One of the goals of the 2019 Eastern Oregon Film Festival was to showcase the state of Oregon and the beauty and history the area has to offer. An afternoon screening at Beckie’s Studio of Dance on Saturday, day three of the festival, showed two films that explored parts of the state and the stories that have been waiting to be told.
In a short documentary, H. Nelson Tracey, an LA-based director and editor, captured the beautiful landscape on the Oregon-Idaho border. His film, titled “Picture Jasper,” tells the story of Steve Schultz, who has spent his life mining picture jasper, a rare rock that mirrors the area’s landscape.
Tracey went with Schultz and his mining partner, Peter Henry, out to Jackpot, just outside of Marsing, Idaho, to record the difficulty that comes with finding quality speciments of picture jasper. Tracey was happy to see a region he had never been to and took up the opportunity for travel when it presented itself. Tracey was also excited to share the history and hidden gem of the area.
“As a filmmaker the best way to share Schultz’s knowledge is to show him in his world, and show him doing what he loves to do,” Tracey said.
Though Tracey had never been to La Grande before, he applied to be a part of EOFF because it was the closest festival to the area in which his film takes place.
“The film is about Eastern Oregon, so why not show it at the Eastern Oregon Film Festival?” Tracey said.
The full-length feature that was also shown during the afternoon block in the festival took viewers to the southern Oregon Coast. Nineteen miles outside of the town is the only place on the U.S. mainland that was bombed by an air pilot during World War II. “Samurai in the Oregon Sky” tells the story of Nobuo Fujita and the mission that few know about.
On Sept. 9, 1942, Fujita flew over Brookings and dropped a bomb in the forest. The mission was a failure as it caused little physical damage, and many in the United States never heard about the bombing. However, 20 years later, men who were part of Brookings’ Junior Chamber of Commerce invited the Japanese pilot back to the town. This gesture, while controversial, helped in repairing U.S. and Japanese relationships after WWII.
The film, directed by Ilana Sol, combines archival footage, animation and current day interviews with the subjects of the story. It depicts the events leading up to Fujita’s missions through the reconciliation and his visits to Oregon. Sol, who works as an archival researcher for other documentary filmmakers, saw this as an opportunity to tell a story about Oregon that few people know.
“There are still people in Brookings who get upset about it all,” Sol said. “But the film is about people. It’s not about politics, it’s about bringing people together.”
Sol has now had the film translated into Japanese and hopes to have screenings of the film in Japan in the near future.
Presenting relatively unknown Oregon treasures and history, these films accomplished the EOFF’s goal of showcasing Oregon’s unique beauty and stories.
Editor’s note: This is the second of three stories The Observer is publishing on the 2019 EOFF.