Top quality films in a variety of genres including a trio of historical dramas telling the story of Japanese Americans forced into internment camps the U.S. government called “relocation centers” in the early months of World War II mark the eighth annual Hyart Film Festival, which opens tonight (Thursday) at the Hyart Theatre in downtown Lovell and continues Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening.
The three historical dramas will close out the festival on the evening of June 17 and will be followed by a short discussion featuring Heart Mountain Interpretive Center Museum Manager Dakota Russell and Jason Matsumoto from Full Spectrum Features, which is promoting films about the Japanese American experience during the war.
“The Orange Story” will be the first of the trio to run on Saturday night and was judged the winner in the Historical Drama category, festival director Jason Zeller said. The film tells the story of an elderly Japanese American man who must sell all of his possessions to be moved to an internment camp.
The film uses archival film, photographic and radio material to provide historical context for the tale.
Next in line is the film “One of Many,” made in 2006, about one man’s life inside an internment camp as internees were forced to fill out controversial loyalty questionnaires.
The final film of the festival is “Tadaima,” a 2015 film about a Japanese American family’s return home from an internment camp and their quest to rebuild their home and family following the emotional upheaval and physical destruction of the war and their experience in the camp.
Full Spectrum Features is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization committed to increasing diversity in the media arts. Their “Hidden Histories” series is a touring program of five short narrative films about Japanese American incarceration during World War II, including the three to be shown Saturday night at the Hyart.
Afterward, Jason Matsumoto from Full Spectrum Features and Dakota Russell from the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation will lead a discussion about the films and the historical events that inspired them.
“We are extremely pleased to be a partner in this event,” said Russell. “We strive every day to bring wider exposure to this historic injustice, and we congratulate Full Spectrum Features and the Hyart Film Festival on recognizing its importance through these films.”
The film festival is presented in four sessions: Thursday (tonight) at 7 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. Judging in nine categories has already taken place, but attendees will still vote on the People’s Choice Award at the conclusion of each session.
Thursday’s session is entitled Expanding Your Imagination and features a largely science fiction theme. The session includes four festival winners: top action comedy “The Interview” (Canada), top mocumentary “Ilegal Aliens” (USA), top science fiction “Archway 0173” (United Kingdom) and honorable mention science fiction “The Cradle.”
Zeller said “The Interview” could be called “zombies run amok” and said the plot involves a woman attending a job interview realizing that the company employs “the undead,” while “Illegal Aliens” is about a town meeting called to build a “sky fence” to keep space aliens away.
Zeller called “Archway 0173” a “phone call in time,” noting that an old telephone purchased at an auction connects a man to a young girl living 75 years earlier.
“The Cradle” has fantastic
production values, Zeller said, adding, “I really liked it. It’s about a Russian cosmonaut going to the International Space Station. For the budget they had they made an amazing movie. It’s
real sci-fi. Everything looks so real.”
Friday’s session is entitled Dark Imagination and includes two horror films in the lineup. There are four festival winners in the Friday session: top horror film “Mr. Dentonn” (Spain), top animation “Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon” (Germany), honorable mention horror film “The Box in Your Life” (Spain) and honorable mention drama “The Root Cellar” (USA).
Zeller said “Mr. Dentonn” is the most honored short horror film of all
time with 497 selections to film festivals and 110 awards. It’s about a babysitter telling a goodnight story and the story coming to life, he said.
“Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon” is “just about a chameleon. It’s three minutes of a chameleon sitting on a branch,” Zeller said. “It’s narrated, like PBS. It’s hilarious. I know it’s animation, but it’s so real. When it catches a fly you could swear
it’s a real chameleon doing that, the movements are done so well.
“I put ‘The Common Chameleon’ last on Friday night because everything is so dark leading up to that. I wanted people to leave on a happy note.”
“The Box of Your Life” is about a futuristic society that has universal health care, but no one can afford the care, Zeller said. Instead, people must pay for major surgery by playing for it on a game show.
“The Root Cellar” is about a teenage mother who marries a man who will take her in, but he throws her and her son in a root cellar to live.
A busy Saturday
The 3 p.m. session on Saturday is Deep Imagination and is made up of films “that make you think and are touching to the heart,” Zeller said. There are three festival winners Saturday afternoon: top comedy “Fomo Sapiens” (Sweden), top adventure film “Dream Vending Machine” (Taiwan) and top drama “König Opah” (King Grandpa, Germany).
Not wanting to give away the plot, Zeller simply said “Fomo Sapiens” is about “A couple who needs to get away from their little ones for an evening.”
As the title suggests, “Dream Vending Machine” is about a vending machine that offers dreams for sale. “You can have things and achieve your dreams, but you still have to work for them,” Zeller noted.
“König Opah” is about a grandfather telling his grandson a story. The story is interrupted, and after Grandpa dies, it’s up to his grandson to continue the tradition to keep the memory of his grandfather alive.
Saturday night (7 p.m.) is Historical Imagination, during which “every film is historical in nature, though not necessarily factual,” Zeller said, adding, “All of them have historical elements to them including four historical dramas. It makes for a really intriguing evening.” The session includes two festival winners: top historical drama “The Orange Story” (USA), the film about an elderly Japanese American man who must sell all of his possessions to be moved to an internment camp, and honorable mention historical drama “A long time ago in Silesia” about twin boys in an orphanage who are separated. One becomes a high-ranking Nazi officer, while the other is a member of the German resistance.
The Saturday night session also features six animated films made by Lovell High School students of Cindy Asay, some of them “clay-mation” (clay animation) and others stop-motion animation.
Zeller, with assistance from the Big Horn County Arts Council board of directors, reviewed 301 films for the festival this year.
“That’s the most submissions we’ve ever had,” he said.
For more information on the 2017 festival, visit the festival Facebook page or call Zeller at 307-272-9048.
By David Peck