New York, NY – June 6, 2022 – POV, America’s longest running documentary series, now celebrating its 35th anniversary season, exposes the legacy of colonization, racism, and environmental injustice in the Payahuunadü region (California’s Owens Valley). The national broadcast premiere of Emmy Award-winning director Ann Kaneko’s (Against the Grain: An Artist’s Survival Guide to Perú) and producer Jin Yoo-Kim’s (A Woman's Work: The NFL Cheerleader Problem)Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust premieres Monday, July 18, 2022. The documentary is available to stream free until August 18, 2022 at pbs.org, and the PBS Video app. In addition to standard closed captioning, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.
At the foot of the majestic snow-capped Sierras sits Manzanar, the site of the World War II concentration camp where 11,070 Japanese Americans were incarcerated from March 1942 to November 1945. This place is the confluence for memories of Payahuunadü, the now-parched “land of flowing water.” In Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust, Kaneko – best known for films that weave her poetic aesthetic with the complex intricacies of political reality – documents the struggle of intergenerational women who share histories of forced removal: Japanese Americans who were incarcerated at the camp, Native Americans who were driven from these lands, and farmers and ranchers turned environmentalists, who were bought out by the LA Department of Water and Power.
Yoo-Kim knew it was important to capture the oral stories of these people as they formed an unexpected alliance to defend their land and water from the city of Los Angeles. She says: “There is a reason why this overlapping history is kept from the people and that’s the gap in knowledge the film and its impact campaign seek to address.” By connecting Manzanar to California’s environmental and political history, the documentary shows the intersectionality of three communities mistreated by government entities that have not served the interests of all of their people. When these three communities joined forces, they were able to successfully triumph over the behemoth of LADWP.
Erika Dilday, American Documentary | POV Executive Director said: “On behalf of American Documentary and POV, we’re so pleased to present Manzanar Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust – an enormously important film that really shows the power of coalition building, and the diverse and vitally connected histories of the Payahuunadü region.”
Filmmaker Kaneko says, “My family was unwittingly swept into a dark chapter of American history, and this film has become a platform for us to unravel how our story is entwined in the formation of the West and LA’s development as a megalopolis.”
In anticipation of the broadcast, the film team will be holding a national Day of Action on the weekend of July 16-17. Partnering with 18 Million Rising, Tsuru for Solidarity, the Sierra Club and Nia Tero, they will spotlight local actions highlighting resource extraction, incarceration, environmental justice in a livestream video relay, passing the baton from one city to another. The 2 hour live stream will uplift water and land protectors. Please check out manzanardiverted.com for updates.
[Download photos here]
Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust, is a co-production of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), and Vision Maker Media with American Documentary. Directed, produced and edited by Ann Kaneko. Jin Yoo-Kim produced and served as the impact producer. The executive producers are Tracy Rector, and Erika Dilday and Chris White of American Documentary | POV. Susan Metzger and Ann Kaneko are editors; Lori Goldston, Steve Fisk and Alexander Miranda are the composers and Dawn Valadez is the consulting producer.
Director/Producer: Ann Kaneko
Producer / Impact Producer: Jin Yoo-Kim
Executive Producers: Tracy Rector, Erika Dilday and Chris White of American Documentary | POV, Stephen Gong of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Francine Blythe-Lewis and Shirly Sneve of Vision Maker Media.
Editors: Susan Metzger and Ann Kaneko
Composers: Lori Goldston, Steve Fisk and Alexander Miranda
Consulting Producer: Dawn Valadez
About Payahuunadü, ‘Land of Flowing Water’
The Nüümü (Owens Valley Paiute) have lived in Payahuunadü “Land of the Flowing Water” since time immemorial. Prior to the arrival of settlers and the City of Los Angeles, the Nüümü lived sustainably and in harmony with the natural environment. Payahuunadü was rich in luxuriant grasses and water from streams that descend from the Sierra Nevada. Using ancient irrigation ditches and canals they had dug by hand, the Nüümü stewarded the valley’s resources and carefully harvested its seed concentrations in order to preserve the land, plants and animals while living upon it. This was a longstanding, ecologically sustainable means of agricultural production that nourished them in return.
The delicate balance that the Nüümü maintained in their use of water and land was interrupted when settlers came into the valley in the 19th century. Settlers did not recognize the form of quiet agriculture practiced by the Nüümü. They only saw under-utilizated land available for the taking, which lead over time to monocrop agriculture, seepage of water into otherwise un-irrigated plots, the draining of marshy areas, pollution of fresh water from stock runoff, the gradual recession of Patsiata (Owens Lake), and the eventual destruction of native seed supplies. The distribution of water across Payahuunadü had changed forever.
To learn more about Payahuunadü’s history and activism to protect the land visit: OWENS VALLEY INDIAN WATER COMMISSION
About Manzanar Concentration Camp
In 1942, when the Department of War was looking for sites to incarcerate Japanese Americans, they came upon Manzanar, a former orchard community. All camps were to be situated on public lands where water was accessible so that incarcerees could grow their own food. When the Department of War approached the LA DWP about leasing lands in Payahuunadü, the LA DWP initially refused, citing the potential threat of sabotage of the City’s water supply, but the US Government eventually overruled the LA DWP. Manzanar was the first of 10 concentration camps that incarcerated 120,000 Japanese Americans, removing them from the West Coast.
In order to combat the dust, Japanese Americans resisted their imprisonment by growing fruits, vegetables and flowers, creating beautiful gardens. They also fished in nearby streams and lakes, learning the best spots from Native American friends. For the three and half years that the camp was open, Japanese American industriousness transformed Manzanar into a bountiful garden oasis.
Manzanar National Historic Site was established by Congress (PL 102-248) on March 3, 1992, to “provide for protection and interpretation of historical, cultural, and natural resources associated with the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II.” Sue Kunitomi Embrey, the co-founder of the Manzanar Committee who is featured in the film, was instrumental in the fight to establish the historic site.
About Farmer & Rancher Communities
In the early 1900s, farmers and ranchers in Payahuunadü believed they were selling their water rights to an irrigation project that would benefit them, but they eventually found that it was part of a ploy to buy them out for the benefit of the City of Los Angeles. In 1913, the LA Aqueduct was opened, rendering farming impossible. This precipitated the California Water Wars during the 1920s, and farmers dynamited the Alabama Gates, allowing water to flow back to the Owens River. Despite these acts of resistance, Los Angeles prevailed. After the completion of the Second Aqueduct in 1970, increased pumping had dire effects on local ecosystems, and Patsiata became a source of more toxic dust.
Download photos from Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust here
About the Filmmakers
Ann Kaneko, Director/Producer, Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust
Kaneko is known for her personal films that weave her intimate aesthetic with the complex intricacies of political reality. An Emmy winner, she is currently in development on a food docuseries for MTV Films/Smithsonian Channel and 45/45 a personal film about the beginning and end of life. Her other credits includeA Flicker in Eternity; Against the Grain: An Artist’s Survival Guide to Perú; Overstay and 100% Human Hair. She was a Fulbright, Japan Foundation Artist, Film Independent Doc Lab and Jackson Wild Multicultural Alliance fellow. She currently teaches Media Studies at Pitzer College.
Jin Yoo-Kim, Producer, Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust
Yoo-Kim is a Korean Bolivian American filmmaker who directed for Take Out with Lisa Ling on HBO MAX and is in development for a food docuseries for MTV Films/Smithsonian Channel. She co-produced A Woman’s Work: the NFL’s Cheerleader Problem, and was an impact strategist for try harder! and Waking Dreams, a series by Independent Lens and PBS Digital Studios. She was a Sundance Creative Producers Fellow, a Firelight Media Impact Producing Fellow, and has an MFA in film production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.
Tracy Rector, Executive Producer, Manzanar Diverted, When Water Becomes Dust
Tracy Rector is a mixed heritage filmmaker with a passion for amplifying and uplifting Indigenous and BIPOC voices. She holds three decades of experience as a community organizer, educator, filmmaker, film programmer and arts curator, all infused with her deep roots in plant medicine. For the last 20 years she has directed and produced over 400 films including shorts, features, music videos and virtual reality projects. Her work has been featured on Independent Lens, ImagineNative, PBS and National Geographic, as well as at international film festivals including Cannes and Toronto.
Produced by American Documentary, POV is the longest-running independent documentary showcase on American television. Since 1988, POV has presented films on PBS that capture the full spectrum of the human experience, with a long commitment to centering women and people of color in front of, and behind, the camera. The series is known for introducing generations of viewers to groundbreaking works like Tongues Untied, American Promise and Minding The Gap and innovative filmmakers including Jonathan Demme, Laura Poitras and Nanfu Wang. In 2018, POV Shorts launched as one of the first PBS series dedicated to bold and timely short-form documentaries. All POV programs are available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video app, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.
POV goes “beyond the broadcast” to bring powerful nonfiction storytelling to viewers wherever they are. Free educational resources accompany every film and a community network of thousands of partners nationwide work with POV to spark dialogue around today’s most pressing issues. POV continues to explore the future of documentary through innovative productions with partners such as The New York Times and The National Film Board of Canada and on platforms including Snapchat and Instagram.
POV films and projects have won 45 Emmy Awards, 26 George Foster Peabody Awards, 15 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards and the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award. Learn more at pbs.org/pov and follow @povdocs on social media.
About American Documentary, Inc.
American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, online and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback to educational opportunities and community participation.
Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, the Open Society Foundations, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, Reva & David Logan Foundation, Park Foundation, and Perspective Fund. Additional funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Sage Foundation, Chris and Nancy Plaut, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee and public television viewers. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.
PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’s broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirm that PBS’s premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Communications on Twitter.