Film showing at Modesto's State Theatre to benefit autism

For 90 years the Streeter and Graham families of Stanislaus County have held a reunion, often to honor relatives who served in foreign wars.

This year, the reunion will showcase the artistic side of the family with a benefit showing of the film "Cages" on Friday at the State Theatre in downtown Modesto. Ticket proceeds will go to the Modesto chapter of Autism Speaks, a nonprofit that raises money for autism research and awareness.

Graham Streeter, whose father is Modesto sports artist Glen Streeter, wrote and directed the independent film about a single mother who has been estranged from her father for 20 years. In a story set in Singapore, the woman's 7-year-old son, who is blind, serves to bring father and daughter together.

The film was shot in Singapore with a cast including Mako Iwamatsu, the Japanese-American actor whose work in the 1966 film "The Sand Pebbles" was nominated for an Academy Award, and Zelda Rubinstein, known for playing a medium in the "Poltergeist" movies.

Iwamatsu died after the filming. Streeter said Rubinstein will attend the benefit in Modesto.

The Hallmark Channel picked up "Cages" in 2006, releasing the film in movie theaters in Asia.

Streeter's next project is a feature film on autism called "Normal Folk," which he hopes to release next year with a documentary on the disorder.

His brother, David Streeter, a physician in Sonoma County, has a son with autism, as does another member of the extended family.

"I think there is no shortage of filmmakers who are making movies that are fun to see," Graham Streeter said. "I feel there is a shortage of filmmakers who make films that matter, that make you a better person at the end of two hours."

Michelle Rodriguez, a volunteer for the Modesto chapter of Autism Speaks, said the group was honored when it was chosen to benefit from the showing. She said not many directors make movies about ability awareness.

"My 6-year-old son has autism and a lot of his friends have autism," Rodri- guez said. "It's almost like every family now is touched by autism in some way."

Streeter, a Los Angeles-based film and television director, has family roots dating to the early 1900s in Stanislaus County.

His cousin, Shelly Streeter of Modesto, said the first family reunion, in 1919, was held to celebrate the safe return of Harvey and LaMira Graham's four sons from serving in World War I. Their daughter Mattie married Claude Streeter and they had 14 children. At the time of her death in 1995, Mattie had 40 grandchildren, 77 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandchildren.

Well over 100 people are expected to attend the 90th Streeter-Graham gathering Saturday at the community park in Escalon. Along with the picnic, games and photo albums, they will remember Pearl Harbor survivor Charles Streeter, who died in May, and honor relatives who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Graham Streeter, whose parents were divorced, went to high school in Placerville and spent summers with his father in Modesto. During high school, he lived as an exchange student in Japan, where he learned the language and was introduced to the visual arts.

He worked for 10 years for Japanese television producing sports programming, he said. His other television credits include shooting the prototype for Apple's iPod Nano advertisement, directing commercials for Fox Sports and Olympic programming for DirectTV.

Some of his films have been made for as little as $3,000. By shooting "Cages" in Singapore and processing the film in India, he took advantage of the lower production costs in those countries, he said.

"He definitely has a vision for where he wants to go with films, and we are excited for him," Shelly Streeter said.

A charity presentation of "Cages" will be Friday at the State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto. A director's reception begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the film at 7:30. The movie is for mature audiences. Tickets are $10 per person and are available at the door, or can be bought in advance from the State Theatre box office from noon to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, or by calling Shelly Streeter at 968-8995.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or 578-2321.