heard of some women who actually enjoyed attending. Depends on your perspective, I guess.
Upcoming screenings - US: （アメリカの近日上映）
Sat., March 3, 3 pm - Join Lucy at the Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival! We are included in a section aptly called "Aging Gracefully." Order tickets at http://powfest.com/2016-films-by-category/2016-shorts-iv-aging-gracefully/
Sometime between March 3-5 - We will be showing at the Tribute Film Festival in Abilene, Texas! For details please see http://frontiertexas.com/events/tribute-film-festival
March 7, 7 pm - Cafe Julia (YWCA), 1040 Richards St., Honolulu. F7GU8 friend and supporter Marlene Blackwell is organizing this event and will hold a Q&A afterward.
Friday, April 1, 11:25 am - Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Sheraton Seattle & Washington State Convention Center. An amazing roster of films, all open to the public - and free! We are thrilled to be on the bill alongside "Honor and Sacrifice," by our friend, the wonderful filmmaker Lucy Ostrander! http://www.aems.illinois.edu/aas/2016/index.html
Sometime during the week of April 21-28, we will be screening at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Please check here for details: http://www.asianfilmfestla.org/
Upcoming screenings - Japan （国内で近日上映）
Saturday, March 19, 2-5 pm - Japan Women's University is sponsoring a symposium centered around our film and the subject of war brides. Free, open to the public. For details, please check Facebook and our website http://www.fallsevengetupeight.com
Thursday, April 7th, 7 pm - We return to the Uplink Theatre for our second screening! Best of all, you can reserve online right now:
Same-day ticket sales at 6 pm; doors open at 7 pm.
Recent articles about F7GU8:
1. Interview by public radio's Lauren Landau with Kathryn on Jan. 29th: "Rosebud Film Festival Shows Off DC Region's Filmmakers":
2. Perhaps the most enthusiastic and comprehensive article yet about our film, in the brand-new Japan edition of online newspaper BuzzFeed... by an ex-Asahi reporter, now BF journalist Saki Mizoroki: 日本版BuzzFeedに「希望は子どもたち」敵国へ嫁いだ日本女性」はかつてないほど我々の映画についての徹底的な記事です。ぜひごご覧ください。
3. Kathryn wrote a short article for the Washington Japanese Women's Network online journal:
4. Honolulu Star-Advertiser, February 5, 2016:http://www.staradvertiser.com/features/becoming-an-american-wife/
“Fall Seven Times Get Up Eight” is a film to which any daughter and mother can relate...
Q: What have you learned as you interview war brides’ families for your oral history project?
A: These are women who kept a lot inside, who didn’t complain, were determined to not let the kids know of their own problems. But the kids want to know.
F7GU8 has been named an official selection at the following film festivals:
- Boston Asian-American (Oct 25, 2015) BEST SHORT DOC
- Philadelphia Asian-American (Nov 22, 2015) BEST SHORT DOC
- California Women's (Jan 9, 2016) BEST SHORT DOC
- Rosebud (Jan 23, 2016)
- Seattle Asian-Am (Feb 20, 2016)
- Portland Women's (March 3, 2016)
- Tribute (March 3-5, 2016)
- LA Asian-Pacific (April 21-28, 2016)