by Joshua Jiang
Summertime for most high schoolers in the U.S. looks like sports camps, family vacations, and watching TV. For students in the Kizuna Youth Leadership program, summer is a time for growth as leaders in the Japanese American community.
On Wednesday, July 19th, the Kizuna Youth Leadership Program stopped by the Visual Communications (VC) office for a night of films and fun. To kick off the evening, VC presented an hour long program that showcased themes of identity formation, home, family, and history. Laughs, oohs, and ahhs accompanied the lineup of 127 MINUTES (Tuan Quoc Le), FLIP THE RECORD (Marie Jamora), SANTA CLAUS (Jeff Man), LILY (Angela Park), PROM (Imran J. Khan), and PLAZA BLVD (Cassandra Pimentel).
Following the film presentation, the VC interns had the privilege of introducing the films' directors and actors to the Kizuna students by breaking up into small group discussions. My group had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Man on his film SANTA CLAUS. The film depicts a clunky and uncomfortable interaction between a Chinese American man and a Chinese immigrant woman. One student mentioned that her favorite scene was when the two characters spoke to each other through their apartment walls. This scene was memorable for her because it spoke to the awkward and indirect communication between Asian and Asian American communities. I was surprised by the youth's insightfulness, as was Jeff, who exclaimed, "Where were you when I was writing this script?"
Visual Communications was able to offer something really special to the Kizuna group. By watching films that utilized video as storytelling, the Youth Leadership students were able to understand how filmmakers bind spaces together through storytelling. If the future of community organizing looks anything like the students I spoke to that day, I'm confident that our future is in good hands.
Kizuna is a community non-profit organization in Little Tokyo that hosts summer development programs for students aged 7 to 23+. Their programs seek to build a future for the Japanese American community through the education, empowerment and engagement of the next generation.
Joshua Jiang is studying Computer Science and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He really likes dogs. Connect with him at joshjiang.com