Ebb and Flow With the Yamashitas

by Molly Gilmore for OLY ARTS

Ebb and Flow is the story of an immigrant family and an immigrant oyster. The documentary follows longtime oysterman Jerry Yamashita of Seattle and his father, Masahide Yamashita, who emigrated from Japan to the United States in 1902 at age 19. Masahide was instrumental in bringing to the Northwest the plump and tasty Pacific oyster, native to Japan, at a time when the native Olympia oyster had all but disappeared. “Jerry is so loved by the shellfish community,” said filmmaker Shelly Solomon. “He’s a pioneer, and his father was a pioneer.”

The film is an environmental story about an industry of great importance in Washington and a personal one about Jerry Yamashita, 94 and retired. It’s also the story of a family that faced discrimination and hardship in the land where they chose to make a new life. Masahide was denied citizenship by the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924. During World War II, the family was confined in internment camps and had to rebuild the oyster business from the ground up when the war ended.

It’s the immigration story that gives the 77-minute film much of its drama and poignancy. In one moving scene, Jerry Yamashita’s son Michael reveals he never knew about his family’s imprisonment until he studied the war in school and a teacher asked about his personal history. It’s that story that captured much of the attention at two sold-out screenings in Seattle.

Jerry Yamashita and members of his family, along with Solomon and husband and fellow filmmaker Kent Cornwell, will attend Tuesday’s screening, which will be followed by a reception featuring oysters and other nibbles as well as organic wine.

What: Ebb and Flow

Where: Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Performing Arts,
South Puget Sound Community College,
2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia

When: 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26

How much: $20-$30

Get tickets: 360-753-8586 | Leaping Frog Films

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