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placeholder April 25, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
Filmmaker brings his work to students

Anthony Lucero

Filmmaker Anthony Lucero brought his film, "East Side Sushi," back to the place where his dreams of becoming a filmmaker began: St. Elizabeth High School in Oakland's Fruitvale District.

"East Side Sushi" tells the story of Juana, a young woman in the Fruitvale area who wants to give up working in a fruit cart to become a sushi chef. Her desire for a better life — including health benefits — for her young daughter defies deterrence.

Lucero served as writer, director and producer of the film, which he financed out of his own pocket. It debuted at film festivals across the country, starting in late 2014, and played in 45 theaters. The film enjoyed a hometown first run — and later a second run — at the Grand Lake Theatre. It will become available on DVD May 3.

While "East Side Sushi" is an independent film, Lucero has worked as visual effects editor on some of the major film franchises of the last decade, including "Star Wars," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Iron Man," "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight."

'East Side Suishi'
A film by Anthony Lucero
Available on DVD May 3
"Here's an alum who's coming back and sharing his talents with us," said Martin Procaccio, president and principal of St. Elizabeth High School. The students, he said, quickly identified that he is "one of us."

Lucero brought the film to the school, where students viewed it in classrooms before joining him for a question-and-answer session.

"Not a whole lot of high school students see that film," Lucero said afterward. "I think it inspired them."

Aspiring filmmakers stayed behind to ask questions. The school will be offering animation classes, as well as a digital design class, next year.

Anthony Lucero's own interest in filmmaking was nurtured at St. Elizabeth, from which he graduated in 1990. "I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker early on," he said. An opportunity for extra credit in an English class opened the door. He asked if he could make a short video. It turned out no one had ever asked before, but he got the go-ahead.

"I started to interview people," he said. The 5-minute film, "A Look at St. Liz High," was just the start.

Lucero wrote "East Side Sushi," taking the screenplay to the Napa Writers Conference in 2008.

He saved up for the production; many worked on it for no pay. The film was shot in three weeks in and around Oakland; a year of post-production, in his apartment, followed. "I cut it on my own," he said.

"'East Side Sushi' was dedicated to my brother Eddie," Lucero said. "I am sure his spirit is what pushed me to finish it."

For a look at their relationship, see "Angels and Wheelchairs," a short film that doubles as a love letter to their mother, Elsie Lucero. It is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFCwgK4c-hE.

As the accolades — including audience awards — at Cine+Mas SF and Cinequest in San Jose came in, "It took a while for me to believe it was a good film," Lucero said.

Meanwhile, someone who saw the film during its run at the Grand Lake Theatre contacted Steve Phelps, president of Bishop O'Dowd High School, and told him he, too, must go see it.

Phelps did.

The caller said the film inspired him to support a young woman from Oakland in pursuing her dreams, too. A June graduate of St. Anthony School in Oakland, selected by the high school, will enter Bishop O'Dowd this fall on a full-tuition, four-year scholarship.

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