It was sometime around the winter of 2013. I was at a mayoral campaign breakfast for Eric Garcetti and someone asked him what he saw as an economic development opportunity for San Pedro. His answer (pleasantly) floored me. He said he saw San Pedro as one of L.A.’s great creative corridors.
It makes sense. We have a long history of hosting one of L.A.’s most robust art colonies. We were the home of Charles Bukowski. Ask anybody in rock and roll about San Pedro and right away they point to Mike Watt and his bandmates in the Minutemen as being some of the great pioneers of punk rock that revolutionized the music industry.
Whenever I bring creative industry friends here, they instantly fall in love with the charm of our historic downtown. Oftentimes those visits were to the Warner Grand Theatre where films I made were screening. I’m always so proud to show off our great movie palace and we all know that it will be central to any efforts in making our downtown a place for creative folks to gather.
Two of the films I made, Port Town and Searching for a Storm, premiered in the Warner Grand at the L.A. Harbor International Film Festival
(LAHIFF). This month, March 14-17, marks the 16th anniversary of the festival. LAHIFF plays numerous important roles in the creative growth of our community. It provides local filmmakers, like myself, a great venue to screen our films. LAHIFF also promotes literacy with local students by making the connection between reading, writing, and the movies they watch. Over 15,000 books have been distributed since 2004 in the festival’s “Read the Book, See the Movie” program. This year’s selection, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, will include 600 books distributed to local students to read and discuss before coming to LAHIFF to see the movie on the Warner’s big screen.
In our drive to make our town the creative corridor that Mayor Garcetti spoke of, one of the things we’ve learned is that authenticity and a deep cultural history speak to the souls of creatives and can play a big role in attracting them to a place. That is a big reason as to why I said yes when LAHIFF founder Stephanie Mardesich pitched me on the idea of directing an oral history video project called Stories of the L.A. Harbor Area (SOLAHA). SOLAHA is a collection of 72 stories as told by 20 members of the San Pedro and Wilmington communities. In a sequel of sorts to Port Town, 20 of those stories (one from each interview subject), will be strung together to play at LAHIFF’s Doc Sunday on March 17 at 4 p.m.
Our local history and culture are represented in so many ways in the SOLAHA screening at LAHIFF. Drive over the Vincent Thomas Bridge and wonder how it was built? Louis Dominguez tells that story. Look down from the bridge and see acres of containers on the docks – the late, great Dave Arian talks about butting heads with his dad over the Harry Bridges led agreement for the goods movement industry to become containerized. Look out a little further in the harbor and see fishing boats at SP Slip – Stephanie Mardesich, herself, warmly recalls when it was filled every year with colorfully decorated boats in one of L.A.’s greatest former events, the Fishermen Fiesta.
Doc Sunday will also feature a documentary film that tells the story of an unfortunate part of our local history. Rebel With A Cause: The Life Of Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga, directed by Janice D. Tanaka, reveals the story of the tenacious and dedicated Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga and her role in the effort to gain retribution for unlawful imprisonment and confiscation of property and monies of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Tanaka will introduce the picture and have a Q&A conversation afterward with the movie’s participants. The film starts at 1 p.m. on March 17.
As we build out our creative corridor, it will be rooted in an authenticity that creatives absolutely appreciate. However, with the desire to integrate into an authentic place, comes the responsibility to gain a deeper understanding of our history and culture so that they can share both the positive and negative experiences. This allows us to learn and strive to be better in the future. Kudos to LAHIFF for creating a space for that to happen for the last 16 years.
Jack Baric can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info about LAHIFF, please visit laharborfilmfest.com.