30 under 30: tad nakamura

Tad Nakamura
Age: 29

Why he's influential: Because he's making media that looks into our community's past, present and future. Tadashi Nakamura is a documentary director whose critically acclaimed films look back at the roots, key figures and forward momentum of the Asian American movement. And he does it in a way that makes this history accessible -- with style, panache and a little bit of hip hop flair.

Perhaps it was Tad's destiny to go down this route. A fourth generation Japanese American, born and raised in Los Angeles, Tad is the son of filmmaking luminaries Karen Ishizuka and Bob Nakamura, who is sometimes referred to as "the Godfather of Asian American media." That's a hell of a legacy to live up to, but Tad is definitely holding his own.

His latest film A Song For Ourselves, looks back and the life and work of late singer/activist Chris Iijima. It's the third installment in Tad's trilogy of documentaries on the Asian American movement. The first, Yellow Brotherhood, is a personal documentary about the meaning of friendship and community through a youth organization formed in the 1960s to help youth get off drugs.

The second film in the trilogy, Pilgrimage, tells the story of how an abandoned World War II concentration camp for Japanese Americans was transformed into a symbol of retrospection and solidarity for people of all nationalities in our post 9/11 world. It was an official selection at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and won nine awards of excellence during its festival run.

Tad's films look inward -- where we've come from and where we're at -- not simply out of nostalgia or respect, but as a challenge, a call to action, and because we're supposed to finish the work our forefathers started. As a director, and as a descendant of the movement, he gets it, and he's making sure future generations pass on this legacy as well.

See the rest of the 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30 here.

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