On the Scene: ‘Sun’ premieres at Hawaii Theatre

Sep. 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

PHOTOS BY JOHN BERGER / JBERGER@STARADVERTISER.COM "Under The Blood Red Sun" star Kyler Sakamoto (Tomi Nakaji), second from left, and his parents, Karl and Kalene Sakamoto, relaxed in the balcony with Kyler's co-star, Kalama Epstein (Billy Davis), while other cast members were being interviewed.

PHOTOS BY JOHN BERGER / JBERGER@STARADVERTISER.COM

“Under The Blood Red Sun” star Kyler Sakamoto (Tomi Nakaji), second from left, and his parents, Karl and Kalene Sakamoto, relaxed in the balcony with Kyler’s co-star, Kalama Epstein (Billy Davis), while other cast members were being interviewed.

BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

The Hawaii Theatre was ground zero for Hawaii’s indie film scene as director Tim Savage, DataHouse and Infor presented the world premiere screening of “Under the Blood-Red Sun,” a film adaptation of Hawaii author Graham Salisbury’s young-adult novel, on Saturday.

 Film director Tim Savage welcomed project supporter Leilani Keough to the screening.

Film director Tim Savage welcomed project supporter Leilani Keough to the screening.

A crowd of more than 1000 — cast, crew, sponsors, investors, family members and friends — enjoyed a pre-show reception upstairs before a short formal program introduced the film. Savage described the screening as “a real dream come true” and thanked “my closest 1,000 friends” for being there.

Salisbury entertained the audience with a lengthy story about his experiences as a Cub Scout many many years ago. He then described the creative process though which a simple question — What must it have been like to be in Hawaii during World War Two? — became the story of the friendship between Billy Davis, a teenage Caucasian recently arrived from the US mainland, and Tomikazu “Tomi” Nakaji, a Hawaii-born Japanese-American.

The story is actually more about a young man being forced to assume adult responsibilities than it is about World War II or the internment of individual ethnic Japanese in Hawaii. The Japanese attack on Hawaii happens to be the catalyst but it could just as easily be Dad going away on a cattle drive (as in “Old Yeller”) or being called up for military service.

Tomikazu “Tomi” Nakaji (Kyler Ki Sakamoto), Billy Davis (Kalama Epstein) and their friends enjoy life in Honolulu in the fall of 1941 despite their awareness of the wars being fought in Europe and Asia, and despite occasional run-ins with the neighborhood bully, Keet Wilson (Bryce Moore), whose family employs Tomi’s mother as their housekeeper.

 Graham Salisbury, center, author of "Under the Blood-Red Sun," talked with Burton White, Artistic Director & General Manager of the Hawaii  Theatre, left, and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell at the pre-show reception.

Graham Salisbury, center, author of “Under the Blood-Red Sun,” talked with Burton White, Artistic Director & General Manager of the Hawaii
Theatre, left, and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell at the pre-show reception.

Things change for everyone in Hawaii after the Japanese attack — there’s a curfew, there’s a black out, there’s martial law. Tomi’s father, Taro Nakaji (Chris Tashima), a fisherman by trade, is arrested and put in a prison camp on Sand Island — Japanese fishing boats were suspected of being in contact with Japanese submarines, and Taro’s boat wasn’t flying an American flag on Dec. 7.

Tomi’s grandfather (Dann Seki) is taken away by the FBI for unknown reasons. Their absence leaves Tomi forced by circumstances to become the man of the family.

 "Sun" cast member Bryce Moore (Keet Wilson), center, with his proud parents, Teresa Moore and KHON-TV news anchor Joe Moore.

“Sun” cast member Bryce Moore (Keet Wilson), center, with his proud parents, Teresa Moore and KHON-TV news anchor Joe Moore.

A second story line follows Davis’ experiences learning about Hawaii in general and about Japanese culture in particular. There are no dramatic surprises as these stories play out, but plenty for parents and children to talk about — culture, identity, friendship, prejudice, dealing with bullies, what is means to be an American — after watching it.

There will be a free public screening of “Under the Blood-Red Sun” with pre-show book signing and a red-carpet cast arrival at 6 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center Lawn. Lawn chairs and outside food will be allowed.

“Under the Blood-Red Sun” is available for digital download at www.underthebloodredsunmovie.com
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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