Coming to DVD and VOD tomorrow, Friday, February 5:
MORE THAN MIYAGI: THE PAT MORITA STORY
Flathead Lake International Cinemafest 2021
A biography of the late Oscar-nominated actor.
Best remembered as the characters “Mr Miyagi” from the KARATE KID movies and “Arnold” from HAPPY DAYS, the late Pat Morita was one of few Asian Americans to find success in an entertainment industry that often traded on racial stereotypes. Despite his nomination for an Academy Award, however, Morita faced typecasting, limiting his career prospects. Filmmaker Kevin Derek, using the actor’s unfinished memoir as spine for this portrait, aims to celebrate Morita’s life and career, and to demonstrate that his talents and range extended far beyond a single character. Morita’s own words, supplemented by interviews with family, friends, castmates, and other industry professionals, reveal the struggles he went through, from a painful childhood spinal condition to internment in Japanese American camps with his family during WWII, and how these experiences influenced his eventual career as a stand-up comic and later actor. Derek spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on Morita’s familiar roles, dipping too much into fanboyish nostalgia, but does provide more compelling considerations of the obstacles Asian American performers like Morita faced, from racist depictions by white performers to stereotypical roles and audience and industry resistance to non-white leads – as Morita experienced in his short lived sitcom and drama projects. The emotional core of the film comes from Morita’s widow, Evelyn, who relates her husband’s long struggle with alcoholism, which accelerated his death.