UNCSA hosts free screening of faculty member’s new documentary
The Unrestricted Life of Ted Fujioka, a 43-minute documentary by UNCSA School of Filmmaking faculty member Julian Semilian, will be screened March 30 at the ACE Exhibition Complex in Winston-Salem with Semilian and the film’s composer, Laura Ingram Semilian (the filmmaker’s wife), in attendance.
The film examines the life of Ted Fujioka, a second-generation Japanese-American whose family was interred at a Japanese internment camp in the Arkansas Delta during World War II. Fujioka, an artist, inventor, philosopher, and practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism, became a friend and mentor to Semilian in Los Angeles over 30 years ago, and has had such a positive impact on him – and others – that Semilian wanted to pay tribute to his humanity, insight, and wisdom, believing that Fujioka’s attitude and outlook are applicable to anyone, of any faith, in these turbulent times.
Semilian was determined for the film to avoid being preachy because, quite simply, “that’s not who Ted is.
“He’s an amazing listener, and he and I held long talks over the years,” Semilian related. “It’s because of those long conversations that I eventually wanted to make the film. His insights into life and people are always accurate and enlightening. I also watched him speak and give advice to many people and felt in awe of his ability to accurately assess their state of life. The things he said made these people see their problems from a new perspective, and they always left feeling encouraged and uplifted. I am constantly amazed at how accurate his insights are.”
After World War II, Fujioka visited his ancestral home of Hiroshima, yet as he says, he didn’t quite feel at home there. Likewise, Semilian was born in Romania during the Communist regime. Growing up in a Jewish family in such an oppressive environment doesn’t necessarily give him wistful pangs of nostalgia, yet he accepts it as a part of his identity and his ongoing spiritual journey. He can look back at that time from a humble, even humorous perspective. Coming to America, he smiles, “I could get blue jeans, I could buy Beatles records, I could take a hot shower!”
Semilian utilized archival newsreel footage and Fujioka’s family photos to flesh out the story, accentuated by Ingram Semilian’s effectively subtle score and animation created by Echo Wilson, one of his first-year students, whose work is particularly impressive. “It’s always difficult to describe what you want in abstract terms,” he said, “but she did. I would try to describe what I was looking for, and she would be finishing my sentence!”
Although “I am always very critical of my own work, I am pleased that a lot of people I admire like the film,” Semilian said. “I am very happy Ted loved the film, and I consider that one of my life’s accomplishments. He felt happy about the film and that it was very accurate. I do feel that the film captures his personality and philosophy.”
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2018, Mark Burger.
The Unrestricted Life of Ted Fujioka will be screened 7 p.m. March 30 at Gold Theatre in the ACE Exhibition Complex, located on the UNCSA main campus, 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem. Admission is free. For more information, visit https://www.uncsa.edu/mysa/announcements/20180312-ted-fujioka.aspx.