The fact that Anthony Lucero was making the behind-the-scenes documentary for the next Star Wars film was incidental to why I wanted to talk to him about his feature film directorial debut, EAST SIDE SUSHI. But, since I had him there in front of my microphone, I had to try to get some information out of him. He handled the question like a pro, and with grace as he revealed absolutely nothing about what J.J. Abrams has in store for us.
After that, we could settle down for the far more important questions about EAST SIDE SUSHI, which is on my list of top films for 2015. We started with how the Oakland, CA native wanted to depict his hometown before moving on to the trick to photographing food in ways that make it even more delectable than it is in real life, and how Diana Elizabeth Torres convinced Lucero that she was right for the role, even though she was not what he was looking for.
We also talked about one of the great scenes of female empowerment to be found in any film. That would be the moment when Juana rails against being relegated to the back of the restaurant. It’s a Rosa Parks moment if ever there was one.
EAST SIDE SUSHI is a film about dreams, determination, and embracing change. Diana Elizabeth Torres stars as Juana, a single Latina mother and talented cook who believes that there has to be more to life for her and her daughter than running her father’s fruit stand, and working dead-end jobs in the back of restaurants. When she sees a help wanted sign in a Japanese restaurant, and then sees the intoxicatingly beautiful food being served there, she applies for the kitchen assistant job. Her father is bemused, pressuring her to find work at a Latino restaurant. Her pre-teen daughter eyes with suspicion the sushi her mother brings home from work. But Aki, one of the sushi chefs sees promise in the young woman who is so obviously entranced by the art and flavor of all things sushi, and the two of them challenge the orthodoxy of sushi authenticity, starting with overcoming the notion that women’s hands are too warm to properly prepare the delicacy. The film co-stars Yukata Takeuchi, Rodrigo Duarte Clarke, Kaya Jade Aguirre, Miyoko Sakatani, and Roji Oyama as the restaurant owner and sushi chef. Lucero directed from his own script. Lucero is a proud native of Oakland, CA, and his previous work includes the documentary short ANGELS AND WHEELCHAIRS, and a scintillating slice of social commentary in the short I NEED MY MOCHA. EAST SIDE SUSHI is his feature film directorial debut, and it has won a slew of awards, including the Audience Award at both CAAM and SF Indie Fest right here in the Bay Area. He is currently shooting behind-the-scenes footage of the next Star Wars film.