"A worthy documentary... Absorbing."
— Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
COSTA MESA — "The Manzanar Fishing Club," the long-awaited documentary feature about freedom and the human spirit as seen through the eyes of trout fishermen, is getting great reviews and is expanding its release. The documentary is coming to Orange County, opening May 4 at the Regency South Coast Village theater, right across the street from the South Coast Plaza regional mall.
The film debuted to a rousing reception in Santa Monica earlier this month, and the Orange County opening is part of a larger expansion that includes release in San Francisco, Berkeley and Palo Alto on the same day (May 4), followed by Seattle on June 1.
As fate would have it, May is national Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, 2012 is the 70th “anniversary” of the internment of Japanese Americans from the West Coast during WWII, and the end of April is the beginning of trout season in the Sierra — three currents that converge in the theme of the movie.
"I wish I could say that we planned it [the timing] that way," director/co-producer Cory Shiozaki notes with a smile, "but I can't. We've been at this a long time, and it just worked out this way."
More than six years in the making, this unique tale of life in a prison camp in eastern California has a strong a connection with the fishing community in general going back many years. Western Outdoor News Editor Pat McDonell was an early supporter of the project and was instrumental in introducing Bart Hall, head of the annual Fred Hall Fishing, Boating and Travel expo, to the project.
“We’ve been exhibiting at three of the last four Fred Hall Shows in Long Beach and Del Mar,” says director/producer Cory Shiozaki, “and it all started with Pat back in 2008. We’ve traveled a long road with this project, and Pat and Bart have been with us for so much of it.”
Western Outdoor News has been a sponsor of the “Manzanar Fishing Club” exhibits at the Fred Hall Shows.
This unique tale of life in a prison camp in eastern California was described by Los Angeles Times film reviewer Gary Goldstein as one where trout fishing "became a lifeline for a group of dispirited prisoners who, defying armed guards and barbed wire barriers, temporarily escaped to the mountain lakes for the unfettered joy of sport fishing.
"Manzanar's surviving anglers offer absorbing testimony here of their time in captivity and their adventures in pursuit of the coveted golden trout."
"The Manzanar Fishing Club" was made with support from the California State Library's CCLPEP and the National Park Service's JACS grant programs and private donations. Support also came pouring forth from the fishing community — in addition to the Fred Hall Show and WON, a myriad of radio programs, websites, blogs and fishing enthusiasts of all stripes have stepped up.
“This is an important and very unusual story,” added writer/producer Richard Imamura, “especially with the pivotal role played by fishing. All fishermen understand those feelings of freedom and being out in nature, but it’s not often that we see those feelings woven into the bigger picture, into history.”
Nearly 70 hours of interviews were compiled with 26 surviving internees or their descendants, two MPs, two Rangers from the Manzanar National Historic Site, the preeminent Department of Fish and Game authority on the Eastern Sierra fishery and Dr. Arthur Hansen, one of the leading historians on the Japanese American Internment.
"We did our utmost to thoroughly research this untold aspect of life at Manzanar," Imamura added. "And in the process, we were able to save these stories for future generations." (Copies of the interviews were donated to the California State Library and the Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center.)
In addition, the film is highlighted by a strong musical foundation. The expressive score composed and performed by Bill Ungerman and James Achor is augmented by sterling original songs contributed by platinum singer-songwriter Harold Payne, keyboardist Dave Iwataki (an original member of the jazz fusion group Hiroshima) and George Abe, a master of the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute).
“The Manzanar Fishing Club” opens May 4 at Regency’s South Coast Village theatre, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., across from the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Advance tickets are on sale now at www.FearNoTrout.com for this regular theatrical engagement, which will feature special giveaways and a filmmaker Q&A following the evening shown on Saturday, May 5.
"We've developed an ardent following over the years," Imamura said, "and we're gratified that those who came out to Santa Monica to see the film really seemed to like it. Now we want to expand to other areas as well. We plan to take the movie wherever we're wanted, but we have to do it deliberately because we're such a small company doing it entirely on our own."
Looking ahead, the filmmakers plan to roll the film out gradually in other cities based on reviews and word-of-mouth.
A CROWDED LOBBY at the end of one of the Lemmele Theatre showings in Santa Monica.