Inaugural J-Town Film Fest – Recalling the Opening Night

It’s hard to believe that we are already in the month of June in 2015. Time seems to fly by and if we blink too long, we might miss some great events in San Jose. Hopefully you didn’t miss the inaugural San Jose J-Town Film Fest. The opening night was Friday, May 29th at 7PM at the  Jacinto “Tony” Siquig Northside Community Center.

We’re lovers of film festivals here at Kooltura. It wasn’t too long ago that we were in and out of theaters catching Cinequest films. So, when we heard Japantown was holding it’s inaugural film festival as part of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and their anniversary celebration of 125 years as Japantown, we knew we had to be there.

When we arrived for the opening night film at JTS Northside Community Center, we heard that the last “at-the-door” ticket was sold. It was great to hear. The energy was high with anticipation and everywhere we turned there was a friendly volunteer face guiding us.

The scheduled film was “Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement” (2014) by filmmaker Marissa Aroy. If we could give a film a higher rating than two thumbs or more stars than five, then we would. Why? Well, besides the film being well made, it holds an important significance because of its relevance to San Jose, its people, and its surrounding communities.

San Jose is diverse, that’s no secret. And, chances are we are familiar with the story of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. Many of us actually have relatives or know older generations who were directly involved with the American farm labor movement in one way or another. The film “Delano Manongs” tells the often overlooked story of Larry Itliong and the Filipino farm workers whose actions played a key role in the Delano Grape Strike of 1965 and ultimately brought about the creation of the United Farm Workers Union (UFW). The film shines a spotlight on the Filipino farm workers and you’ll be sure to fall in love with Mr. Larry Itliong and his cigars.

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Q&A/Discussion after the screening of Delano Manongs with Marissa Aroy, Luis Valdez, and Johnny Itliong.

 
As if the film wasn’t enough, the opening night also included a Q&A panel which included filmaker Marissa Aroy, noted playwright Luis Valdez, and Larry Itliong’s son Johnny Itliong. Being in that room with people who are or were connected to such a huge part of history felt like witnessing history itself. After the once in a lifetime panel discussion, we were blessed with live performances by (folklorico group name), (Q’s drumming group name), and music by Sonido Clash.

The film festival continued on Saturday and Sunday with great films like; Hibakusha” (2012), “Kumu Hina”(2014), “Skin Stories: The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tattoo” (2003)East Side Sushi” (2014)The People I’ve Slept With” (2009)Issei: The First Generation” (1984).

So, what did we take away from this inaugural J-Town Film Fest? We fell in love with it! We want this back every year. Ultimately it’s up to us to support and allow great events like this to flourish and succeed. If you were there, you know exactly what we’re talking about when we say this event is the definition of community. If you weren’t there, you won’t want to miss the next one.

If you loved this event and wish more people would know about it or wish you would’ve heard about it sooner, then make sure to head over to #iPledgeSJ to find out how you can take the pledge and support San Jose and the Arts.

Photo Credit: Miguel Martinez | Event: J-Town Film Fest

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