Everett Film Festival: Tale of soldier’s bravery among highlights

The story is familiar.

Japan bombed U.S. Navy ships in Pearl Harbor. America entered World War II. And the federal government, influenced by racial prejudice and wartime hysteria, ordered all Japanese Americans rounded up and sent to concentration camps.

Japanese American families, including those in Snohomish County, lost their farms, businesses and homes.

Even so, young men of Japanese descent born in the United States joined the fight against the Nazis in Europe and in Asia against Japan, which in many cases was still home to extended family members.

So it was for Roy Matsumoto, now 100 years old and living in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.

His story is documented in the film “Honor and Sacrifice,” one of the movies to be shown at the 17th annual Everett Film Festival on Feb. 21 and 22 at the Everett Performing Arts Center.

The gala opening, which begins at 6 tonight, includes appetizers and desserts, along with the screening of three short films and the feature-length documentary “Unmistaken Child,” which follows the journey of a young Tibetan monk who is asked to search for the reincarnation of his spiritual leader who has died.

The second day of the festival offers the story of how six oncologists battle gynecological cancers while performing in a rock ‘n’ roll band, “No Evidence of Disease.”

“Honor and Sacrifice: The Roy Matsumoto Story” is to be shown at 3 p.m. A question-and-answer session with filmmaker Lucy Ostrander follows.

Ostrander has made many other documentaries and many of those have been broadcast on public TV.

One of Ostrander’s early documentary films was about Seattle-based journalist Anna Louise Strong, including her coverage of the 1916 Everett Massacre, a shoot out between labor movement leaders and local law enforcement and their hired guns.

Ostrander, her husband Don Sellers and Karen Matsumoto, Roy’s daughter, finished the documentary this past spring, just in time for Roy’s 100th birthday party.

The film makes use of beautiful panoramic photographs taken by Roy’s father in the agricultural fields of California and in Hiroshima before the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city near the end of the war.

“When we saw those photos for the first time just a year ago, our jaws just dropped. We knew then that we had a documentary film,” Ostrander said. “When it was complete, Karen cried.”

The documentary also incorporates film footage of the war from the National Archives and more recent interviews with Roy and two of his fellow soldiers.

Roy Matsumoto served in the Army’s military intelligence service with a unit called Merrill’s Marauders, who stealthily walked nearly 1,000 miles through Burmese jungles, often without food or water. Matsumoto’s bravery and knowledge of Japanese dialects was instrumental to the success of U.S. forces in Burma.

Meanwhile, Matsumoto’s three brothers, all born in the United States but raised in Hiroshima, were drafted into the Japanese military.

It’s a moving and beautifully told story.

Roy Matsumoto won’t be at the Everett Film Festival because he plans to fly on Saturday to participate in another film festival in San Francisco, Ostrander said.

The documentary was funded in part through grant requests written by Karen Matsumoto, along with the help of a $30,000 Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

Tickets to both days of the Everett Film Festival, including the gala, are $50. Tickets for Feb. 21 only are $25 and for Feb. 22 only are $30. There are reduced ticket prices for seniors, students and military personnel.

The Everett Performing Arts Center box office is at 2710 Wetmore Ave. Or call 425-257-8600.

DVDs of many of the films will be for sale at the festival.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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