Comment

LA Times: Strong women in front of the camera inspire the filmmaker behind it

12605360_10103802822854345_4901054039961675293_o.jpg

By Jessica Q. Chen

Tani Ikeda is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and co-founder of imMEDIAte Justice, a nonprofit that connects with young women from underserved communities and allows them to tell stories through film. On Jan. 28, after President Trump made his first executive order restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, Ikeda and a film crew captured the LAX protests through the eyes of Japanese American Traci Ishigo and Muslim American Sahar Pirzada, two young women standing together in solidarity against Islamophobia.

Q. How did you get into filmmaking?

I was so inspired by the possibility of becoming a filmmaker, which at the time as a teenager was a little bit of a trap. I applied to USC film school and was accepted. And after school, I was a camera assistant on music video sets and worked my way up to directing music videos and commercial projects.

This past year and a half, I pivoted into documentaries because I still felt very called to tell the under-told stories from my community and marginalized communities.

Q. I see a lot of your subjects or topics tend to be about strong women. Is there a theme to the stories you tell?

My experience has been that the people on the frontlines right now doing the work are all women of color. Not to say that there aren’t men doing good work, but I think if you look at the movement moment right now, particularly Black Lives Matter, the leadership is primarily queer women of color, black women and trans folks. In Standing Rock and undocumented communities across the border, we see real leadership coming from women.

Q. So how did you find those two characters from this film, and how did you decide to follow them?

I’d known about the work of Vigilant Love. It’s this coalition of organizers both from the Japanese American community and Muslim American community who have been building solidarity since 9/11. What was really amazing to me about the friendship between Traci and Sahar is an action like the LAX protests happened instantaneously, and that’s what people saw. But behind the scenes, the people who were building the infrastructure for a direct action had been building together for years. And they had a trust and rapport and a love for one another that was so deep, that you could turn on a dime and create mass action

A friend introduced me to Traci the day before the LAX protests, and then I met Sahar. So I was really lucky to find them. I was there in the morning, when they were nervous and unsure if anyone would show up, and it was amazing to really see how the day unfolded. I think for me, documenting that moment when there were thousands of people at LAX, I became really aware of the fact that if people had shown up for Japanese Americans in the same way, our community would not have been incarcerated. At the time, there was this media turnout of fear, and our neighbors were too afraid of us to stand up for us. I think there’s a lot of parallels now between the Johnson-Reed Act and Trump’s executive order today.

Q. How do you find a good story?

A lot of times it’s finding somebody who has the generosity of spirit to really allow you into their lives. The other thing that I’m finding is, oftentimes people are drawn to really aggressive storylines, really masculine, action-packed stories. I’ve always gravitated toward the stories of women of color, but I’ve also struggled with knowing how to tell those stories because I’ve grown up being told that our stories don’t matter. So just by sitting and bearing witness to the stories of women, started to put me into a rhythm where I’m finding value in stories that maybe a number of people have overlooked, and then they’re able to see these women in the same ways that I see them, which is full of love.

So many documentaries have this sterile, colonial gaze at their subjects, and it’s almost like looking through the view of an anthropologist. I think documentaries have the ability to gaze at their subjects with love the way you would look at somebody who’s a lover. And so for me, it’s really about honoring the real relationships that exist between me and people in my community, and that feels different to audiences because we’re not photographed, filmed in that same loving gaze.

Q. You came from music videos to working on documentary. What do you like about the documentary work that you do now, and do you feel your past work has helped you develop your aesthetics now?

I’m really inspired by films like “The Act of Killing” that understand that audiences are sophisticated enough to know that introducing a camera actually changes the story in the equation. So I think it’s really more self-reflective in documentary. Having a background in music videos and really thinking about curating visuals is something that I also bring to the table for a documentary because your subjects are actually more like your collaborators because they’re agreeing to tell a story with you. So the way you’re framing things, the way you’re setting up your shots, I think there’s a certain lyrical quality that is maybe a bridge from music videos.

I shot this documentary in Beijing, China, about a farmer and his wife during the harvest. I tried to film it like I would a feature narrative in how I set up the shots. So the aesthetics are really important to me because I think our stories deserve to be elevated.

Q. I think there's something really special about the idea of women of color leading these protests and featuring young women filmmakers of color, like yourself. What does that mean to you?

It’s sort of like this self-reflective process. When you see images of what you can become, it’s this pathway into the future of what’s possible. And if you’re documenting it, it’s almost like you’re showing an audience a way forward at the same time that you’re uncovering the brilliance of what’s already happening, what our communities are already doing and validating that that’s what’s happening.

Q. Do you have any advice for young filmmakers?

Really lean into your own perspective and trust that it has a lot of value. I spent the first half of my filmmaking career trying to prove that I can be commercially viable and create work that was “accessible,” only to discover that the best way forward was for me to be myself.

People at times thought I was too rough around the edges and too politically charged. And now in this moment, I’m so happy to be telling these stories in collaboration with people. This moment is really asking for more of those stories.

If people can lean into the things that they love, that they believe in, that is the best way forward.

I made a lot of experimental films as a teenager in my early 20s and then tried to talk myself out of it because I convinced myself that nobody wanted to see those films. And now, with some of my friends who are younger, I tell them they should absolutely be making weird experimental films, and those films will absolutely stand out because they won’t look like anything else.

I think it’s also important to allow yourself in this political moment to stay angry and let yourself be affected, let yourself be heartbroken by everything that’s going on. Allow yourself to be shocked because it’s so easy to normalize the violence that’s occurring. And as storytellers, it is our job to continue to feel all of it and to turn those into stories that allow other people to feel what it is to be alive in this moment.

See documentary and full LA Times article here: http://www.latimes.com/visuals/framework/la-me-fw-filmmaker-anti-muslim-ban-20170420-story.html

Comment

Comment

Read the Beautiful Love Letters Sexual Assault Survivors are Writing to Themselves

14717068_10104490104965485_8622225822913015291_n.jpg

By Julie Zeilinger

There are many misconceptions about what it's like to be a sexual assault survivor. One particularly harmful assumption is that survivors are affected by their experience only in the immediate wake of trauma. Every survivor's experience is different, but many will agree that healing is an ongoing process. Media justice organizer and filmmaker Tani Ikeda is addressing this reality with her powerful new project, Survivor Love Letter.

Started on Valentine's Day, "#Survivorloveletter was an act of defiance, a declaration of self love and a call to allies to honor the survivors in their lives," Ikeda told Mic via email. "I imagined what it would mean for my younger self to wake up on Valentine's Day and read message after message of public support for surviving. That's when I knew I wanted to create #survivorloveletter." 

The Survivor Love Letter Tumblr catalogs survivors' declarations of self love and allows others to honor survivors in their lives. Storytelling in the form of letter writing, Ikeda wrote in a post announcing the project, allows individuals to "reflect on the ways we heal ourselves and our communities."

Valentine's Day has always been a triggering time for Ikeda. Ikeda told Mic that a week before the launch, she wrote in her journal, "After surviving my rape I spent 10 more years surviving chronic depression and a perpetual feeling that I had to continue to fight for my life. This is my survivor love letter. Don't give up on your own happiness."

As a PTSD sufferer, Ikeda said that while she is able to function in her daily life she still feels pain that's "always there like a humming in the background," and that "healing doesn't look the way I thought it would." Survivor Love Letter enabled her to talk about what survivorship really looks like.

"I don't want to perpetuate the myth that the violence you've experienced turns you into a superhero," she said. "This survivor narrative is too simplistic and renders all the days I can't get out of bed invisible. My desire is to paint an honest and complex picture of healing; one that we can still celebrate and share with others. I hope sharing our real stories makes other people feel that there is no one right way to heal."

Ikeda also teamed up with activist Suey Park to launch the hashtag #survivorloveletter on Valentine's Day, and soon others joined in to spread the love.

While Ikeda has received an overwhelming show of support from survivors through social media, the most memorable part of the experience, she said, was when she invited friends and survivors from the online community to her apartment to read their letters out loud. "There was such generosity in people's sharing and a more intimate quality to storytelling in person," she said.

Valentine's Day has passed, but survivors benefit from love and support every day of the year. "Even though the intent was to send love to survivors on a day that is particularly triggering for a lot of us, I hope that people continue to submit their letters of love on the Tumblr and use the hashtag as a daily declaration of self love," Ikeda said. "I love the idea of people starting their own #survivorloveletter writing circles in their apartments with friends, in college dorms, within reproductive justice organizations."

Help Ikeda "flood the internet with love for survivors," as she puts it, and submit your own #survivorloveletter. Let the survivors of the world know that not only are they believed, not only are they supported — they are loved. 

See Article on Mic.com here: https://mic.com/articles/110868/read-the-powerful-love-letters-sexual-assault-survivors-are-writing-to-themselves#.BKa6qiHRx

Comment

Comment

LA Times: Mural of rare yellow-billed cuckoos is a mix of social commentary and environmental conservation

photography by Tani Ikeda

photography by Tani Ikeda

By Louis Sahagun

The rare yellow-billed cuckoo is a shy, slender, long-tailed bird that migrates from Central America in spring to breed in streamside forests that once thrived throughout Southern California.

And that got some female high school students and two art instructors at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s Academic Leadership Community in downtown Los Angeles thinking about developing a mural about federally threatened species and people who come from as far away as Central America in search of a better life.

4:30 a.m.: A previous version of this article stated that the mural was created by high school students at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s Academic Learning Community in Los Angeles. The group's name is the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s Academic Leadership Community.

photography by Tani Ikeda

photography by Tani Ikeda

 

What they produced over the next year and a half with research, photographs, stencils, spray paint and house paint on a huge wall overlooking the school’s basketball courts is a mix of female empowerment, social commentary and environmental conservation.

The 25-foot-by-75-foot work uses vivid color portraits of the birds and the girls’ faces as metaphors and symbols to open lines of enquiry into the intersections between urban and wild, local and displaced, migration corridors and international borders.

Artist Jess Chen helped high school students at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in Los Angeles develop a mural featuring rare yellow-billed cuckoos.

Through it all, art instructors Tani Ikeda, 29, and Jess X. Chen, 24, and their students and assistants -- Karen Diaz, Cindy Francisco, Jennifer Gonzalez, Lesly Gonzalez-Renoj, Kenia Lopez-Chavez, Linda Lozano, Laura Pastor-Lopez, Daisy Perez-Chavez, Brenda Rivas, Daniela Rosales, Elizabeth Sanchez, Lizbeth Sanchez-Lopez, Mariso Valentin Escobar, Jacqueline Marybeth Rauls, Nina Lee, Alexa Strabuk, Natascha Heckers, Thaynara Fernandes de Silva and Thea Ulrich -- developed strong personal bonds.

“At first, I thought it would just be cool to have my picture on the wall,” said Linda Lozano, 16, a junior at Miguel Contreras and an aspiring architect. “Then I learned about the bird’s life cycles, and the reasons why immigrants come here from Mexico and Central America.”

Art instructors and high school students gather in front of their new mural of yellow-billed cuckoos at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in downtown Los Angeles.

“We related all that to our own families, friends -- and all of Los Angeles,” she added. “Then it hit me: Dang, that’s our story up there on that wall.”

An unveiling ceremony of the mural, which was funded by the Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Mural Project, will take place on Thursday, April 21.

On Tuesday, the group gathered at the mural to exchange high-fives and apply finishing touches of paint on the birds and self-portraits.

Photography by Tani Ikeda

Photography by Tani Ikeda

 

“This project required a lot of hard work and soul searching,” Ikeda, who founded an after-school nonprofit program for young women called ImMEDIAte Justice, said. “But it was worth it. We could not be more proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

Giving the students hovering over the gleaming images an approving nod, Chen added, “We’re telling a powerful story on t.his wall, and it will be here forever.

See LA Times article here: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-la-me-endangered-cuckoo-mural-20160419-story.html

Comment

Comment

Wonder Women Won An Emmy

21150024_10102885724177787_205147990594058802_n.jpg

We just won an Emmy! Thank you to my family, friends, and community for uplifting my voice as a filmmaker. I will continue to fight for us and work to create a world that sees and values our stories. Big congrats to the entire Wonder Women team for the #Emmy win. Every single one of you poured your sweat and creative vision into this project. This win is for all of us!

Comment

Comment

Hallmark's Documentary TV Series Wonder Women Premieres

43483-1413293798706.jpeg

Had the honor of directing the pilot and final episodes of the new Hallmark documentary series Wonder Women which features amazing women from around the world. I got to travel to Japan and India to collaborate with women to bring their stories to life on screen. It was a real honor to participate in this project.

Comment

imMEDIAte Justice Fundraiser & Screening

Comment

imMEDIAte Justice Fundraiser & Screening

10496943_10103312723327725_1558543965868817505_o.jpg

We've had a dynamite year at imMEDIAte Justice, our film camp for high school girls. Firstly, youth from the Academic Leadership Community created a badass film about street harassment. Their work was featured in the Huffington Post, Daily Mail, and Mic. It screened at the imMEDIAte Justice Comedy for a Cause fundraiser featuring Laura Kightlinger, Chelsea Peretti, Iliza Shlesinger, Eliza Skinner, Janine Brito, Helen Hong, Jenny Yang + D'Lo! The Ladies of Comedy Association (LOCA) sponsored the event at the Hollywood Improv and the house was packed! It was such a great night of girl filmmaking and feminist comedy. What more could one ask for.  

Comment

Photo shoot for Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine

Comment

Photo shoot for Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine

11164726_10103163409668495_5217570761172855364_o.jpg

Had a great time photographing Chelsea Jackson &  Pia Schiavo-Campo for Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine hitting stands at  Whole Foods Market today! It was my first time shooting for a print magazine spread. Appreciate Melanie Klein's Yoga and Body Image Coalition for promoting yoga that is accessible, body positive and celebrates more gender queer & people of color bodies that we don't often see in magazines like this! 

Comment

#SurvivorLoveLetter

Comment

#SurvivorLoveLetter

16708350_10104882132663835_3064887775245286040_n.jpg

Healing from abuse has taught me to believe in magic. How else would we be able to alchemize violence into a loving vision of hope? 

A few days before Valentine's Day -- the anniversary of my rape -- I thought about all the times I had wanted to end my life. But this time, I decided to write myself a love letter. This radical act of self-love was the start of a letter-writing project called Survivor Love Letter. 

I wrote in my journal: "After surviving my rape, I spent 10 more years surviving chronic depression and a perpetual feeling that I had to continue to fight for my life. This is my survivor love letter. Don't give up on your own happiness."

I reached out to women of color activists such as Suey ParkLisa Factora-BorchersPatrisse Cullors as well as friends who were healing from abuse and in doing so, envisioning a world free of violence. Valentine's Day kicked off #SurvivorLoveLetter, and we flooded the Internet with love for survivors on twitter and tumblr

Survivor Love Letter is a declaration of self-love and a call to allies to honor the survivors in our lives. I imagined what it would have meant for my younger self to wake up on Valentine's Day and read message after message of public support for surviving. 

Healing doesn't look the way I thought it would. I used to feel that my chronic pain was an example of how I had failed to get better. I am starting to embrace the more complex narrative of my healing. It's not linear. It's not graceful. Healing does not mean fixing who I have become. 

Survivor Love Letter enables us to talk about what survivorship really looks like. Through this growing collection of love letters, maybe we can build strategies for the ways we heal ourselves and our communities. I hope sharing our real stories makes other people feel that there is no one right way to heal. 

See my article on The Huffington Post and other articles about #survivorloveletter in Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Mic, Telegraph, Upworthy, The Huffington Post, Bust, A+, Huffpo Women, Feministing.     

Comment

Angry Reader of the Week

Comment

Angry Reader of the Week

What's up, good readers? Once again, it's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Tani Ikeda.


Who are you?

Tani Ikeda, but my closest friends call me Tani Appleseed because when I was a kid, I would save all my apple seeds from lunch apples, put them in my pocket, and plant them. I grew this tiny, tiny, apple tree in my room when I was seven. My mom thought that I was so strange! So oftentimes, I find myself being the person who plants the seed of ideas for little movements to start germinating. Or at least at this point in my life I'm planting the seeds.

What are you?

I am a fourth generation Japanese American, queer filmmaker who directs music videos, documentaries, and narrative projects. I am also the co-founder and executive director of imMEDIAte Justice, a nonprofit that teaches girls filmmaking and comprehensive sex ed.

Where are you?

I am at my Venice Beach apartment, sitting next to a very sleepy pitbull named Yuki.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in a political Seattle community. In high school, I wrote my senior thesis about Asian-American women and how we are negatively affected by the media. The conclusion of my essay was, "I know that no one in Hollywood is going to create strong, positive stories about Asian-American women, so I'm going to do it myself!" It was at that point that a lot of my ideas and political framework started to build, and I realized some kind of revolution was necessary.

What do you do?

When I was 21 I co-founded an organization called imMEDIAte Justice that put cameras in the hands of young, queer women of color to tell their own stories of reproductive justice. We started off as a grassroots collective that envisioned a world were girls that had so often been pushed to the margins could become the storytellers of their own lives and sow the dreams our communities needed to be freer.

This past year, we have grown into a thriving organization that is working with The Los Angeles Unified School District. We have also run workshops in Beijing China, Kampala Uganda, Dindigul India and across the U.S. We've trained over 1,000 girls in feminist film production and partnered with Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, Forward Together and other organizations on the frontlines of the fight for reproductive justice. While we’ve expanded, we've also deepened our politics and developed a curriculum that has been published in a new book about the future of media literacy called, "By Any Media Necessary." More importantly we've had the privilege of watching IMJ girls use their voice and filmmaking skills to realize their wildest, most impossible dreams. They've gotten accepted to the top film schools in the country, spoken to the mayor, gotten queer sex ed into Oakland high schools, and had life changing conversations with their mothers about sexuality.

It can be tough working as a filmmaker and also a grassroots nonprofit director so if you are feeling generous please consider donating to keep our imMEDIAte Justice programs going strong!

What are you all about?

I am interested in how those who have been dehumanized and marginalized within the cultural narrative can recast themselves as human. I am interested in the healing and restorative nature of story and how changing the story around our lives and our people changes the future. My grandfather was incarcerated during World War II. When I was a little girl, he used to tell me over a bottle of Sapporo, "The government rounded our family up like cattle and then expected us to prove our loyalty as Americans by dying for this country." Although I was very young at the time, the choked down pain I heard in his voice transmuted something deep and engrained inside of me. It was a story of my family's struggle and our history. I've written about my grandfather throughout my life and am currently working on a documentary film about him. My grandfather's story has been my compass for locating the necessity to tell untold stories.

What makes you angry?

My anger is a response to racist attitudes and to the actions that arise out of those attitudes. Being Asian American means a lot of different things today. As author Eric Liu notes, "There are Asian Americans who are out numbering other demographics in college and at the same time there are still many Asian Americans who are struggling under the radar of that narrative." It makes me frustrated that often times only one dimensional portrayals of Asian Americans in the media exist and my hope is that we can start bringing in some more of that rich complexity.
 

Comment

Tani Ikeda: Sex-Ed Trendsetter

Comment

Tani Ikeda: Sex-Ed Trendsetter

22090116_10105653521664095_2001093190711947094_n.jpg

For many of us, sex education consisted of half-truths whispered in the school cafeteria or movies in health class that suggested abstinence and heterosexuality were our only options. In 2009 Tani Ikeda, a new graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) film program, posed the question What would happen if young women took sexual health education into their own hands? 

The answer was ImMEDIAte Justice, a summer program that Ikeda, along with cofounders Sylvia Raskin and Laney Rupp, created for young women in South Central and East Los Angeles that teaches media literacy and sexual health through filmmaking. Participants learn to write, direct, and film their own sex-ed videos with a “for youth by youth” philosophy.  

In 2010 the program focused on issues of sexual orientation and the LGBT community. In the 2009 film Mariposa, student filmmaker Espie Hernandez chronicles her experience as a lesbian Latina planning her quinceañera, a coming-of-age ceremony for 15-year-old girls. The poignant short, filled with the painful complexities of family and the honesty of youth, earned recognition at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York—a thrill for both the filmmaker and a proud Ikeda. 

Ikeda is no stranger to women-centered activism. In 2006 she cofounded the Women’s Creative Collective for Change at USC with Marissa Sellers. The feminist group’s weekly potluck dinners continue to provide a safe, inspired space where women can share ideas.  

ImMEDIAte Justice aims to provide teenagers with an equally comfortable space, where they can develop the ability to educate peers with powerful stories. The program has gained national attention, earning grants from DoSomething.org and the Pepsi Refresh Project. 

“Through ImMEDIAte Justice we’re reclaiming our bodies and our stories,” says Ikeda. “Now we’re the ones holding the cameras.” 

Extras:


Read more: http://www.utne.com/politics/utne-reader-visionaries-tani-ikeda-immediate-justice.aspx#ixzz3MWuRSpsZ

Comment

Creating a Vision Through Her Lens

Comment

Creating a Vision Through Her Lens

12002509_10103518408058875_7827690285700095435_o.jpg

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? In Tani Ikeda's case, it's creating films that offer a fresh take on sexuality education.

Ikeda, an award-winning director and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, has received early success and was named one of 25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World by the Utne Reader as she continues to foster media that matters.

With help from her best friends Sylva Raskin and Laney Rupp, they co-founded ImMEDIAte Justice, a summer workshop and community outreach program for girls devoted to revolutionizing sex education through filmmaking.

Their curriculum places an emphasis on body awareness, gender and sexuality. Topics include teaching self-examination, transgender-friendly anatomy and queer safe sex. Not your mama's sex ed class, right? Ikeda wouldn't have it any other way.

"For many of us, sex education consisted of half-truths whispered in the school cafeteria or movies in health class that suggested abstinence and heterosexuality as our only options," she explained.

Ikeda was born and raised in Seattle, which isn't Hollywood but is home to the WTO protests and a thriving activist community.

It was in Seattle where Ikeda first imagined using film to create change. "In high school I felt ashamed of my sexuality and invisible in the media as an Asian American girl."

She began writing about the hyper-sexualized media representations of Asian women: "Everyone who looked like me on television were either kung fu fighting bad guys or fetishized sex slaves and I aspired to be neither." Ikeda hungered for something more, and she promised herself she would go to Los Angeles to change that.

Most recently, Ikeda directed a music video for her idol, Margaret Cho, who has a Grammy nominated comedy album, Cho Dependent.

"Growing up, Margaret Cho was the only Asian American woman in the media who was fierce, funny, and unapologetic," she recalled. "Directing the music video for her song Asian Adjacent was a special nod to my 13-year-old self," she related. "It tackled classic Asian female stereotypes like the Dragon Lady and Lotus Blossom rendering them powerless through Cho's killer comedy."

With her program, ImMEDIAte Justice program, she teaches the girls how to write, direct and film their own sex-education videos, and that day she brought the girls on set to gain hands on experience. "The girls shadowed crew members, and it was inspiring to see them get exposure to filmmaking with such a powerhouse feminist."

Before she worked with celebrities like Cho and got imMEDIAte Justice off the ground, Ikeda attended school at the University of Southern California where she earned a bachelor's degree in film production. As a student at USC, she was selected to participate in the {Bill} Clinton Global Initiative Conference (CGIU) in Austin, Texas. At CGIU her commitment to action became ImMEDIAte Justice; she received seed funding from CGIU to begin work on her nonprofit.

Now, imMEDIAte Justice has received attention and support from many including CNN, NBC, Univision, DoSomething.org and The Pepsi Refresh Project. Ikeda and her staff have gone on to expand and offer summer camps on the Quinault Reservation, Uganda and China. Their network has reached more than 1,000 young women and continues to grow.

Ikeda hopes her work as a filmmaker and efforts with imMEDIAte Justice "will foster more spaces that center rather than marginalize the experiences of young women of color." She beamed, "imMEDIAte Justice is the type of community I always yearned for growing up. I hope it gives other young women the courage to speak with truth about their lives."

Programs like this, which embrace female sexuality and create empowering media images of women, contribute to the success of every girl. Without its existence, there are few opportunities for young women to create more accurate representations of themselves in media. And if more women see empowering images of themselves they can grow up to be the heroes they are waiting for.

Comment

Daily Brink Interview

Comment

Daily Brink Interview

43491-1413293797004.jpeg

If the rumors suggesting that a new Wonder Woman movie adaptation will be hitting theaters soon are true, then I have a perfect casting suggestion: Tani Ikeda. Back when she was interviewed this May, the 22-year-old was having a busy week: she had just won a $25K grant for her educational filmmaking program, “imMEDIAte justice” and had to get ready to work on Kylie Minogue’s new music video, “All the Lovers.” With her cutting-edge ideas about starting a revolution, the self-made Seattle native strives for a fairer world in which women gain more power in the movie industry, and in which filmmaking serves as a platform to drastically alter the current U.S. sexual education system.

 

Could you first introduce the readers to the concept of imMEDIAte justice?

 

imMEDIAte justice is an eight-week summer program which started last year in conjunction with the Institute for Multimedia Literacy and the USC film school where fifteen high school girls of color from underresourced communities were trained in media literacy, pixelization, animation, poetry — they were also introduced to industry professionals who critiqued their work and talked about what it meant to be a woman in the film industry. The concept really stemmed from a conversation with Laney Rupp and Sylvia Raskin in which we wondered what would happen if we were to empower young women of color and young queer youth instead of marginalizing them when talking about sexual education. What could other students learn from using a model that doesn’t create gender binaries or treat sexuality as a normative, cohesive, whole? My friend and I figured that film and media were the most efficient vessels for these girls to communicate important messages about youth and sexuality.

 

Congratulations on the Pepsi grant! How are the $25K going to help the program in the short and long term?

 

They’re going to make imMEDIAte justice a sustainable program and allow us to fully fund this summer’s eight-week program. Now we’re able to hire staff, most notably the first tier of young women from last summer who are being brought back as mentors on the project. We’re also going to be able to do a feature length about reproductive justice in America, which will be a teaching tool for students and a way for us to connect with key players in the justice movement.

 

So I take it that you have issues with the current sexual education provided to young students as well as gender equality in filmmaking, right?

 

Completely. As a teenager, I felt like my sex ed class addressed in no way sexual violence, or what it means to be queer, what is queer sex… As a woman, the message was all but liberating: “You’re going to get your period and sex will ruin your life.”

 

As an activist, you seem to put so much of yourself in your projects… How did your vision for a “revolution” really start?

 

In high school I wrote my senior thesis about Asian-American women and how we are negatively affected by the media: all the stereotypes, negative images… The conclusion of my essay was, “I know that no one in Hollywood is going to create strong, positive stories about Asian-American women, so I’m going to do it myself!” It was at that point that a lot of my ideas and political framework started to build and I realized some kind of revolution was necessary. Things could not stay the way they were. Whether I would be doing that working inside of the film industry or doing something more on the fringe with social organizing media… So flash forward four or five years, and I’m trying to do both simultaneously. It’s a bit of a balancing act sometimes because during the day I’m on the set of a music video shoot where there’s a lot of bling and huge mansions, cars, the girls, all of that, and then my other projects are programs like imMEDIAte justice where I work with inner-city youth from South Central and East Los Angeles and am teaching them about film, theory, media literacy, film production and sexual education so they can create their own media about their own experiences and share that with their peers.

 

Going back to filmmaking, what exactly are you doing for the new Kylie Minogue video?

 

We’ll be shooting tomorrow her new video called “All The Lovers,” and I was hired to be the A.C. (assistant camera).

 

How do you find the energy to be Wonder Woman and do a million things at once?

 

[laughs] Well, I don’t know about Wonder Woman, but I think that for the majority of my youth, I’ve felt shut down, silenced, and abused. And what I realized early on is that nobody is going to change that for you. So you have to do it yourself. You have to create the things, the programs and the communities that you want in the world.

 

How can our readers contribute to the success of imMEDIAte justice?

 

Since we’re going to be going through the application process for imMEDIAte justice staff members, we’re looking for individuals who might be interested in helping mentoring girls. If you have experience as an editor, cinematographer or animator, please contact me. Of course, we’re also accepting applications for the program — if you are a young woman of color with a passion for filmmaking, you might be a great candidate. We’re also looking for interns: if you ideally are a film production student, critical studies or a student at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy, we could get you some school credit for working with us.

 

You know, what I find incredible about your story is how you’ve constantly managed to inspire an impressive amount of people to support your projects and to create change…

 

Everything I’ve done has been in a collective and with the collaboration of others. Without a critical mass, you can’t start a revolution… which is what I’ve believed in since I was a little girl. In fact, my closest friends call me Tani Appleseed because when I was a kid, I would save all my apple seeds from lunch apples, put them in my pocket, and plant them. I grew this tiny, tiny, apple tree in my room when I was seven. My mom thought that I was so strange! [laughs] So oftentimes, I find myself being the person who plants the seed of ideas for little movements to start germinating. Or at least at this point in my life I’m planting the seeds. In a few years it might be Tani Applesprout or Tani Appletree.

 

I think you’re definitely not Tani Appleseed anymore!

 

I’ve graduated from the seed! Now onto the sprout level… [laughs]

Comment

The Stories Behind the Startups: Tani Ikeda, Clinton Global Initiative

Comment

The Stories Behind the Startups: Tani Ikeda, Clinton Global Initiative

43492-1413293796904.jpeg

What was the impetus behind creating your organization?

 

For many of us, sex education consisted of half-truths whispered in the school cafeteria or movies in health class that suggested abstinence and heterosexuality were our only options. In 2009, I was a student at the University of Southern California (USC) film school, and asked the question “What would happen if young women took sexual health education into their own hands?”

 

The answer was ImMEDIAte Justice, a summer program that my best friends Sylvia Raskin, Laney Rupp, and I created for young women in South Central that teaches media literacy and sexual health through filmmaking. Participants learn to write, direct, and film their own sex-ed videos with a “for youth by youth” philosophy.

 

How did CGI U help you in launching it?

 

CGI U gave imMEDIAte Justice the seed funding to launch our first summer camp for young women. It was a huge vote of confidence that what we were trying to create resonated with others. With our seed funding we bought our first canon 7D and final cut pro 7 editing software. It was a small beginning, but we were ecstatic and the CGI U staff shared our enthusiasm by providing an amazing platform for us to share our cause.

 

How has the road been for you and your organization since CGI U?

 

imMEDIAte Justice has received both incredible grassroots support and commercial sponsorship over the years. The program has gained national attention, earning grants from DoSomething.org and the Pepsi Refresh Project. In addition to our Los Angeles chapter, we have launched summer camps on the Quinault Reservation, Kampala, Uganda, and Beijing, China, impacting the lives of over 1,000 young women. The organization has been highlighted on CNN, NBC, Univision, and was nominated by the Utne Reader as one of the 25 Visionaries Changing Your World. We have been privileged to witness the process of young women on a global level reclaiming their bodies and their stories through film.    

 

CGI U aims to help future leaders develop, talk about what leadership means to you and your organization. 

 

Traditional forms of leadership prize those who immediately take control of a project and carry their team toward victory. It’s a model of winners and followers that creates a hierarchy of power. My best friends/co-founders of imMEDIAte Justice, Laney Rupp and Sylvia Raskin, have shown me a different kind of leadership model. While they both have the talent, intelligence, and ideas to be the type of charismatic leaders people follow, Sylvia and Laney work to create organizational structures that allow everyone to lead. Their form of leadership instills a self-motivated call to action in volunteers and youth. They have taught me to use my position of power to synthesize others’ ideas and facilitate collectively envisioning change. While traditionally speaking this may seem like a weakness, it has transformed individuals who felt powerless into communities with a deep and meaningful sense of purpose.

 

Any words of advice for college-aged people who want to launch a social start-up?

 

Our generation wants change to happen fast and our impact on the world to be huge, but it's the attention to the often, slow process that builds strong movements. Many motivated young people burn out as social entrepreneurs from the difficult reality of affecting sustainable change. Take the time to build a self-awareness and love that sustains transformation in communities of struggle and celebrates the little victories. Stay present and bares witness to the suffering of others while making room for the possibility of healing. 

Comment

Tani Ikeda: Feminist, Filmmaker, and Food Lover

Comment

Tani Ikeda: Feminist, Filmmaker, and Food Lover

0dff0c8b6ca5ec17916529aaa1f1c76f.jpg

The Mexi-Asian Persepective: A Mexican’s Guide to All Things Latin, Asian, or Both by David A. Romero

Not all people that you meet in college are created equal. Some are jocks, some are jerks, some are weirdoes, and some are people you don’t ever want to see again.

Tani Ikeda is definitely not one of those people. I had the pleasure of meeting Ikeda while studying at the University of Southern California. We were both film majors, but, as luck would have it, we didn’t actually meet in film school. She and I met through a network of USC activists. Ikeda was keeping busy then. She’s keeping busy now.

Tani Ikeda is an award-winning Japanese American filmmaker. Ikeda has toured film festivals all across the globe with the films Blue Sky, Other, and No Kill. She is also a committed activist, dedicated to the issues surrounding reproductive justice. To that end, Ikeda has created imMEDIAte Justice, a summer program for young women. Both Ikeda and imMEDIAte Justice have garned attention from the likes of NBC and UTNE.com.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Ikeda in Mercado La Paloma during LA’s new open mic The Nook to discuss both her film career and imMEDIAte Justice.

What is imMEDIAte Justice? Also, what was your inspiration for the name of the organization?
ImMEDIAte Justice is a summer program that empowers young women from LA to share their experience of reproductive justice through film. The youth write & direct films that offer a fresh take on sex ed. We work towards a vision of the world where all people have self-determination, power and resources to make their own decisions. And to answer your second question, I was talking to an older friend of mine about media justice who was hard of hearing and she leaned closer to me and said, “What did you say?! ImMEDIAte justice?” To which I responded, “Brilliant!” (laughs)

Click here to watch video feature on imMEDIAte Justice

What inspired you to create the film program, imMEDIAte Justice?
Young people are smart. We already are the leaders we’ve been waiting for. While schools and media work to mine our minds and bodies for their own benefit WE have to find creative solutions to get back our agency. Get back our stories. Reclaim our bodies. ImMEDIAte Justice uses filmmaking and pixilation animation to unshackle the imagination and tell youth stories about our true desires which break down the media, government and “organized desire” of corporations.

What do you mean by ”organized desire” exactly?
I think it’s an agreement of values and truths. What our society agrees is beautiful, what is natural, what is normal. “Organized desire” is a bit like the mafia or organized crime against anyone who does not conform to the norm.

In a video providing some of the highlights of imMEDIAte Justice’s Retreat 2010, I noticed that a large percentage of the young women participating in the media literacy training were Latinas. How has the issue of reproductive justice impacted this community? Are there any concerns unique to this community, or are they shared by Asians and other ethnic groups?
We really lucked out this year with the most amazing and talented group of youth from all over LA. There are 25 young womyn in the program, repping everywhere from East Los to Inglewood. The RJ (Reproductive Justice) stories that we talk about have come from our own lived experiences and many of us have struggled with religious persecution as well as very machismo men in our families dictating how a young woman should act.

You have won many awards in your short career as a filmmaker and had festival screenings from New York to Beijing as well as becoming one of the youngest director fellows at Film Independent.  What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Wow, um. . . that’s a hard question. (laughs) I’m really just getting started. I think the most valuable thing I’ve accomplished is “just showing up.” Just showing up in life is enough. I used to tell myself that when depression made it very difficult to get out of bed in the mornings and I tell it to myself now when I’m driving to an NBC interview or premiering a film. I feel the same, I feel small, not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, but I try to remember to just show up in my life anyway!

 

You have been a director, cinematographer, and a producer. What position on a film do you find the most fulfilling? Why?
Film is very much a collaborative effort. I think a great director knows how to do everything so she can speak the language of cameras and lighting and take care of the nuts and bolts of production. Indie filmmakers need a lot of self-determination in this business to get underrepresented stories on the screen so I think it’s important to know how to shoot, edit, mix, and distribute your film. When I am not directing I do specialize in the Cinematography and Camera Department.
 

Asian Latin fusion food has become a veritable phenomenon. Do you think that Asian Latin fusion food is just a passing trend, or the future?
Growing up, my grandma would make sembe out of baked chex mix and sugary soy sauce and it is yummy and a pretty funny Japanese American “Fusion” snack. I think real fusion happens when immigrant folks use the resources we have to create a bit of home in our bellies. I know Japanese Peruvians who own Japanese restaurants that serve spicy lime sashimi! I love LA because I can hit up a Korean BBQ Taco truck on the corner and that kind of Asian Latin fusion occurs in part because we are all here in LA living, loving, and eating together.

Who is your favorite Latino celebrity, historical figure, or fictional character?
I love Cherrie Moraga and everything she writes.

Would you rather date an Asian or someone of Latin descent?
(Laughs) What kind of question is that? Well, I suppose my honest answer is I would like to be with someone who loves and respects me. I don’t have a specific race or gender preference just someone who can cook me delicious food!

Any last words or shout outs?
Shout out to the imMEDIAte Justice Fam! You all are changing the world!

We’ve got a film screening at The National Center for the Preservation of Democracy: Tateuchi Democracy Forum, Saturday, December 4th. Come out and support!

 

Comment