Young dancers are shown as part of a Nisei Week ondo in a scene from “Little Tokyo 1930s Home Movie,” a compilation of home movies by Akira Kawasaki. (Visual Communications Photographic Archive)
A pair of revealing silent home movies from the 1930s and early 1970s that illuminate the growth and vitality of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo will be screened as part of Takachizu, a unique ongoing pop-up exhibition space organized by +Lab, a creative community development strategy of the Little Tokyo Service Center, and curated by Visual Communications, the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts center.
“Community Treasures, Then and Then,” set for Friday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the Vida Group, 249 S. Los Angeles St. (between Second and Third streets), is a special program organized by Visual Communications that showcases works that have been digitized from original 16mm film prints in a unique partnership with the California Audio/Visual Preservation Project (CAVPP). It is presented in conjunction with Takachizu, a Sustainable Little Tokyo project initiated by +Lab to create a community gathering space to identify, reflect and preserve that which is valued in the Little Tokyo community.
“These days, most people place little value in dusty home movies that this parent or that uncle shot as a hobby with that movie camera gifted to them during the holidays,” said Abraham Ferrer, Visual Communications exhibitions director. “I beg to differ with that notion. Home movies are perhaps the most democratizing and accessible means for people from underserved communities to make known the richness and vitality of our lives in America.
“We’re excited to share these rare home movies with the public, and to have Alan Nishio — an original member of VC’s board of directors and longtime friend of the organization and of the Little Tokyo community — and guests host the program and share their reminiscences and observations on the building of a uniquely Southern California community at distinctly different periods of the 20th century.”
The program will include two works from VC’s archive, restored and digitized by CAVPP’s California Light and Sound Collection, that spotlight local history through audio and visual materials:
• Composed of home movie footage of pre-World War II Los Angeles shot by Akira Kawasaki between 1934 and 1942, “Little Tokyo 1930s Home Movie” spotlights the Little Tokyo neighborhood and Los Angeles Harbor, with rarely glimpsed footage of Downtown Los Angeles night traffic, the annual Nisei Week Parade, ships at the harbor, and neighborhood construction. The internegative used to create this film was obtained through a restoration process performed on the original 1930s 16mm film.
• “Downtown L.A. Community Health Day” (1971) captures the first community health day held by community organizers and nonprofit workers for residents in the Downtown Los Angeles area, specifically Weller Court in Little Tokyo. This recording features individuals who have since become fixtures of the Little Tokyo community.
Throughout the screening of both films, Alan Nishio — a Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and Little Tokyo Service Center board member and retired associate vice president for the Division of Student Services at CSU Long Beach — and other special guests will provide live storytelling and commentary, and invite audience members to share their memories of Little Tokyo.
Takachizu will open its doors beginning at 5:30 p.m. for treasure sharing and documenting prior to the screening program. Guests with items and/or memories of value to Little Tokyo — stories, images, objects, pictures, flyers, artifacts, histories, and other related materials — are invited to bring those items with them. Details about Takachizu can be found at: http://bit.ly/2dtkk8K; a sampling of items documented so far can be viewed at: http://takachizu.tumblr.com/