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Karen Ishizuka, Japanese American National Museum Curator, Named To National Film Preservation Board

Los Angeles

Karen Ishizuka, media producer and Senior Curator at the Japanese American National Museum, was recently appointed by the Librarian of Congress to the National Film Preservation Board whose mission is to ensure the survival, conservation and increased public availability of America’s film heritage.

The board is composed of 40 members and alternates representing the film industry, archives, scholars and filmmakers. The board’s main duties are to advise on national film preservation planning issues and policies as well as the selection of films to the National Film Registry. Organizations such as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and the Directors, Screen Actors and Writers Guilds of America have representatives on the board.

“I am grateful to Dr. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, for recognizing the importance of non-Hollywood films such as documentaries and amateur films as being a significant part of our visual cultural history and for believing I can help fulfill the board’s mission,” Ishizuka said.

A long-time advocate of amateur film footage as a significant cultural and historic resource, Ishizuka was spotlighted by David Francis, Chief of Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress for having “single-handedly reminded archivists of the importance of the amateur film and shown us how it can be used to document specific aspects of life in the Twentieth Century.”

Ishizuka has written and spoken internationally on the significance of amateur film and has produced and written three award-winning productions specifically featuring home movies. The highlight of her work occurred last year when one of the home movies she originally archived and featured was inducted into the National Film Registry. Called “the biggest surprise” of the list by the Hollywood Reporter, the footage, taken at the World War II U.S. concentration camp at Topaz, Utah where Japanese Americans were unconstitutionally held, was only the second home movie to be named to the list of culturally, historically and aesthetically important American films. The first home movie named to the list was the Zapruder film of President Kennedy’s assassination.

With her partner, veteran filmmaker Robert A. Nakamura, Ishizuka produced Through Our Own Eyes, a three-screen video installation featuring home movies taken by early Issei, Japanese American immigrants, as they made America their home in the 1920s and 1930s. That was followed by Moving Memories, hosted by popular actor George Takei, which won an award from the American Association of State and Local History. Something Strong Within was produced in 1994 and contained the Topaz footage along with other rare home movies taken by inmates in the World War II camps. Over 120,000 Japanese Americans were held in concentration camps by the government.

Something Strong Within, winner of six different awards, was created in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibition, America’s Concentration Camps: Remembering the Japanese American Experience; which Ishizuka curated. That exhibition drew record crowds to the Museum and will be on display at the Ellis Island Museum in New York City in 1998. Something Strong Within will be part of the traveling exhibition.

Ishizuka and Nakamura are completing a documentary on the American photographer Toyo Miyatake. That piece features never-before-seen home move footage of the World War II camp at Manzanar, California, a year after the camp closed. The Miyatake documentary and the other award-winning productions are available on video at the Japanese American National Museum store, or through mail order.

Ishizuka, who created the Photographic and Moving Image Archive at the Museum, is currently on leave as a Visiting Scholar at the Getty Research Institute. She is conducting research on amateur footage as a historical/cultural resource. She is an active member of the European Association Inedits, an international association of scholars, producers and archivists devoted to amateur or unpublished film as well as the Association of Moving Image Archivists.

In April, she will be participating in the inaugural Amateur Film Symposium of the International Federation of Film Archives in Cartagena, Columbia. She testified before the National Film Preservation Board in 1993 and served on its National Task Force for Public Awareness in 1994.

For more information, call the Japanese American National Museum at (213) 625-0414.



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