Hito Hata: Raise the BannerDirected by Duane Kubo, Robert A. Nakamura
Cast: Hiroshi Kashiwagi, Mako, Pat Morita, Yuki Shimoda
New 4K restoration
Long before other Asian American films were declared as firsts, HITO HATA was the first. Not big studio films nor even the 1914 silent film THE OATH OF THE SWORD. HITO HATA was the first self-consciously Asian American feature film ever, and proudly so. In fact, HITO HATA’s entanglement with this burgeoning political identity fuels its narrative motor, its characters’ turmoil, and the film’s call to join under the newfound banner of Asian America.
And long before cast members Pat Morita and Mako became pop cultural icons (as The Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi and Iroh’s voice in Avatar: The Last Airbender), they were East West Players, headlining the most ambitious Asian American film of its time: a feature film about an issei man’s triumph and tumult across the 20th century, from working on the transcontinental railroad, to WWII incarceration, to life in LA’s Little Tokyo as it faces gentrification.
Working to serve a community in crisis rather than for a distinction in film history, filmmakers and Visual Communications founders Duane Kubo and Bob Nakamura (“the Godfather of Asian American media”) took a major financial gamble to see if an Asian American feature was possible. Not only was it possible, but this vital 4K restoration restores HITO HATA’s historic importance in the lineage of Asian American filmmaking today – its hundreds of Asian American names in the credits reminding us that filmmaking can be a powerful feat of assertion and bravado, one that boldly claims a movement that would continue to reverberate 50 years later.
– Christina Ree