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Weekend Passport: Indie meets MPB, Fukushima's hula girls and a Midwestern celebration of Japanese culture

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(Agnes Lopez)
Mônica da Silva at Taxim Friday, August 10th, 10:00 p.m. at 1558 N. Milwaukee Ave. / 21 and over / $5 cover at the door

Mônica da Silva's story is one of cultural cross-overs: She was raised between Detroit and Belém, Brazil, sings lyrics in English, Portuguese and three other languages, and performs a blend of indie-pop, bossa nova and Brazilian MPB.

Da Silva returns to Chicago Friday on a tour promoting her 2011 album, Brasilissima. She and her band member, Chad Alger, have Chicago roots: They met in the city while pursuing seperate musical careers, and started collaborating after da Silva answered an ad Alger placed on Craigslist. The two have released two albums and were recently featured on Putumayo World Music's 2012 compilation Brazilian Beat.

Fukushima Hula Girls at Chicago Cultural Center Saturday, August 11th, 2:00 p.m. / Claudia Cassidy Theater, 77 E. Randolph Street,  2nd floor. / limited seats available / in Japanese with English subtitles / free

The town of Iwaki, in Japan's Fukushima prefecture, has a history tied to hardship and unlikely comebacks. Fukushima Hula Girl documents the small town's latest chapter, driven by a Hawaiian beat. A rural mining town until the 1960s — when energy demand switched from coal to oil — Iwaki found an unlikely new industry: a Hawaiian-themed resort built around the community's natural hot springs. For 45 years, Spa Resort Hawaiians powered the local economy and brought tourists from around Japan to Iwaki. 

But in February of 2011, the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant devastated the prefecture's environment and economy. The documentary follows the resort's response to the catastrophe and follows Spa Resort Hawaiians as it provides shelter in the initial days of the disaster and works to convince a wary public to return to Iwaki. 

The free screening is part of the Chicago International Film Festival's 9th annual International Screenings Program, and is presented in partnership with the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago.

(Midwest Buddhist Temple)
57th Annual Ginza Festival at the Midwest Buddhist Temple Friday, August 10, 5:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; Saturday, August 11, 11:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, August 12, 11:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. / 435 W. Menomonee Street /  $10 on Saturday night for performance, $6 for adults, and $5 for students and senior citizens all other times

Named after a famous Tokyo entertainment district, Old Town's Ginza Festival brings a celebration of Japanese culture and art to Chicago. For three days, the Midwest Buddhist Temple hosts demonstrations of martial arts, traditional Japanese minyo and taiko music, flower arranging, caligraphy and more. This year, five Waza craftpeople will attend the festival with wares inspired by Japan's Edo period, displaying traditional pottery, tenugui towel art, bamboo sculptures and crafted dolls. On Saturday night a live concert kicks off with Yoko Noge's Japanesque Band, which will perform a blend of traditional Minyo folk and Chicago blues. Throughout the weekend, Rev. Ron Miyamura will deliver short talks on dharma, and will welcome festival-goers into the Buddhist temple.

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