Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Courtesy of Executive Director, Lee Ann Kim:

Sunday, April 17. I knew this would be an emotional day… it always is when you’re gathering people in response to tragedy. The Disaster in Japan especially hits home for us at SDAFF since we have former staff who now live in Japan and two of our board members have family who live in the earthquake zone.

So when I got up in front of the audience to introduce A TALE OF MARI AND THREE PUPPIES, (one of 11 films screening at our inaugural Spring Showcase) I was emotionally struck at how many people chose to be with us inside a dark theater on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Some 400 friends - and strangers- who donated money toward disaster relief efforts, stared back at me with somber faces. I’m such a crybaby, and I honestly almost lost it.

I was also touched by artists who stepped up to help. Filmmaker David Boyle and actor Hiroshi Watanabe came down from LA to donate DVDs of their film, WHITE ON RICE (2009 SDAFF Audience Award Winner) for minimum $50 donations.

Another SDAFF Filmmaker Emily Ting donated toys to encourage higher donations. In all, we raised more than $10,000 (thanks to an anonymous matching donor). Proceeds benefit the San Diego Foundation’s Global Disaster Relief Fund, targeting long-term recovery efforts in Japan.

Beyond the funds, the event made a powerful impact on the audience who wept through the film, A TALE OF MARI, based on the true story of a young girl separated from her dogs during the 2004 earthquake in Niigata, Japan, and were later reunited. Is it awful to say that I actually enjoyed seeing so many people leave the auditorium despondent with red, blood-shot eyes, tissues in hand? I know that emotionally, they are taking this film home with them which keeps them deeply connected to our brothers and sisters in Japan.

As the film ended with hope, so did many of our patrons who joined us in our Senbazuru – or Thousand Cranes project - in the theater lobby. Folding 1,000 paper cranes is a Japanese tradition to send blessings or a wish for recovery… which in truth will take years and billions of dollars to happen. But I’m so grateful that we are doing our small part in San Diego to be global citizens.

For more ways to donate and help, please visit our web page on Japan Relief

- Lee Ann Kim

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