MANZANAR, DIVERTED: WHEN WATER BECOMES DUSTDirected by Ann Kaneko
Followed by special panel discussion between director Ann Kaneko and Environmental and Indigenous Studies Scholar Heather Ponchetti Daly, moderated by UCSD Muir College Provost K. Wayne Yang
Opening Film, 2021 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Within the important archive of internment films, few if any ask the question: how did that particular prison end up on that particular land? A child of internees, filmmaker Ann Kaneko digs underneath the infamous Manzanar Camp and unearths a knot of startling histories: struggles of Western expansion and human rights that continue today. Filled with incredible archival footage and present-day activism, Kaneko finds provocative intersections between Asian American and Indigenous issues, federal vs. city conflicts, urgent clashes over water rights, and the protective power of ceremony.
The infamous source of the California water wars, Owens Valley was once a lush home to one of the state’s largest lakes, also known as Payahuunadü: “place where the water always flows.” Today, it is a desert basin where underground water mining makes it one of the largest sources of toxic dust. Its barrenness is filled with the fraught history of forced removals: the violent dislocation of Nüümü (Paiute) and Newe (Shoshone) from their ancestral home, the forced relocation of over 10,000 Japanese Americans to Manzanar, ranchers starved into selling their land, and hundreds of miles of pipe shuttling water to Los Angeles’ faraway, thirsty sprawl.
MANZANAR, DIVERTED: WHEN WATER BECOMES DUST details how power reinvents itself through displacement, but also offers witness to the resistance inscribed in internment gardens, the unexpected solidarities forged among today’s stakeholders, and new solutions for urban self-sufficiency. In the end, it is the sacred (and surprisingly strategic) fight to save history—whether through monuments, pilgrimages, or an archive of memory—that might save us all.
Co-Presented by SDSU Center for the Study of Media and Performance, and Asian Solidarity Collective(ASC).