Over the weekend, Naoto and I attended two movies as a part of the Asian American Showcase at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Going to see a movie is very rare for us. I don’t think we’ve been to a movie together since 2006, so seeing two movies in two days was a pretty incredible feat for us.
On Sunday we saw Made in Japan, a documentary about Tomi Fujiyama, a Japanese country music entertainer who was the first Japanese person to sing on the Grand Ole Opry stage. She performed at the Opry’s 39th anniversary party in 1964 along with Johnny Cash and many other legends of country music. She received the only standing ovation from the crowd that night.
The documentary covers Tomi’s lifetime from her childhood in post-war Japan all the way to her current performances and continued dreams to perform once more on the Grand Ole Opry stage. The filmmakers have an obvious love for Tomi and her passion for country music. Towards the end (and this is somewhat of a spoiler, so read at your own risk or skip to the next paragraph) the film is a little bit political, for lack of a better term. It is clear that the filmmakers are disappointed in the direction of the Grand Ole Opry, which was bought out by a large company with investors and is now commercialized. The Opry stage is no longer a place where the music is the focus and up-and-coming musicians get invited to play. It is no longer a place where timeless country music is performed. It has become, according to the film, a tourist attraction, a place where ticket sales trump the music. The Opry has no interest in hosting Tomi because she doesn’t fit into the “new direction” of the Opry. But I feel like the movie ends on a somewhat high note, pointing out that Tomi played on the Opry stage during the best years, when the music was first and foremost.
I’m so glad we decided to go to this showcase. (I’ll talk about the other movie we saw soon. It was about food and brought about a lot of feelings.) This was our third time attending events at the Siskel Film Center and we are always so impressed with the movie offerings, the theater, and the people there. Next month they have special screenings of Hayao Miyazaki films and the documentary, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. I have a feeling there will be more movie dates in our future!
UPDATE: The Opry invited Tomi to play! I have to think the movie influenced this decision, right? She is playing on the Opry Stage on April 28, 2015. The show begins at 7PM and it looks like Tomi will hit the stage during the 8:45PM (Central Time) segment. (Scroll down on this link to listen to the live stream on WSM 650 AM! Naoto and I will be listening!)