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)
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!