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Manzanar doc returns to Eastern Sierra

September 13, 2013

“The Manzanar Fishing Club,” a documentary that chronicles the adventures of camp internees who snuck past the guards and barbed wire to fish Inyo’s backcountry, will be showing at the Fly Fishing Film Festival in Mammoth Lakes on Sept. 20. Image courtesy Manzanar National Historic Site

In the first theatrical screening in nearly a year, the acclaimed documentary “The Manzanar Fishing Club” will be one of the highlighted features of the International Fly Fishing Film Festival in Mammoth Lakes next week.
In addition to the screening, fly fisherman Mas Okui, who learned to fish while interned at Manzanar, and writer Richard Imamura will be on hand for a special question and answer session following the screening at Mammoth’s Minaret Cinema.
The International Fly Fishing Film Festival will present 13 short and feature- length films produced by filmmakers from all over the world showcasing the lifestyle and culture of fly fishing.
The festival will be held Friday, Sept. 20 at Mammoth’s Minaret Cinemas on Old Mammoth Road.
Road. “The Manzanar Fishing Club” will be shown at about 6 p.m. (For the exact time, call the theater at 760- 934-3131.)
This screening will be the first since the initial commercial run of the documentary concluded at the AMC Empire 25 Theater in Time Square last September.
During its six-month theatrical run, the Manzanar Fishing Club was screened on a limited basis throughout Southern California, San Francisco, Seattle, Hawaii and New York City, as well as festival screenings in Washington, D.C., Sacramento, San Clemente, Hot Springs, Ariz. and, of course Manzanar.
The documentary was a five-plus year labor of love for Imamura, who collected facts and stories from some of Manzanar’s anglers. One of those anglers, Okui, never actually snuck out of the camp to fish, but learned his early angling techniques while fishing in Bear Creek, which ran through the camp. According to Imamura, today, Okui is a nationally known fly fisherman.
Since the documentary’s premier in early 2012, he has had a huge response in California and in Hawaii. “In Hawaii, the week we opened was also week one for ‘Madagascar,’ the animated film’s sequel, and of Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus.’ It was the first or second week of June, the first week of the summer blockbusters, and we came in first for ticket sales,” Imamura said.
Since its completion in early 2012, Imamura said “The Manzanar Fishing Club” has been shown at Manzanar and at the Inyo Council for the Arts, but this will be the first time the full-length film will be shown in the Eastern Sierra.
“We’re always happy to present our film in the Eastern Sierra,” said Imamura, the film’s writer. “The story takes place here, and we’ve received tremendous support from the people here since the beginning of the project many years ago. It’s really something that we’ll be showing it this time in an out-and-out movie theater.”
“The Manzanar Fishing Club” chronicles the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans at the Manzanar Camp from the perspective of internees who defied armed guards, barbed wire and searchlights to fish in the Eastern Sierra backcountry.
“By emphasizing the personal quests, the film shows how a courageous few were able to take back moments of dignity and freedom through the simple act of fishing,” a press release from the Fly Fishing Film Festival states.
As the film’s narrator puts it, “As legal battles were being waged in faraway courtrooms, the fishermen were exercising their rights on the ground.”

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