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POV: Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust

The Sierras
WXXI-TV
The Sierras

Premieres Monday, July 18, 2022 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV / On demand with PBS Video App

POV exposes the legacy of colonization, racism, and environmental injustice in the Payahuunadü region (California’s Owens Valley). The national broadcast premiere of Emmy Award-winning director Ann Kaneko’s ("Against the Grain: An Artist’s Survival Guide to Perú") and producer Jin Yoo-Kim’s ("A Woman's Work: The NFL Cheerleader Problem") “Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust” premieres Monday, July 18, 2022.

POV: Trailer | Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust

At the foot of the majestic snow-capped Sierras sits Manzanar, the site of the World War II concentration camp where 11,070 Japanese Americans were incarcerated from March 1942 to November 1945. This place is the confluence for memories of Payahuunadü, the now-parched “land of flowing water.”

Three generations of the Yamamoto family return for the Manzanar Pilgrimage and visit the Arai Fish Pond, which was designed and built by Madelon Arai Yamamoto’s father, Jack Hanshiro Arai
Courtesy of Pooja Zopari Tripathi
Three generations of the Yamamoto family return for the Manzanar Pilgrimage and visit the Arai Fish Pond, which was designed and built by Madelon Arai Yamamoto’s father, Jack Hanshiro Arai. Tod Yamamoto, Madelon’s son; Tyler Yamamoto, her grandson; and Madelon Arai Yamamoto braves the wind where she was incarcerated when she was nine years old. April 29, 2017.

In “Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust,” Kaneko – best known for films that weave her poetic aesthetic with the complex intricacies of political reality – documents the struggle of intergenerational women who share histories of forced removal: Japanese Americans who were incarcerated at the camp, Native Americans who were driven from these lands, and farmers and ranchers turned environmentalists, who were bought out by the LA Department of Water and Power.

Henry Nishi, the son of Kuichiro Nishi, who built and designed Merritt Park at Manzanar, looks at photos of his family’s pre-war nursery in West Los Angeles before his family was incarcerated. Oct. 25, 2016.
Credit: Kathy Mak
Henry Nishi, the son of Kuichiro Nishi, who built and designed Merritt Park at Manzanar, looks at photos of his family’s pre-war nursery in West Los Angeles before his family was incarcerated. Oct. 25, 2016.

Yoo-Kim knew it was important to capture the oral stories of these people as they formed an unexpected alliance to defend their land and water from the city of Los Angeles. She says: “There is a reason why this overlapping history is kept from the people and that’s the gap in knowledge the film and its impact campaign seek to address.”

05_BTS_ANN WITH SUBJECTS.JPG
Kyle Green/ Julio Martinez
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POV
Monica Mariko Embrey, Manzanar Committee organizer; Rose Masters, Manzanar National Historic Site park ranger; Nihad Awad, co-founder of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Kathy Bancroft, Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Historic Preservation Officer; Nancy Masters, Owens Valley Committee member; Ceiba Kaneko, Ann Kaneko’s daughter; Ann Kaneko, director/producer; Mary Roper, Owens Valley Committee President; and Asma Rehman, CAIR organizer (left to right), after the Manzanar CAIR meeting. April 28, 2019.

By connecting Manzanar to California’s environmental and political history, the documentary shows the intersectionality of three communities mistreated by government entities that have not served the interests of all of their people. When these three communities joined forces, they were able to successfully triumph over the behemoth of LADWP.

Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, shows off her Owens Valley Committee sticker at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) meeting at Manzanar. April 28, 2019.
Kyle Green/ Julio Martinez
Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, shows off her Owens Valley Committee sticker at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) meeting at Manzanar. April 28, 2019.

Filmmaker Kaneko says, “My family was unwittingly swept into a dark chapter of American history, and this film has become a platform for us to unravel how our story is entwined in the formation of the West and LA’s development as a megalopolis.”

In anticipation of the broadcast, the film team will be holding a national Day of Action on the weekend of July 16-17. Partnering with 18 Million Rising, Tsuru for Solidarity, the Sierra Club and Nia Tero, they will spotlight local actions highlighting resource extraction, incarceration, environmental justice in a livestream video relay, passing the baton from one city to another. The 2 hour live stream will uplift water and land protectors. Please check out manzanardiverted.com for updates.

Mary Roper, then president of the Owens Valley Committee (OVC), shares a laugh with her sister Nancy Masters, an OVC board member, at Manzanar. April 28, 2019.
Kyle Green / Julio Martinez
Mary Roper, then president of the Owens Valley Committee (OVC), shares a laugh with her sister Nancy Masters, an OVC board member, at Manzanar. April 28, 2019.

Watch On Your Schedule:

The documentary is available to stream free until Aug. 18, 2022 at pbs.org, and the PBS Video app. In addition to standard closed captioning, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.

Credits:

A co-production of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), and Vision Maker Media with American Documentary. Directed, produced and edited by Ann Kaneko. Jin Yoo-Kim produced and served as the impact producer. The executive producers are Tracy Rector, and Erika Dilday and Chris White of American Documentary | POV. Susan Metzger and Ann Kaneko are editors; Lori Goldston, Steve Fisk and Alexander Miranda are the composers and Dawn Valadez is the consulting producer.

Erika Dilday, American Documentary | POV Executive Director said: “On behalf of American Documentary and POV, we’re so pleased to present 'Manzanar Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust'– an enormously important film that really shows the power of coalition building, and the diverse and vitally connected histories of the Payahuunadü region.”