ATN Seattle correspondent Gillian G. Gaar
reports: I caught the June 8 screening of Maria Gargiulo's The Year
of My Japanese Cousin (the world premiere took place May 20 at the
Seattle International Film Festival). A cross between Singles
and All About Eve, the independent film features on-screen and
musical performances by a host of Seattle bands and other indie acts.
The film stars Selene Vigil (from Seattle's 7 Year Bitch), left, as
Stevie, an ambitious performer in an up-and-coming band. Janis Tanaka
(from San Francisco's Stone Fox), right, plays Yukari, Stevie's cousin,
initially welcomed as a house guest, but who soon develops into
Stevie's rival when her own musical talents are revealed.
"I've lived in Seattle all my life and it's interesting watching the
music scene evolve and change," said Gargiulo. "Watching musicians
who've been in groups for years, who have a lot of CDs out there, but
who aren't necessarily a huge group like Pearl Jam. But they keep
doing it and they have this wonderful community of friends and
supporters. I really wanted to get the feel of that community, and the
frustration artists experience when you're working really hard at
something and not necessarily getting recognition for it."
Gargiulo, who has previously made documentary and educational films for
PBS and non-profit agencies, wrote Japanese Cousin a year and a
half ago, inspired by her interest in the Seattle music scene and
"I really loved the girl groups coming out of Japan, like Supersnazz
and Shonen Knife," she said. "I thought that was really fascinating to
see these really feminine, delicate Japanese girls who are rockin'
babes on stage!"
In fact, Tanaka was nearly cast as Stevie, with Tomoko, from
Supersnazz, playing Yukari; but an accident in which Tomoko fell from
her bike and knocked her front teeth out precluded her involvement in
the film. Along with Vigil and Tanaka, Japanese Cousin features
Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows) as a record producer, Criss
Crass (ex-Muffs, currently in Seattle band the Rockinghams) as a
drummer in Stevie's Band, Gas Huffer in a "Battle of the Bands"
sequence, and Ken Stringfellow and Mike Musburger (the Posies) as
musicians in Tanaka's band. Gargiulo's sister Lulu, a member of the
Fastbacks, puts in an off-camera performance as the film's
The soundtrack includes music by 7 Year Bitch, the Deflowers, the
Picketts, and Catfood, along with music recorded especially for the
film, "Fade Like You" (performed by Vigil, Tanaka, Bloch, and
Musburger), the Fastbacks' "In America" (performed by Tanaka,
Stringfellow, Bloch, and Musburger), and the Deflowers' "Wear You
Down." "We very much want to do a soundtrack album," said Gargiulo.
"Sub Pop's indicated some interest."
Japanese Cousin was filmed in April 1994, with financial
assistance from Independent Television Services (affiliated with the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting), the National Asian American
Telecommunications Association, and other sources. "I own ten or 12
credit cards right now!" Gargiulo said.
Because of CPB's involvement, PBS owns the domestic television rights,
but it has not yet been determined if the film will be scheduled for
broadcast. With two sold-out screenings at the Seattle International
Film Festival, Japanese Cousin is attracting attention from
distributors. "We haven't signed anything yet," said Gargiulo.
"Probably what we'll do is we'll need to take it to other film