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1970 - America's Concentration Camps
Visual Communications’ first-ever production was not a film, but a photographic exhibit. Commissioned by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) to produce an exhibit on Japanese American relocation and internment, VC founders Robert Nakamura and Alan Ohashi created the modular, mobile exhibit AMERICA’S CONCENTRATION CAMPS (aka, “The Cubes Exhibit”).
1971 - The Ethnic Understanding Series
In 1971, THE ETHNIC UNDERSTANDING SERIES was produced for educational use and is one of the first educational materials created to exhibit Asian Pacific experiences and cultures. The series includes ASIAN AMERICAN PEOPLE AND PLACES, a set of human interest stories on Asian American topics, and EAST/WEST ACTIVITIES KIT, an elementary level packet filled with games, arts and crafts, and lessons on Asian American culture.
1972 - Alan Ohashi
Pictured here is VC co-founder Alan Ohashi as he teaches a darkroom class. Ohashi’s background as a visual artist and photographer informed his stewardship of the organization’s photographic exhibits and publication. Transitioning into architecture, Alan has run his interior and environmental design firm, Ohashi Designs, since the mid-1990s.
1973 - Eddie Wong, Bob Nakamura, and Alan Kondo
As project director Alan Kondo looks on, VC co-founders Eddie Wong and Robert Nakamura line up a shot while on a location shoot in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. The Éclair NPR, a heavy-duty 16mm camera that was standard-issue equipment from UCLA Film School, was a mainstay of many of VC’s pioneering motion picture documentaries throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.
1974 - I Told You So
Pictured here are Alan Kondo, Alan Ohashi, Robert Nakamura, and Duane Kubo lining up a shot during one of their Oregon location shoots for the documentary I TOLD YOU SO. The documentary weaves scenes of Japanese American poet and professor Lawson Inada’s life with his writing. Titled after one of his poems, I TOLD YOU SO follows Inada to Fresno, California for a childhood reunion.
1975 - Cruisin' J-Town
VC released Duane Kubo's CRUISIN' J-TOWN in 1975. The film is a documentary portrait of saxaphonist Dan Kuramoto, koto player June Okida Kuramoto, and percussionist Johnny Mori — members of the Asian American jazz fusion band Hiroshima. The film is acknowledged as a true classic of Asian American cinema, and offers an intimate glimpse into the world of the sansei (third-generation Japanese American) generation. This highlight excerpt from the film (Kubo's UCLA Thesis project) follows the three as they recount their efforts to meld their art into their ongoing search for identity and meaning; and is highlighted by a cross-cultural jam session between members of Hiroshima and the Chicano performing arts company El Teatro Campesino.
1976 - Wataridori: Birds of Paradise
Robert Nakamura's WATARIDORI: BIRDS OF PASSAGE stands as one of the quintessential documentary portraits celebrating the legacy of the issei, or first-generation Japanese Americans. It had the distinction of being presented at The White House in 1976 as part of America's Bicentennial festivities, and is still an unequalled study of early Asian American community-building. This excerpt from the 38 minute film couples the perspectives of three issei elders with copious images from Visual Communications' Asian Pacific American Photographic Archive and additionally bridges generations as depicted in scenes from the Manzanar Pilgrimages and the Asian American Wildflower tour.
1977 - In Movement: A Pictorial History of Asian America
Project-directed by Alan Ohashi and written by historian Franklin Odo, IN MOVEMENT: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICA was Visual Communications' first major pursuit into book publication. The book is a visual journey through the extension of the Asian American experience from past to present, watching people work, build, laugh and cry; struggling and settling in the United States. The pictures and stories of Asian Americans bring out what is common to each of our histories and shares the lessons of the past to create a more equitable and compassionate society.
1978 - Omai Fa'atasi: Samoa Mo Samoa
Directed by Takashi Fujii, OMAI FA'ATASI: SAMOA MO SAMOA was released by VC in 1978. Centered around the Carson, CA-based youth development center of the same name, OMAI FA'ATASI: SAMOA MO SAMOA weaves interviews with youth organizer Simi Potasi and others to present a portrait of a unique Southern California community whose family and spiritual values are challenged by the pitfalls of contemporary American culture. This excerpt from the 30-minute broadcast video program introduces Potasi as he provides a capsule history of the growth of the Samoan American community in Los Angeles' South Bay region, and reveals the many challenges facing Samoan youths and young adults.
1978 - Manong
Directed by Linda Mabalot, MANONG (1978) was one of the first VC productions produced using industrial video technology, and signaled a transition from celluloid-based film production for the organization. The manong were the first wave of Filipinos who came to the United States to find work. MANONG dramatically portrays their lives as captured in the writings of Carlos Bulosan, unveiling the manongs‘ contribution to America’s agricultural and service industries and the struggle to build a Filipino community. MANONG tells the stories of their decades in the farmland and canneries on the West Coast and the effects of the bachelor society that lingers today.
1979/1980 - Hito Hata: Raise the Banner
Duane Kubo and Robert Nakamura's HITO HATA: RAISE THE BANNER (1980) is VC's first foray into long-form narrative filmmaking. With production starting in 1979, the story is led by a cast including legendary APA acting luminaries as Mako, Pat Morita, and Yuki Shimoda, drew upon the realities of Little Tokyo redevelopment struggles throughout the 1970s and the displacement of longtime Japanese American residents as gentrification set in. This excerpt from the 94 minute film depicts the first meeting of Oda (Mako) and Tatsumi (Hiroshi Kashiwagi), two Issei laborers, during the 1934 Nisei Week Grand Parade. To execute this scene and others like it throughout the film required the consent and goodwill of local Little Tokyo businesses to allow street closures of Little Tokyo to allow filming — a policy that was rarely granted by Little Tokyo businesses even today.
1981 - Quiet Thunder
Pictured here is an interior scene from QUIET THUNDER, an unfinished Visual Communications production produced by Linda Mabalot. The film was based on the book AMERICA IS IN THE HEART, a semi-autobiographical novel written by Filipino American immigrant poet, fiction writer, short story teller, and activist Carlos Bulosan.
1983 - The First Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
The first-ever edition of what would become the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival was held at the newly-opened Japan America Theatre, and was graced by the presence of Stephen Ning (shown with VC staffer Amy Kato), who hitch-hiked cross-country from New York City to premiere his featurette FRECKLED RICE.
1984 - Planting Roots
A large-scale photographic exhibit documenting the sixty-year history of Filipinos in California, PLANTING ROOTS was launched in 1984 and depicts the immigration of Filipinos, their contribution to California labor history, and the settlement of their communities from the 1920s through the 1960s. Informative text condensed from oral histories and academic research accompanies the photographs which are attractively mounted on free-standing display panels. The first pictorial display of its kind, PLANTING ROOTS eloquently captures the beginnings of Filipino American heritage for all ages.
1984 - Steve Tatsukawa
While not one of the four founders of Visual Communications, Steven Tatsukawa brought his interests in media making and social justice to the VC mix. Fondly referred to as the APA independent cinema community’s “Will Rodgers” for his earnest sense of humor, Tatsukawa produced many of VC’s late-1970s productions and served as Executive Director until his untimely passing at age 35 in 1984.
1985 - VC's 15th Anniversary
In 1985, Visual Communications turned 15! Pictured above (from left): Estella Figueroa, Kaz Takeuchi, Janice D. Tanaka, John Esaki, Linda Mabalot, and Amy Kato celebrated VC's anniversary in Little Tokyo with The Lack-a-Tones.
1986 - No Vacancy
News reporter Naomi Hirahara is assisted on location camera shooting techniques by Cheng-Sim Lim while making her documentary NO VACANCY as part of VC’s Filmmakers Development Program.
NO VACANCY is about how two Asian American middle-aged men, faced with the depletion of low cost housing, find ways to survive in downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo and Chinatown. This documentary is a poignant view of a segment of Asian American underclass rarely talked about.
1987 - John Esaki
John Esaki, former Visual Communications staffer, films a group of hopkido students as they go through their moves during production of a video project on Japanese American culture commissioned by the Los Angeles Children's Museum. Learn more about John Esaki here.
1988 - Education Is a Right
As part of the documentary APSU: EDUCATION IS A RIGHT, VC staff members Dean Hayasaka, Linda Mabalot, and Supachai Surongsain interview a young student activist at a regional meeting of the statewide Asian Pacific Student Union at CSULA.
The focus of this collaboration between activists/ filmmakers Linda Mabalot (MANONG) and Stann Nakazono (E-Z ROCK: ASIAN AMERICAN BREAKDANCER) is the rise of a new generation of Asian Pacific American student activists in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1978 Bakke Decision. Interviews with founders and activists involved with the statewide Asian Pacific Student Union (APSU), former student activists, educators, and local and national politicians paint the portrait of the next generation of Asian Pacific American activists and how grassroots activists began the long process towards empowerment and full participation in America’s social, cultural, and political processes.
1989 - Shimon
Pictured here is a scene from Kaz Takeuchi’s 1990 video documentary SHIMON, an examination of Japan’s alien registration laws and how they marginalize Japanese residents of Korean descent.
1990 - Claiming a Voice
Visual Communications held a world premiere screening of Arthur Dong's CLAIMING A VOICE: THE VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS STORY.
CLAIMING A VOICE is a one-hour documentary chronicling the first twenty years of Visual Communications. Combining interviews with clips from over twenty Visual Communications films, this video traces the important role alternative media played in the Asian American movement. CLAIMING A VOICE shows how one grassroots organization survived budget cuts, Hollywood, and the collective process of the sixties to control their own images. The stories of Visual Communications members along with those of jazz fusion band Hiroshima, poet Lawson Inada, and actors Pat Morita and Mako are among the many in this documentary which reflect personal commitments to claiming a voice in media.
1991 - ChiliVisions
A community institution since its founding in 1986, ChiliVisions, VC’s summertime fundraising event, included presentation of the Steve Tatsukawa Memorial Award, in honor of VC’s visionary former Executive Director. 1991 recipients Bill and Yuri Kochiyama are greeted by VC Boardmember Stephen Gong and Nobuko Miyamoto, founder of Great Leap, Inc.
1992 - Moving the Image
Visual Communications published MOVING THE IMAGE: ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICANS IN THE MEDIA, in collaboration with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. The publication is the first volume to document the remarkable body of film, video, and radio produced by Asian and pacific Americans from the 1960s to the 1990s. Fifty award-winning filmmakers, media artists, and writers speak firsthand to issues of generation and gender, ethnicity and nationality, which shape their imagery and identities.
1993 - Leslie Ito
Leslie Ito served as VC’s first-ever summer intern through the Getty Institute’s Multicultural Summer Internship Program. Following a stint as a grants analyst at the Ford Foundation in New York City, Leslie returned to LA to become VC’s program director and developed VC’s Armed With a Camera Fellowship for Emerging Media Artists in 2001. She then became Executive Director of Visual Communications until 2008. Leslie is currently the President and CEO of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center.
1994 - Ugat Pilipino: Filipino Roots
Produced by Visual Communications and the International Channel, UGAT PILIPINO takes the viewer on a tour showcasing the broad range of Filipino American culture as expressed through music, dance, film and the visual arts. UGAT PILIPINO spotlights performing arts groups BIBAK Dance Ensemble, World Kulintang Institute, Fil-Am Family Cultural Group, and Kayamanan ng Lahi; rapper Reggie Nuesca; painter Papo de Asis; and filmmaker Dan Tirtiwinata. While 32 these artists work in distinct disciplines, they share the common goal of reclaiming Filipino culture and sharing it with the next generations of Filipino Americans. UGAT PILIPINO is an insightful overview of the rich variety and scope of contemporary Filipino American culture.
1995 - Wong Kar-wai
The Man of the Hour, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai mugs for the camera while promoting his second feature CHUNGKING EXPRESS, which premiered at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in 1995.
1996 - VC Summer Interns
When Visual Communications summer interns finish a hard day at work, what do they do? Crash a Little Tokyo rock show! Clockwise, from upper left: Raina Lee, Patty Whong, Sudarat Musikawong, and Ruby Gomez.
1997 - Union Center of the Arts
Visual Communications found its current home at the Union Center of the Arts in 1997. Pictured here are Bill Watanabe, former Executive Director of Little Tokyo Service Center, and the late Linda Mabalot, former Executive Director of Visual Communications, as renovations began for the building.
1998 - Film Fest Honorary Committee
In this photo, Visual Communications Executive Director Linda Mabalot assembled Visual Communications' inaugural Film Festival Honorary Committee at Downtown LA’s ultra-exclusive California Club. Included in this portrait are VC board members Douglas Aihara, Yau Gene Chan, Duane Ebata, Akemi Kikumura, Casimiro Tolentino; actors Amy Hill, Beulah Quo, Garrett Wang; filmmakers Wenda Fong, Michael T. Uno; community activists Joel Jacinto, Edwin Qwoh, Edmund Soohoo, Cooke Sunoo; Film Festival co-directors David Magdael, Abraham Ferrer; and philanthropist Lilly V. Lee.
1999 - Heading East
Visual Communications’ most recent photographic exhibition, HEADING EAST, was commissioned for California’s 150th anniversary, to celebrate the impact of Asian Pacific American communities on the Golden State. The exhibition was accompanied by a traveling stage performance produced by East West Players.
2000 - VC's 30th Year
Visual Communications entered Y2K by turning 30 and organizing the 15th edition of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Gene Cajayon's THE DEBUT, a coming of age film featuring Dante Basco, premiered at the film festival.
2001 - No Doubt
Look who came to support director Anurag Mehta and brother Aalok at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival screening of AMERICAN CHAI in 2001? None other than the members of OC ska-punk band No Doubt (from left: Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal, and Gwen Stefani), who came up the freeway to join the festivities.
2003 - Past/Forward
Pictured here, filmmaker Erica Cho and actor Noriyuki "Pat" Morita are onstage at the Aratani Theatre as part of PAST/FORWARD, Visual Communications' tribute to recently-deceased Executive Director Linda Mabalot.
2005 - Future Rock Stars of America
In 2005, Visual Communications' Armed with a Camera fellow Grace Su produced her documentary "Future Rock Stars of America," featuring Far East Movement and Nemo. Watch the film above. Check out www.vconline.org/awc to learn about this year's 2017 AWC fellows.
2004 - Stand Up for Justice
As cinematographer Michael Chin checks the camera exposure, extras Steve and Patty Nagano await their moment during a pivotal scene in John Esaki’s STAND UP FOR JUSTICE (2004), a dramatized version of the story of Ralph Lazo, a Chicano from Boyle Heights who joined his Japanese American friends during relocation and internment during World War II.
2006 - Far East Movement
Far East Movement performed for The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in 2006, just before they blew up with their song "Round Round," featured in Justin Lin's FAST & FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT.
2007 - Finishing the Game
Did you know that part of FINISHING THE GAME, Justin Lin's mockumentary on Bruce Lee, was filmed at Visual Communications? This scene was shot in the downstairs area of the VC office! The film was also the Opening Night feature at the 2007 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
2008 - Armed with a Camera
Visual Communications' Armed with a Camera fellowship was started in 2002, to provide a space for up and coming Asian Pacific American media artists. Visual Communications works with the fellows for six months and provides special training, mentoring and networking opportunities, access to facilities and equipment, plus a cash stipend to create short films that will premiere at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
Above are the members from the 2008 Armed With a Camera Fellowship at the 2008 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (front row, from left): Lisa Nguyen, Rochelle Lozada, Jean Ho, AWC Mentor Ann Kaneko; (back row): Mark Villegas, Brian Wee, Kuang Lee, Tony Hoang, Suilma Rodriguez, and AWC coordinator Kennedy Kabasares.
Click here to learn more about AWC and VC's most recent class of fellows!
2009 - LAAPFF's 25th Anniversary
At the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in 2009, spoken-word artist Beau Sia poses with Tze Chun, the director of the Opening Night film CHILDREN OF INVENTION. The film took home the Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Feature-Length Narrative.
2010 - V for Vuvuzela
Inspired by the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Visual Communications interns Paola Mardo, Liezl-Anne Sarte, and Eliana Yoneda organized the annual summer intern screening “V for Vuvuzela!” The screening featured ten short films from the 2010 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and newer works by local LA artists.
2011 - Fast Five
Fast cars, street races, and heists gone wrong! The 5th film of the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, Justin Lin's FAST FIVE premiered on Opening Night at the 2011 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. In this photo, FAST FIVE actor Sung Kang poses with students from the Asian Youth Center, KW Lee Center for Leadership, and La Puente High School.
2012 - Tanabata Festival
In the summer of 2012, our Visual Communications interns created a kazari (Japanese decoration) for the 4th annual LA Tanabata Festival in Little Tokyo. Above are Charmaine, Kim, Jill, Christine, and Kyle with their kazari. The LA Tanabata Festival happens every year during the summer, so stay tuned for the next one!
2013 - Linsanity
LINSANITY, the documentary about the rise of basketball star Jeremy Lin as the first American of Chinese/Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, was screened during Opening Night of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The film was directed by Evan Jackson Leong, an Armed with a Camera Fellow from the class of 2003. He won the Remy Martin Emerging Filmmaker Award for the film.
2014 - Saving Face
For the 10th anniversary of the romantic comedy/drama SAVING FACE (2004), Visual Communications partnered with Angry Asian Man and Japanese American National Museum to screen the film. The screening was followed by a Q&A moderated by Angry Asian Man (Phil Yu) with director Alice Wu, producer Teddy Zee, and cast including Michelle Krusiec, Lynn Chen, and Brian Yang.
SYNOPSIS: A Manhattan surgeon faces pressure from her mother to find a nice man and settle down. What the mother doesn’t realize is that her daughter is gay. The film looks at the surgeon’s struggle to find balance between career, romance, and family expectations.
2015 - Celebrating Bruce Lee
Visual Communications celebrated Bruce Lee's 75th birthday by holding a screening of IN HIS OWN WORDS, a documentary featuring a collection of old interviews with Bruce Lee on his beliefs and martial arts. The film was followed by an intimate conversation with Bruce’s daughter Shannon Lee and goddaughter Diana Lee Inosanto (pictured above) as they reflected on Bruce’s impact in their own lives and his continuing legacy worldwide.
2016 - Thank You!
We hope you've enjoyed all the images we've shared #FromtheVCVault! To cap off the last year, the Visual Communications staff (from left: Francis Cullado, Rachelle Samson, Milton Liu, Susan Soohoo, Dorothy Xiao, Abraham Ferrer, and Chanel Kong) would like to thank you for being with us through the years. Please continue to support us by making a $50 donation before the end of 2016!