Peachy: “Changing Season” captures the passing of a family farm from one generation to the next

NOTE: “Changing Season” will be screened during the Colorado Dragon Film Festival on Sunday, May 22 at 12 noon. Click here for full information about the festival.

You’d think after a lifetime of growing and harvesting peaches, you’d get sick of eating them. But the Masumoto family still loves peaches and serves them up every way imaginable. David “Mas” Masumoto, 62, the farmer who has nurtured his parents’ peach groves, says “Actually no. I love peaches, almost literally in my blood.”

Nikiko Masumoto, his daughter, adds, “We have 10 varieties and each has a window of ripeness for two weeks. So it’s like getting to see your best friends for two weeks out of the year.”

The father-and-daughter interaction is central to the delightful dynamics of “Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm,” a documentary by director Jim Choi. The film follows the two, as well as the farm’s matriarch, Marcy and Nikiko’s brother Korio, through a transitional year not only in the farm but in the family’s life.

The Masumoto Family Farm, which produces nectarines and raisins in addition to peaches, was purchased and first tilled by Mas’ father, Takashi “Joe” Masumoto, in 1948. The family had returned to California’s Central Valley after spending World War II in a concentration camp in Arizona along with thousands of other Japanese American families.

Mas wasn’t planning on following in his father’s footsteps. He attended the University of California at Berkeley in the early 1970s, thinking he’d escaped the sweat and labor. “I studied something that I thought would never bring me back to the farm: Sociology, he says. “But it got me to study how a plant grows and everything around the peach” – the whole community of people and processes that produce the fruit.

He ended up embracing the sociology of farming as part of the ecosystem that connected humans to the Earth. And maybe Cal helped lead Mas to be an early adopter of organic farming.

“When I was growing up it was somewhat conventional. At the time fertilizers and pesticides were expensive. When we were transitioning to organics, I relied on my father’s experience of farming. It was much simpler.”
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Help Denver’s Gamelan Tunas Mekar produce a documentary


I fell in love with the mesmerizing music of Gamelan Tunas Mekar the first time I heard it. The Denver-based group was my introduction to the rich traditional music of Bali and Indonesia, with its intricate patterns and precise time signatures. It’s a music that’s propelled by an ensemble of percussion instruments and flutes: Bells, drums, gongs, xylophones and metallophones.

The music is groove-y to the max, and hypnotic with its percussive repetition and variations. Gamelan Tunas Mekar is really good at performing Gamelan music, and visually they’re dynamic on stage not only because of the orchestra of unique instruments that are arranged on stage, but also because they showcase sinewy, traditional Balinese dancing.

The group is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Most of the members of Tunas Mekar are not from Bali or Indonesia, but the group takes the authenticity of its music seriously. The members have learned from two Balinese masters who’ve passed along their knowledge. Its second master, I Made Lasmawan, moved to Colorado and has been Gamelan Tunas Mekar’s Artist-in-Residence since 1993.
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“Linsanity” DVD now available for everyone to be inspired all over again by Jeremy Lin’s story


Evan Jackson Leong, the director of the entertaining and inspiring documentary “Linsanity: The Jeremy Lin Story,” tells interviewers that Lin’s story “transcends sports, race and culture.” That’s true enough, because Jeremy Lin‘s story — a determined young man loves basketball above all else but is ignored by colleges and the NBA despite his talent, and perseveres in the end by sheer determination and religious faith — is universal.

But as an Asian American, Lin’s story is inspirational for me precisely because he’s Asian American. His ethnicity was the main reason he was dismissed by colleges and the NBA, even though he was an all-star leader in high school.

I hope everyone watches “Linsanity,” which went on sales on DVD this week, and is inspired by his universal story, or his incredible accomplishment as an Asian American.

I know many Asian Americans watched it at film festivals, or during one of many special fundraising screenings for Asian and Asian American nonprofit organizations across the country. In Colorado it was screened by an Asian American fraternity at the University of Colorado in Boulder and a Japanese American history group in Denver. If Asians didn’t watch the documentary in a theater, they probably watched it on cable TV — Comcast featured it in its Asian American channel for months.

But it’s great to revisit “Linsanity” on DVD (wish there were some extras added, though).
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When I dream of sushi, I don’t dream of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”

Jiro Ono (left) and his son, Yoshikazu.

Jiro Ono (left) and his son, Yoshikazu.

For the past year, people have been telling us to watch “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” the 2011 documentary by David Gelb about Jiro Ono, the 85-year-old artisan sushi chef who operates a Michelin 3-star restaurant, Sukibayashi Jiro, tucked into a Tokyo underground station.

We finally saw it, and it’s a charming look at the very high end of sushi, not just as food, but as an artform. The sushi is served one piece at a time, meant to be swallowed whole, and whatever soy sauce or extra flavoring is required is brushed on by the chef before it’s placed on the customer’s plate. There are no small plates for soy sauce and wasabi to mix together at your discretion. The chef controls the experience from start to finish.

The film is also arty and deliberate in its pacing, with the telling modernist repetition of composer Philip Glass making up much of the soundtrack music. The documentary reveals the daily workings of the small restaurant and its autocratic owner Jiro and his aging son Yoshikazu who is waiting to take over when his father retires (and the younger son Takashi, who escaped to operate his own restaurant in the hip Roppongi district of the city).
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Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, 1920-2012

Filmmaker Linda Hattendorf posted the sad news today on the Facebook page for “The Cats of Mirikitani,” the wonderful and powerful documentary she made in 2006:

It is with deep deep sorrow that we must share the sad news that our dear friend Jimmy Mirikitani passed away on Sunday October 21. He was 92 years old. Thank you for all the love you have shown him; his friends and fans meant the world to him.

There will be a public memorial on December 9 at 5 pm in New York at the Japanese American Association, 15 West 44th Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10036. All are welcome.

Mirikitani turned 92 this past summer, just before he visited Denver for a whirlwind weekend for an opening reception at a gallery exhibit of his artwork, and a screening of Hattendorf’s film. (The video above is from the gallery opening, when he was presented with a birthday cake.)

Mirikitani and the filmmaker, along with the film’s producer Masa Yoshikawa, had been on the road for a week already, and attended a pilgrimage to the Tule Lake internment camp from San Francisco. After Denver, the trio were headed to New Mexico for another screening and art exhibit.

He was adorable, a feisty old man full of good humor and the determined energy that served him through his long journey through the edges of American society.
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