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Filmmakers Nakamura, Ishizuka, Lin, Esaki to Discuss Watase Media Arts Center

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Filmmakers and documentarians Robert Nakamura, Karen Ishizuka, Justin Lin and John Esaki will all comment on the past, present and future of Asian American film in a special public program set for Saturday, August, 1, beginning at 1 p.m., that marks the 10 years of work created by the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center of the Japanese American National Museum. The National Museum has been celebrating the 10 years since it opened its Pavilion in Little Tokyo in 1999 with a series of programs and special events.

"One of the many distinctive features of the Japanese American National Museum is the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center," explained National Museum President and CEO Akemi Kikumura Yano. "Most museums do not have the benefit of having a unit that creates documentaries and historic video presentations as a method of reaching a broader audience. When the Pavilion was being planned, a dedicated space was designed for the Watase Media Arts Center and it has proven to be a wonderful resource. Thanks to the support of Frank Watase, much has been accomplished in the 10 years since the Pavilion was opened."

Nakamura and Ishizuka were the founders of the Watase Media Arts Center in 1999, but were already producing award-winning documentaries and had pioneered the use of home movie footage as historical documents in productions such as "Moving Memories" (1993) and "Something Strong Within" (1995) since the National Museum’s opening in 1992. They also teamed to create the documentary, "Looking Like the Enemy" (1996), and provided major components for the National Museum’s exhibition, From Bento to Mixed Plate: Americans of Japanese Ancestry in Multicultural Hawai`i (1998).

Nakamura is currently Associate Director of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center and a professor in the Department of Asian American Studies. A founder of Visual Communications, Nakamura made the groundbreaking documentary, "Manzanar" (1972), on his experiences in an American concentration camp during World War II as well as the feature film, "Hito Hata: Raise the Banner" (1980) and many others. Ishizuka was the curator of the National Museum’s landmark exhibition, America’s Concentration Camps: Remembering the Japanese American Experience (1994) and author of the book, Lost & Found: Reclaiming the Japanese American Incarceration (2006). She and Nakamura collaborated on the documentary, "Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray" (2001), which was an official selection of the Sundance Festival.

Lin is internationally known as the director of feature films, including "Fast & Furious 4" (2009), "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" (2006) and "Annapolis" (2006). His work for the Watase Media Arts Center included "J-Town Rhapsody" (1999), an eight-screen presentation that is shown in the National Museum’s core exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community; "Interactions" (2001), part of the "Once Upon a Camp" series; and "Crossover" (2000). In this time period, Lin was filming his breakout film, "Better Luck Tomorrow" (2002), which helped open the door for his feature film career. He also released two independent films in 2007: "Finishing the Game" and La Revolución de Iguodala!

Esaki is the head of the Watase Media Arts Center and Director of Programs for the National Museum. Having previously worked 15 years for Visual Communications, Esaki joined the Watase Media Arts Center and directed documentaries including "Top of Their Game" (2000), "Harsh Canvas: The Art and Life of Henry Sugimoto" (2001), "The Bracelet" (2001), "Words, Weavings and Songs" (2002) and "Eyewitness: Stan Honda" (2004). Independently, Esaki directed the documentary, "Maceo: Demon Drummer from E.L.A." and "Stand Up for Justice" (2004).

Directing the conversation will be Akira Boch of the Watase Media Arts Center, who will discuss the filmmaking careers of the participants, their work as part of the National Museum, and the future of Asian American film. The program will include highlights from the various media pieces and never-before-seen clips.

Currently, films by the Watase Media Arts Center are screening in the National Museum’s Terasaki Orientation Theater as part of a summer-long film festival.

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