“Tsuru” short film about JA internment reaches Kickstarter goal in 3.5 days, looks forward to stretch goals

There’s an embarrassingly small library of fiction books and feature films, about the Japanese internment during World War II. The humiliating experience of 110,000 people of Japanese descent carted away from the West Coast and into hastily built concentration camps is still under-represented in American pop culture.

Classics like “Farewell to Manzanar” (in both book and film form) can be hard to find, and better-known Hollywood productions such as “Snow Falling on Cedars” (again, on both the page and screen) can be hits but are fleeting. One of my favorite indie feature films about the era, “Come See the Paradise” starring Tamlyn Tomita and Dennis Quaid, is little-remembered and deserves much wider acclaim.

There are still many stories left to tell about Japanese Americans and their time in concentration camps during WWII.

So it’s cool to see a young filmmaker using the contemporary tools of social media and “crowdfunding” (asking the public to donate money) to bring his original JA story to life. And, it’s even cooler to see that Chris K.T. Bright’s project, “Tsuru” has caught the attention and gained the support of enough people that its Kickstarter fundraising campaign reached its initial goal of $15,000 in a mere three-and-a-half-days. Kickstarter gives the money to a project only if it meets its goal; if the campaign fails, every donor gets her money back.

Now, Bright and his crew are hoping to keep raising money to reach their “Stretch Goals” in the month remaining in the campaign.
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Brandon Lee biopic needs your help raising money with just 3 days to go

Bruce_Lee_-_sonBrandon Lee was a handsome actor on the rise in Hollywood, continuing the legacy of his father, Bruce Lee, as an action star.

But in 1993, during the filming of the movie “The Crow,” he suffered a tragic accident — a gun that was supposed to be loaded with blanks in a scene shot a live bullet that killed him. Lee was just 28 years old.

His mythic death, which bookended the sudden and unexpected death of his father, is what people know and remember about him today. But a new movie being planned, “Brandon,” hopes to bring Brandon Lee’s life, not his death, into the spotlight.

The producers are trying to crowdfund the project on IndieGoGo, but so far, with less than three days left, they’re far short of the $25,000 they need to start the production phase of the film.

brandonleeI’ll support the film. Just seeing the promo for the project produced for IndieGoGo, above, is inspiring because it makes the case that Asian Americans just haven’t been featured in Hollywood, and “Brandon” is a chance to shine a light on one AAPI star whose light was dimmed too early.

Check it out. Open your wallet and pull out a credit card. But do it soon, over the weekend, because time is running out.

Dale Li vividly brings to life Japanese American tragedy in ‘Dust Storm’


Colorado’s first Asian American theater company, Theatre Esprit Asia (TEA), has launched its debut season with a pair of one-person plays in repertory, and I was fortunate to see one of them, “Dust Storm,” last week starring Dale Li. If you haven’t seen this or the other play, “Spirit and Sworded Treks” starring Maria Cheng, hurry — they run tonight through Sunday, and then close after next weekend.

“Dust Storm” is a monologue about the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. It’s loosely constructed on a real incident, an attack on Chiura Obata, a celebrated artist, in Topaz, an internment camp in Utah.

The story is told from the perspective of Seiji, an angry teenager who’s imprisoned at Topaz (with his family, but he abandons them to hang with a bunch of tough teens). Like Obata, Seiji was rounded up in Berkeley, California after President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which allowed the camps to be built. Anyone of Japanese descent in the Bay Area, including U.S.-born citizens like Seiji, were told they could pack whatever they could carry, and were first sent to a temporary holding center before being transferred to Topaz.
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