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California Civil Liberties Public Education Project (CCLPEP)-funded film debuts at Sundance Film Festival

Filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura was not home when the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the United States, called to say that his and producer Karen Ishizuka’s documentary film Pilgrimage had been selected out of 5,000 Short Film submissions for Sundance’s 2008 festival. “It was unbelievable, I was in total shock!” Nakamura says about hearing the message. “I picked up the phone and called them right back.”

Filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura after receiving his director's 
badge at the film festival.  
[Photo courtesy Tad Nakamura]
Pilgrimage, a film with powerful rare footage of the Japanese American evacuation and imprisonment during World War II, also shows select 1960s student protests and third generation (Sensei) Japanese Americans learning about their history. Especially memorable in Pilgrimage is footage of the first Manzanar pilgrimage in December 1969 when approximately 150 young Japanese Americans traveled to Manzanar, the infamous concentration camp where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. The Manzanar Committee has now sponsored the annual pilgrimage for more than 38 years.

The California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP), a project of the California State Library, funded Pilgrimage in 2006. “CCLPEP helped me accomplish my goal - to re-tell the [the Japanese American internment] camp story in a way that would speak to youth,” says Nakamura. “It was very satisfying that Pilgrimage was one of the 83 films Sundance selected,” says producer Ishizuka. “CCLPEP provided the first funding for Pilgrimage and gave critical support in eventually getting the lessons of [the internment] camp out to schools, communities and film festivals around the world, including Sundance.”

Filmgoer kudos for Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage has earned moving praise from Sundance filmgoers. “[Pilgrimage was] easily the most impressive short I saw while at Sundance … a retelling of the civil rights movements Japanese-Americans waged to get recognition of World War II internment. … It’s a great story, 1970s history told with 21st century music," said a filmgoer from Oxford University Press. “Pilgrimage made me cry — which is difficult for me in 22 minutes! …The film feels like an Asian hip-hop music video, and explores the tragic history of the Japanese concentration camps in California during World War II," said a staff person from Sacramento’s KVIE public television.

For more information about Pilgrimage, please contact Karen Ishizuka at (310) 413-7440 or email at

For information about the CCLPEP program, please contact Christopher Berger, library program consultant, California State Library, at (916) 653-8313 or email at





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