Why a crane? by Sue-Je Gage

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Katie Quan created the beautiful logo for the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival that features a crane as its icon. The symbol of the crane has many meanings, such as peace and long life, but it also reminds us of the consequences of war as told through the story of a young girl named Sadako Sasaki. She was one of hundreds of thousands of people in Japan either killed or harmed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at the end of World War II by the United States. Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia as a result of the radiation from the bomb, but she remembered a story that if you make one thousand cranes, then your wish will come true. She wished to live and believed with all her heart that her health would improve if she could accomplish making one thousand cranes. Every day, she would fold and fold. The story goes that she passed away after making 644 cranes. Sadako’s classmates continued to make Sadako’s one thousand cranes. They shared her story and built a memorial in her honor at the Hiroshima Peace Park.

Sadako’s story is one that Kaori Teramura heard many times as a child growing up in Japan. For Kaori, the cranes represent hope, peace, and love, as well as our interconnectedness. Kaori has lived in Ithaca, New York for 14 years where she works as a social worker at BOCES. In 1998, when she first moved to Ithaca, she met Han Lin, a Burmese Freedom Fighter, and his family. Han Lin and his family’s inspiring story is captured in Changhee Chun’s film, Honoring Home, which will be featured the first night of IPAAFF on Monday, April 20 at Cinemapolis. Kaori’s friendship with Han Lin and his family taught her about their experiences and she became active with Burmese resettlement in Ithaca. Before Han Lin was diagnosed with cancer, he had met Jun-san, a Japanese Buddhist nun from the Grafton Peace Pagoda near Albany, New York. Jun-san introduced Han Lin to the idea of peace walks to further his movement for the Burmese people. It was Han Lin who introduced Kaori to Jun-san and peace walks. Peace walkers make and carry folded crane ornaments with nanmyohorendekyo, a Buddhist mantra in Japanese which means “may all life be in harmony and peace” written on them. All peace walks have a specific purpose and cause. The peace walkers give cranes to people along their journey. The last two peace walks that Kaori has participated in were for a nuclear-free world and the Two-Row Wampum.

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Chiyo Teramura, Kaori’s grandmother, was born August 6, 1917. She raised and taught Kaori to be anti-war through her stories about the atrocities of war. Chiyo-san was already a widow with three children by August 6, 1945 when the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. In December 2009, while Kaori was visiting Japan, her grandmother had a stroke. She prayed for her grandmother to recover and decided to make one thousand cranes. Her grandmother made them with her side by side. Since then, Chiyo-san has continued to make cranes. Whenever she finishes making one thousand, she sends them to Kaori in Ithaca to share. Kaori has shared her grandmother’s cranes with the Grafton Peace Pagoda and with the Ithaca community in support of various causes. On March 11, 2010, Japan was devastated by an earthquake that created a nuclear disaster. Jun-san organized a peace walk and movement to help people in Japan, which Kaori served as an active participant. The Japanese community in Ithaca also wished to do something and held a benefit gathering. Kaori initiated the idea of making one thousand cranes with messages from people in Ithaca, translated into Japanese, to send to people in Japan as an expression of human connection, love, and hope. Satomi Hill and Mimi Melegrito, leaders of the Asian Women’s Network which Kaori is also a member, helped to galvanize many groups in town for this and other causes, including fundraising for the Philippines after the 2013 tsunami.

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Kaori’s grandmother and Tao

Kaori’s grandmother, Chiyo-san, whose name means “a thousand lifetimes,” has made over ten thousand cranes for us in Ithaca. Along with the members of the Asian Women’s Network and the Ithaca College Asian American Alliance, Chiyo-san has contributed her yellow cranes to IPAAFF as an expression of her loving connection to us, the hope of a successful community event, and world peace. Chiyo-san met Kaori’s son, Tao, for the first time this past December during their visit to Japan. They made cranes together, too.

Facilitating Discussion and Creating Representation by Emily Ramos

In my senior year of college, a new course was developed: Asian American Film and Film Festival. This course was created to give a voice to those often left silenced in mainstream media. Throughout the course we had readings that taught us how to critically analyze the portrayal of Asian Americans in film. Through the course of five days, Ithaca’s first Pan Asian American Film Festival (IPAAFF) aims to open up a discussion about stereotypes and tropes that flood mainstream media and provide a space for alternative narratives to dominate and highlight the diverse experiences of Asian Americans.

IPAAFF is revolutionary because it is going against the norm in our white hegemonic society. We are providing an outlet for alternative narratives told by the oppressed. Everything we consume in media is through the white man’s lens as he controls the power, politics, money, influence, and media companies in the United States. As oppressed people within the U.S., it is very important for non-whites to create our own forms of media, as seen with past social movements such as The Black Panther newspaper, Palante! newspaper, and strategically televised marches and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As a leader of the student organization, PODER, I think it is important to note that IPAAFF isn’t just Asian Americans who are advocating for their voices to be heard and for their experiences to be accurately and authentically represented in our society; it is for all voices. The mainstream media is corrupted and controlled by the elite and won’t show true representations of our people. They are only focused on reinforcing their dominant ideologies that marginalize and simplify our experiences, which leads to issues of identity and can often cause tensions within our communities and cross culturally. We have to create our own forms of media to get the truth out there. Not only does IPAAFF create a safe and open space for dialogue, but it also teaches us valuable skills as we produce this film festival.

Before I began the class I knew nothing about film festivals, except that we would be showing films. But, there was really so much to do in so little time. From getting film submissions, to making trailers, marketing materials, raising funds, planning out other events during the festival, and reaching out to people — it was a lot. I am glad I was able to have this experience and learn about the inner workings of planning a film festival. Although I didn’t know much going in, I learned a lot coming out of it and am positive that managing the film festival will be another challenge of its own.

We are definitely excited to make IPAAFF possible. We hope there is a great turnout and that the film festival has a large impact on the community as a whole. We hope IPAAFF will continue each year just like other annual community traditions like FLEFF and Apple, Chili, and Porch Fest.

Buffalo Wild Wings Success

Thank you to all who came out to Buffalo Wild Wings or ordered from Buffalo Wild Wings using the IPAAFF coupon on Thursday, April 2. The event fundraiser was a success and we were glad to see large groups of people and lots of happy faces! We thank you all for your continued support and contribution to IPAAFF and hope to see you at our festival and events from April 20 to 24th.

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Film Preview: “Spilled (Soy) Milk”

Don’t miss out on the film screening of Changhee Chun’s Spilled (Soy) Milk on April 20!

The film is a documentary about the lives and experiences of Asian Americans right here in Ithaca, NY.

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Check out his film, Spilled (Soy) Milk on the first day of our festival!

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About the filmmaker: In his scopious career, Changhee Chun has completed collaborative productions on several feature films for major Korean production companies. In 1995, he signed on with Samsung Broadcasting Center (SBC) as a director and producer. Creating over thirty television documentaries and commercials, including the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Chun gained a broad expertise of the technical and conceptual aspects for film and video production. As a freelance film director Chun developed over thirty commercial films, music videos and documentaries.

Chun continues to develop personal principles of characteristic film art, principles that encompass the challenge to students and filmmakers alike to contribute engaging art to mankind.

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