Post by Ashlyn Perri, CAAM
While eating at a diner one day, Director Anthony Lucero saw the Latino dishwasher in the back and wondered, “What does he want to do with his life? What does he aspire to be?” Thus came the inspiration for his directorial debut, “East Side Sushi,” which follows Juana Martinez (Dianna Torres), a single mother working to support her aging father and young daughter. After being robbed at her family’s fruit stand, Juana gets a job at a local Japanese restaurant. Her growing passion for sushi and her talent in the kitchen do not go unnoticed by Aki (Yutaka Takeuchi), the lead sushi chef. However, she is met with opposition by the restaurant owner, as she does not meet the traditional expectations of a sushi chef. To prove her worth, she enters a sushi making competition, where she showcases her signature roll: the Green Diablo Roll. This bittersweet film, a Bay Area local production, explores the very real notion of food authenticity through the lens of gender and race.
I sat down with Lucero during CAAMFest 2014 to talk about the making of the Green Diablo Roll and why he believes this story is important.
How did you come up with the Green Diablo Roll?
AL: I was trying to think how could we wrap sushi without using the nori. I saw a poblano pepper and was like maybe. So I wrote [in the screenplay] that she wraps [the sushi] in the poblano pepper. I didn’t even know if that was possible. When I gave [the screenplay] to Tomoharu [Nakamura]—the sushi chef consultant on the film—to look at, I wasn’t sure if he would understand. He calls me up one day and he’s like, “Come to the restaurant, I want to show you the competition food.” So I go to Tomoharu’s restaurant [and] he does the Green Diablo Roll! I was like, “Is that a roasted poblano?” I was freaking out. He totally shocked me! He said it was very difficult to make the Green Diablo Roll, to actually get the pepper just flat and straight. You have to peel off the skin and just roll it perfectly.
Why are people so interested in this story?
AL: A lot of people can relate to Juana. I think all the characters are relatable but I think it’s an underdog story and people love underdogs. I think if you’re male or female, old or young you can relate to Juana and her struggle.
Catch “East Side Sushi” Thursday, March 20 at 9pm at New People Cinema in San Francisco’s Japantown and two encore presentations Saturday and Sunday at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland, CA at 5:30pm and 12:30pm, respectively.
“Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast,” is a Taiwanese comedic film. CAAMFest screenings are co-presented by La Cocina. The film will be shown at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas on Thursday, March 20 (21 and over) at 9:20pm. There will also be a free screening at Coppola Theater at San Francisco State University on Friday, March 21 at 4pm.
Here’s the film’s description, originally posted at CAAMFest by Jackson Scarlett:
Wan, daughter of the legendary chef Master Fly Spirit, has run into some bad luck: Her boyfriend has disappeared, her modeling career just isn’t taking off and now a pair of grub-loving debt collectors are after her for a huge amount she can’t pay. What’s a girl to do but run back home to Mama? As it turns out, her plucky, showtune-loving stepmother, Puffy, is in the same boat and has beaten a path back to a small shop in a country market. On cue, an opportunity (and heartthrob Yan Yo) appears for Wan to make the cash she needs, and then some—if only she could find Master Fly Spirits’ secret recipes.
“Tropical Fish” director Yu-Hsun Chen returns after 16 years with this colorful pop comedy celebrating badoh, the Taiwanese outdoor banquet tradition. Blending multiple genres with plates full of gourmet grub and a hefty helping of food-fanatic classics like Juzo Itami’s “Tampopo” and Stephen Chow’s “The God of Cookery,” “Zone Pro Site” stretches like a street noodle, but always remains satisfyingly toothsome.