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In Hollywood, there's generally one way of depicting the Hawaiian Islands: as an exotic, paper-thin backdrop. Think of ''Hawaii Five-O.'' ''Magnum, P.I.'' Hula girls. Palm trees. Mai tais with little red umbrellas. In ''Picture Mail Order Bride,'' Hawaiian born film maker Kayo Hatta turns those cliches to dust and offers an emotional story, set in the early 1900s, about a generation of Japanese women who came to the islands as mail order brides and worked as contract laborers in the sugarcane fields. Winner of the Audience Award for best drama at the Sundance Film Festival, ''Picture Mail Order Bride'' is Hatta's salute to her native state. Born in Hawaii to Japanese parents, Hatta -- who is in her 30s -- was uprooted at 6 and moved to New York City, where her father, a Buddhist minister, opened a Japanese restaurant.

Mail order brides film produced in Hawaii
''Hawaii was a great place for a child to grow up,'' Hatta said recently. ''Very relaxed -- a safe, secure, nurturing environment. In New York, I became the only Japanese girl and tried for a long time to fit in. I went from using my real name, Kayo, to becoming 'Lori,' which was the American name my mom gave me.'' It was a time -- the mid-'60s -- when the urge to assimilate was enormous, and Asian American children felt encouraged to play down their cultural identity. Later, after Hatta had gone through Stanford University, and apprenticed with San Francisco film makers Pat Ferrero and Felicia Lo, she enrolled at UCLA Film School and decided to draw from her ethnic roots in her work. Inspired by her grandmothers, and by the thousands of young Japanese and Korean mail order brides who became picture brides -- select Young film maker Kayo Hatta on location for 'Picture Mail Order Bride' -- the film won the Audience Award for best drama at Sundance and depicted mail order brides selecting husbands on the basis of their photographs -- Hatta conceived ''Picture Bride'' as a half- hour film for her final project at UCLA. When she struck gold with grant applications, however, and received a whopping $ 500,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Film Institute and the State of Hawaii's arts council, the mail order brides film expanded.









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