CAAMFEST36: Opening Night Film & Gala Red Carpet Premiere of ‘An American Story: Norman Mineta’

One of the things I have really enjoyed after having moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1999 has been attending the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival, which is now known as CAAMFest, now its 36th year.

This year’s opening night premiere was a documentary – AN AMERICAN STORY: NORMAN MINETA – about groundbreaking elected official and civil servant, Japanese American Norman Mineta – the first Asian American elected to San Jose, California City Council, first Asian American elected to be mayor of San Jose (first Asian American mayor of any major city in the continental United States), first Asian American Congressman elected in the continental United States, first Asian American to serve as a cabinet member to serve a President (AND also both in a Democratic and Republican administration). AND first Asian American to have an airport named after him (Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport).

Prior to the documentary’s premiere, Claudine Cheng and Willie Brown presented Norman Mineta with the APA Heritage Award for Lifetime Impact:

After watching the documentary, I realized that although I had kind of known about many of Mineta’s accomplishments, seeing his story told in its totality was amazing. (This slightly differed from my experience watching a documentary about Patsy Mink, another amazing Asian American, but someone I knew nothing about until a CAAMFEST screening). Mineta is a truly ground-and-glass-ceiling-breaking Asian American that all Americans should learn about.

The San Francisco Chronicle described the documentary and Mineta as:

“His life in politics, skillfully captured by director Dianne Fukami, stands in stark contrast to the current White House occupant. As a 10-term U.S. representative from Silicon Valley, Mineta kept his ego in check while passing seminal legislation, notably a bill granting reparations to Japanese Americans like his family who were incarcerated during World War II. His motto was “If you don’t care who gets the credit, you can do many things.””

After the screening, there was a Q&A session with Norman Mineta and the filmmakers:

There’s an effort to build upon documentary and develop educational material around Norman Mineta’s story, known as The Mineta Legacy Project. This reminds me of what Fred T. Korematsu Institute is doing since its inception. And after the Q&A, there was the annual gala party, held again at San Francisco Asian Art Museum, where I had the great honor to meet and get a photo with Mineta himself:

The gala is always a festive scene at a great venue:

Norm MinetaThere’s a new website for Asians called started by Erin Yoshimura and Gil Asakawa.

visualizAsian’s goal is simple: To provide inspiration and empowerment to AAPIs by showcasing AAPI role models, leaders, movers & shakers from the media, politics, sports, filmmaking, activists, CEO’s, TV/movies, personal growth, authors and more, through interviews and feature stories. We want to make the accomplishments of Asian Americans visible, because so often, we’re invisible.

They are starting out their website by featuring a live interview with Norm Mineta on Thursday, May 21st at 6:00PM PDT. During the interview, attendees will be able to submit questions for Mineta, and those who miss the interview can listen to a recorded version later. Mineta is well known in San Jose, California, where he has held public office for almost 30 years. Mineta gained national prominence working for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and the San Jose International Airport was named after Mineta in 2001.

We’ve talked about Asian heroes here on 8asians in the past and I believe visualizAsian will help to provide new Asian role models. Finding Asian role models is especially important, as pointed out by Leslie Bow, when she writes this week in a blog post on [Asians] are routinely trotted out as proof of national diversity, yet few can name a famous Asian person who does not bear an association to kung fu.

You can sign up for to listen to the interview at the new website.