Student film “Persimmon” premieres before sold-out audience

“Persimmon” premiered in Los Angeles on Friday, May 13, in an event that included the cast from Japan and a live Taiko Japanese drum performance.

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Job Ang

A “Persimmon” film poster greets audience members on Friday, May 13, 2011. | Job Ang/THE CHIMES

Abbey Bennett, Writer

A “Persimmon” film poster greets audience members on Friday, May 13, 2011. | Job Ang/THE CHIMES

Film students, families and friends from Japan gathered at the American Film School’s Mark Goodson Theatre in Los Angeles Friday, May 13, for the world’s first screening of the film “Persimmon.” In January 2011 a team from Biola’s cinema and media arts department, led by professor and director Dean Yamada, went on an adventure to Japan to create this film.

Event included more than a film viewing

After countless hours of planning, pre-production, learning some Japanese, writing, traveling, shooting and editing, the film was ready to be viewed. The premiere was more than just a viewing of the film, it was an event.

The night consisted of mingling, hors d’oeuvres, the film viewing, a Q-and-A panel with the crew and cast member Yugo Saso, a dessert reception and a live Taiko Japanese drum performance by the group Kishin Daiko. Additionally, the audience could purchase a “Pray for Japan” shirt from Biola freshman Matthew Little.

Characteristics of the film

Introducing the film, Yamada described those in attendance as a “lively and full audience.” It was evident that not only were the cast and crew excited to see their final product, but their friends and family were genuinely proud and thrilled too.

Every shot of the movie brilliantly captured the colors of Japan. Teal and orange were incorporated into nearly every scene – from the buildings on a street, to the dishes around a kitchen sink, to food on a plate. The locations that hosted each shot portrayed a true picture of Japan for the viewers. When asked about finding the locations to film, junior Nick Chavez answered, “Zack was a great Google-ist,” speaking of senior Zack Gladwin.

The dialogue was completely in Japanese with English subtitles. The strong storyline intrigued the viewers, keeping their complete attention. Numerous cultural elements, including a reverence for elders, as pointed out in the Q-and-A panel, were weaved into the fabric of the story.

Crew members from Japan attended the event

After the film, the crew, writer Yu Shibuya, main actor Saso, and the team’s translator and transportation coordinator who they called their “guardian angel” Takati Nakadai, stood before the cheering audience to take questions. When asked to describe the “genesis” of the story, Shibuya answered, “One of the first things I saw was him [the main character Yugo] staring at a persimmon.”

He began to see the story depicting the essence of “going against nature.” The film illustrates this with a comparison between a persimmon drying and a man dying of cancer.

Yamada said that upon returning and beginning to edit the shots from Japan, things did not seem to go according to plan. He gave credit to his wife, Leilani, for helping “Persimmon” capture emotion and “arc” to completion. Yamada continued and thanked everyone on the team including Junko Malandra, who instructed them in learning a little of the language prior to traveling.

“It is a huge relief,” Chavez said, describing how it felt to see the film completed. He was grateful for the sold out showing and said, “It was great to hear people laugh.”

“It’s good to have the family back together again,” Gladwin said. “The family” not only describes the team from Biola, but also Shibuya, Saso and Nakadai, who traveled to California from Japan for this event.

Additional showing planned

Producer junior Rachel Van Der Merwe, said there will be another showing on May 27, the Friday before graduation, at Biola’s Production Center in Studio A. The time has yet to be determined.

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