Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice

A film by Pat Saunders and Rea Tajiri

1994 | 57 minutes | Color | DVD | Order No. 99201


Yuri Kochiyama was a Japanese American woman who lived in Harlem for more than 40 years and had a long history of activism on a wide range of issues. Through extensive interviews with family and friends, archival footage, music and photographs, YURI KOCHIYAMA chronicles this remarkable woman’s contribution to social change through some of the most significant events of the 20th century, including the Black Liberation movement, the struggle for Puerto Rican independence, and the Japanese American Redress movement. In an era of divided communities and racial conflict, Kochiyama offered an outstanding example of an equitable and compassionate multiculturalist vision.


“Finds a shared identification with both younger and older generations of activists.”

Abraham Ferrer In Focus, Visual Communications


  • Women in the Director’s Chair
  • San Francisco Asian American Film Festival


Rea Tajiri

REA TAJIRI is a filmmaker and visual artist who was born in Chicago, Illinois. She earned her BFA and MFA degree from the California Institute of the Arts in post-studio art. Her ground-breaking, award-winning film, digital video and installation work, has been supported by numerous grants, fellowships and artistic residencies, has been exhibited widely in museums, on television and in international film festivals.

Poetic, subtly layered and politically engaged, her work advances the exploration of forgotten histories, multi-generational memory, landscape and the Japanese American experience. Her experimental documentary History and Memory; for Akiko; Takashige, and feature film Strawberry Fields have influenced a generation of filmmakers, leading to their inclusion in Asian American, Cinema Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies curricula in the US.

Her recent multi-site installation project Wataridori-birds of Passage (2018) in Philadelphia mapped and enlivened forgotten traces of local Japanese American history linked in a series of locations around the city. Her feature documentary Lordville (2014) probed the
material and immaterial traces of an upstate New York town’s history. Her current documentary-in-progress is Wisdom Gone Wild. The film chronicles her sixteen year journey of elder care for her mother who had dementia, and illuminates their lifelong passion for the arts and the language of the elders.

Recent honors include: Pew Fellowship in the Arts; Fogo Island Arts Residency; Banff Centre for the Arts, Leighton Studio Residency; Asian Arts Initiative 25th Anniversary Commission; Vice Provost Arts Grant, Temple University.

Honors: Ringleader, True/False Film Festival 2019; Juror, Blackstar Film Festival, Experimental Shorts 2019; Documentary

Shorts, 2018; Juror, AnnArbor Film Festival, 2018, Commission Asian Arts Initiative, 25th Anniversary, 2018; POV Selection Committee, 1996;

Awards: IDA Distinguished Achievement Award, 1992; Best Experimental Video, Atlanta Film Festival, 1992; Jury Prize: New Genres, San Francisco International Film Festival, Grand Prix, Fukuoka Asian International Film Festival 1998,

Grants; Fellowships: Nominee, Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (2019); Pew Project Grant (2018), Center for Asian American Media Documentary Award (2016, 2018), Pew Fellowship (2015), NYFA Fellow (1989, 1999), Rockefeller Intercultural Media Arts Fellow (1992, 1999) , New York State Council for the Arts (1989, 1992, 1998) , National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellow (1989, 1993), NEA Media Production Grant (1990,1993), Art Matters Inc (1989,1995), ITVS ProductionGrant (1992) ITVS Diversity Development Fund (2016), VP Arts Grant (2014, 2018), Presidents Arts and Humanities Grant (2016, 2017)

Learn more: Wisdom Gone Wild and Rea Tajiri on IMDB (2/20)


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