2020 Films of Remembrance Filmmaker Biographies
Emiko Omori, director of “Then Becoming Now” and “Tsuru for Solidarity History,” is an award-winning cinematographer and documentary film director. In 1991, she wrote and directed the highly acclaimed drama, “Hot Summer Winds,” a co-production of American Playhouse and KCET based on two short stories by Hisaye Yamamoto. Her feature-length documentary “Rabbit in the Moon” won the Best Documentary Cinematography Award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and a National Emmy Award after it was broadcast on PBS that same year. With Wendy Slick, she co-produced and directed “Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm” in 2008, and in 2010 she directed “Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World.” One of the first camerawomen to work in news documentaries, Omori began her career at KQED in San Francisco in 1968.
Julian Saporiti, director of “For Joy,” is a musician and scholar from Tennessee. He was born to an Italian American musician and a French Vietnamese painter. As a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University, he turned years of research on Asian American history into a multimedia project called No-No Boy, named in honor of John Okada’s 1957 novel. As No-No Boy, Saporiti tours the country with a revolving cast of collaborators putting on concerts, teaching, and facilitating discussions with diverse audiences about difficult topics such as race, refugees, and incarceration. Through No-No Boy Saporiti has performed everywhere from Lincoln Center to refugee camps on the Mexcican border. His next album will be released by Smithsonian Folkways in June of 2020.
Akira Boch, director of “Masters of Modern Design: The Art of the Japanese American Experience,” is an award-winning filmmaker and the director of the Watase Media Arts Center at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. He has an MFA in directing from the UCLA School of Film, TV, and Digital Media, and has made over 50 short films, documentaries and music videos. His feature film, “The Crumbles,” went on a nationwide tour of theaters, festivals, and universities, and is available on Amazon Prime Video. His first full-length documentary, “Masters of Modern Design: The Art of the Japanese American Experience,” was produced and broadcast by KCET in Los Angeles, and is currently screening at festivals and community events across the U.S. His work can be seen at akiraboch.com.
Megumi Nishikura, director/producer of “Minidoka,” is passionate about addressing global and social issues through documentary storytelling. She spent five years working for the United Nations, producing and directing documentaries on environmental issues such as climate change and biodiversity. Megumi has captured stories of 9/11 survivors and those impacted by the 2011 tsunami in northeastern Japan. Her award- winning independent film, “Hafu — the Mixed-Race Experience in Japan,” screened theatrically throughout Japan and aired in the United States on PBS. In 2015, she produced “Fall Seven Times Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides,” which won numerous short documentary awards and aired globally on BBC World News. Megumi currently works as a producer at Blue Chalk Media.
Anna Takada, co-director of “Resettled Roots; Legacies of Japanese Americans in Chicago,” worked as the Oral History Project coordinator at the Japanese American Service Committee in Chicago, where she recorded first-hand experiences of World War II incarceration and resettlement of Japanese Americans. Her position was a continuation of the oral history project that was a part of the “Then They Came For Me” exhibition at Alphawood Gallery where she worked as the outreach coordinator and exhibitions assistant. Anna received a B.A. in Social and Cultural Analysis, specializing in Africana Studies and Asian Pacific American Studies from New York University.
Maria Pimentel, co-director of “Resettled Roots; Legacies of Japanese Americans in Chicago,” is a filmmaker originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador. She joined the Japanese American Service Committee in November 2018 as a freelance producer for the creation of the documentary “Resettled Roots.” She is now the multimedia coordinator at JASC and is responsible for the production, creation and editing of videos for the JASC and its many programs. Maria received her M.A in Digital Media and Storytelling at Loyola University Chicago and also received her B.A at Augusta University, majoring in International Relations.
Rory Banyard, director and producer of “Minidoka: An American Concentration Camp,” has been directing and producing award-winning documentaries for 20 years. He is based in Portland, Oregon and is the founder and owner of North Shore Productions. His work has won numerous awards and been part of the Official Selection of over a dozen film festivals worldwide, including the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and the International Wildlife Film Festival. Rory has directed and produced two half-hour visitor center theater films for the Minidoka National Historic Site and is currently directing and producing a one-hour documentary about the incarceration experience at Minidoka and Japanese American activism today.
Kerwin Berk is a Nikkei filmmaker who was born and raised in San Francisco. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at newspapers and wire services in Asia and the United States for more than 25 years. His last stop was at his hometown newspaper — The San Francisco Chronicle. Today, he is a freelance writer and independent filmmaker who still calls The City his home. He has written, produced and directed award-winning films and Web series such as “The Virtues of Corned Beef Hash,” “Infinity & Chashu Ramen” and “Gold Mountain.” His production company — Ikeibi Films — is built upon the idea that “Asian Americans need to tell our own stories in our own voice with our own talent both in front of and behind the camera.” His work can be seen at ikeibifilms.com.
Sean Morijiro O’Gara, creator of “Topaz Ten Meditations,” undertook his first cinematic exploration of the Japanese American concentration camp experience in 1976 by carving abstract impressions on 16mm film with a piece of barbed wire. This act began the Sansei filmmaker’s lifelong passion for telling the story of the incarceration through unconventional and marginalized forms of cinema.
O’Gara’s 35mm motion pictures have been official selections at international Asian American film festivals from New York City to San Francisco since 1994. O’Gara’s 70mm films include the hand-painted, “Ayamori” (1989), which screened at Great America’s IMAX Pictorium in Santa Clara, Calif. In 1997, O’Gara conceived of and curated “Cinema of Remembrance,” a major retrospective on incarceration films held at the Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco.
Sam Pablo, director/producer of “Cherry Blossom,” is a Japanese American actor, filmmaker and entrepreneur. With over 20 years of experience as a performer on stage and on screen, Sam took his unique perspective behind the camera to tell engaging stories through his newly founded video production company, Noble Vision Films. Thus far, he has had the opportunity to shoot projects with actors like Kerry Washington and Jennifer Aniston. Sam feels especially moved by this project as his Japanese grandparents were living in Hawai‘i during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. While they were not put into internment camps, they definitely suffered from the social injustice and racism of that difficult time.
Alan Kondo, director of “Crystal City Pilgrimage,” is a Sansei media activist working with Nikkei Progressives, and is a retired financial planner. Originally from Toronto, Canada, he was a creative force at Visual Communications, the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American Media Arts Center.