Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chinese New Year in Hilo Part 1: Film Festival

It is the year of the Ox and Hilo celebrated it in a big way. I love our little island city of Hilo and the celebration last weekend was proof again of a community steeped in culture and living in the spirit of Aloha. The events celebrating Chinese New Year in Hilo were all free and all FABULOUS!

Before I start in on the New Year's celebration... I just can't help myself from posting this picture. As I sit at my desk watching another glorious sunrise over Hilo Bay and a Cruise Ship is pulling in, I am reminded once again about how we live in such a very special place.

Now, on with the show...
Last weekend I attended the annual Chinese New Year Celebration which featured the second annual Chinese Film Festival at the Palace Theater (one of our towns pure gems). Starting off at Noon with a Film Production Workshop by Chinese-American film maker and actress Jodi Long . You may recognize Jodi from her performances on Broadway, in The Hot Chick, or Margaret Cho's mother in the film All American Girl, or currently as Eli Stone, a judge on TV.

Ms. Long is now a filmmaker herself, with the help of Christine Choy, the Chair of NYU's Graduate Film and Television Department and Patricia Richardson (of Home Improvement) she has come out with an inspiring documentary called "Long Story Short", about her parents' struggle as Asian American actors/vaudevillians in the 40's and 50's.

The film details the lives of Jodi Long's parents' through photographs, pictures, their special appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1950 and snippets from her own monologue performances. She talks with her mother about the experience of being sent to a Japanese internment camp during WW2. Her father's experience as a Scottish-Chinese-American is shown through the film and his early role on Broadway, in Flower Drum Song, which (the later version) Jodi herself was cast in.

Jodi shared practical advice to Hilo's aspiring and current film makers of various levels. She shared a lot of information about how she and Christine Choy made the yet to be released "Long Story Short". The Longs were a husband and wife nightclub act in the 1940's and 50's and one of the few such Asian acts in America. Jodi shared a great deal of her heart in the film and the group in the workshop was sincerely appreciative of having her there. She answered questions for a very long time and was extremely generous with her knowledge and experiences.

After the workshop, a special viewing of "Long Story Short" was screened at the Palace. The theater was packed with people and there was applause many times throughout the film which was expertly edited with poingnant moments. Long Story Short is an excellent documentary and left me wishing for more of the clips of Larry and Trudie Long dancing and singing on the Ed Sullivan Show. The memories they shared about their experiences in the Asian Night Clubs
Later that evening I went back to the Palace to see another documentary, and before that was the Big Island Shaolin Arts Lion Dance Blessing. Thousands of firecrackers went off to scare off the demons.

The film, :Hollywood Chinese: "The Chinese in American Cinema" was a great retrospective on both the influence of and the contributions of Chinese-American and Chinese film makers and actors over several generations. It also brought to light subjects such as racial representation with many caucasian actors playing Chinese people in the early years. During the silent era, there were a pair of Chinese sisters who made a film in Oakland, CA. The film documented the many films which have been an important part of the American cinematic experience from those first early silent films, to Charlie Chan and many of the "Kung Fu" influenced movies made in the last 20 years. Some of the people interviewed were Ang Lee, Wayne Wang, B.D. Wong, Lisa Lu, Amy Tan and Joan Chen.

Although I was ready for bed, there was a final film; "The Forbidden Kingdom" staring Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano and Crystal Liu. They faced off in the fists a flying, family friendly film while I nodded off to the sounds of the surf back home in my bed.

Coming up next... the Free Hilo Chinese New Year Festival in downtown Hilo, starting at 9 am with another Lion Dance and blessings of local businesses and then marching along to Kalakaua Park...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The recipe was delicious. Everyone enjoyed the soup. I think I will try the spicier portuguese sausage for the next pot of soup.