A Song For Ourselves

February 19, 2010

Directed by Tadashi Nakamura

A Song for Ourselves (2009), soars in its first half, deftly incorporating archival images and songs from the Asian American movement. Tadashi Nakamura's short documentary is a moving tribute to the late Chris lijima, musician, scholar and activist from Yellow Pearl, the movement group that released A Grain of Sand in 1973. Nakamura (Pilgrimage) includes interviews conducted with lijima, who passed away in 2006, from the artist-activist's latter years. A Song reveals little-known aspects of lijima's life, such as his work with underrepresented students in Hawaii as well as his private family life. The documentary's second half focuses on interviews with lijima's sons and wife - here, unfortunately, the film wanes a bit. Still, it accomplishes what Nakamura's films do best; namely, it brings a fresh lens to an older generation of Asian American movers and shakers and excavates gems from forgotten archives. The DVD contains a half-hour of valuable extras, such as extended clips of interviews with lijima and a rare interview with lijima's mother, lijima's songs, along with the work of fellow Yellow Pearl members Nobuko Miyamoto and Charlie Chin, serve as an apt soundtrack not just for the film but for a key moment in our collective history.

- Momo Chang


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.