Norman Mineta at CAAMFest for doc premiere

Esteemed South Bay politician Norman Mineta graced San Francisco’s Castro Theatre on Thursday for the world premiere of a documentary about his life presented by the Center for Asian American Media at the opening of its 36th film festival.

After screening the years-in-the-making “An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy,” the inspirational public servant — former mayor of San Jose, U.S. congressman and member of the cabinets of presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — chatted onstage with filmmakers Dianne Fukami and Debra Nakatomi and NBC reporter Bigad Shaban, who hosted.

Displaying the humility depicted in the documentary, Mineta, 86, encouraged young Asian Americans to serve on local boards and commissions, and gave the movie his seal of approval, mentioning that, in seeking a better future for all, “We still need to look through the rear view mirror.”

He likened America not to a melting pot, but to a tapestry of individual threads made stronger by being together.

The movie described how, when Mineta was a young boy, his family was among the thousands of Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during World War II, and how that prompted him to author H.R. Bill 422 (named for extremely patriotic Japanese-American soldiers in the 442nd Infantry Regimental). Also known as the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, it, decades later, gave reparations to those who were incarcerated.

Among the film’s more poignant moments are comments by President Bush, who said his restraint after 9/11 — to ensure Muslims and other Americans of Middle Eastern ancestry weren’t mistreated — was influenced by Mineta’s experience as a youngster.

The 14-day CAAMFest, presented for the first time this year in connection with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, offers more than 120 films, live performances and music and culinary events.

IF YOU GO
CAAMFest36
Where: 17 sites including AMC Kabuki 8, Asian Art Museum, Castro, New People Cinema and Roxie theaters
When: May 10 through May 24
Tickets: $14 to $20 general; $75 for six-pack; more for special events
Contact: (415) 552-5580, www.caamfest.com

Leslie Katz

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