I was fortunate to catch a special showing of the late Kayo Hatta's beautiful 1994 film Picture Bride [starring among others Tamlyn Tomita [Stargate-SG-1, Come See the Paradise, Joy Luck Club] and Youki Kudoh [Memoirs of a Geisha, Snow Falling on Cedars] and with a cameo by the legendary Toshiro Mifune] last night at the Center for Asian American Media's San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.
The film captures the struggle of women, families and Asian American immigrant workers in the plantation labor system of Hawaii. I used to use the film more in my Ethnic Studies classes at SF State in the 1990's. But watching the film again last night allowed me to marvel at its incredible cinematography [Claudio Rocha - Like Water for Chocalate], and its sharp political statement against racism, sexism and super-exploitation of immigrant workers and communities in America.
The director, Kayo Hatta, passed away on July 20th last year in an apparent swimming accident. She was only 47 years old. I remember when I first moved out to SF in 1984, Kayo was a cultural and political activist who supported Asian American musicians and poets and community struggles. I remember visiting her at her North Beach/Chinatown apartment to borrow Asian American jazz albums for the radio work I was doing at KPFA and KPOO radio stations at the time. She was a great film maker, but more importantly to her friends and family an incredible human being. Her niece and nephew go to school at the JBBP-West [Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program]/Rosa Parks Elementary School in SF. Their mom Julie has been active in the Asian American movement for decades.
At the film showing Kayo's other sister Mari talked about Kayo's life and her struggle to make Picture Bride. To the delight of the audience as well, Tamlyn Tomita also talked about how the actors and film crew sacrificed to support Kayo and the making of the important film.
Kayo definitely lives through her films and the cultural and political stuggles she supported.
For more on Kayo and Picture Bride - http://www.picturebridefilm.com/home.html