With respect and admiration for his stellar record of achievement and with gratitude for service to campus and community, we announce, effective July 2012, the retirement of Professor Robert A. Nakamura after a thirty-three year career teaching Asian American Studies and Motion Picture/Television at UCLA.
Professor Nakamura is a pioneering filmmaker who has been an influential teacher and mentor as well as a major force in the field of Asian American media since 1970. Called the “godfather” of Asian American media, Don Nakanishi, Professor and Director Emeritus of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center has said, “Bob Nakamura is the standard by which others across the nation – the vast majority of whom he professionally trained – are measured.”
From a successful career in photojournalism and advertising photography, Nakamura was one of the first Asian Americans to turn to filmmaking to explore, interpret and present the cultural experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry. His ground-breaking film, Manzanar (1972) was selected for major retrospectives of the documentary form at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Film Forum, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
In 1985 Nakamura was the first recipient of the annual “Steve Tatsukawa Memorial Award” for outstanding achievement and leadership in Asian American media. In 1994 the Asian Pacific American Coalition in Cinema, Theatre and Television of UCLA instituted the “Robert A. Nakamura Award” in his honor in to recognize outstanding contribution to other Asian Pacific American visual artists.
In 1997 he was provided a retrospective of his work at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1999 he was named to the UCLA Alumni and Friends of Japanese Ancestry Endowed Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles.
A graduate of Art Center College of Design (BFA, 1966) and the UCLA Department of Film & Television (MFA, 1975), he has garnered over 25 media awards for his films such as Wataridori: Birds of Passage(1975), Hito Hata: Raise the Banner (1980), Fools’ Dance (1983), Conversations: Before the War/After the War (1985), Through Our Own Eyes (1992), Moving Memories (1992), Something Strong Within (1994) andLooking Like the Enemy (1995).
In 1970 he was one of the original founders of Visual Communications, now the oldest continuing community-based media group in the United States, where he continues to serve on its Board of Directors. In 1996 he founded the UCLA Center for Ethnocommunications to link ethnic studies and community documentation.
In 1997 he founded the Media Arts Center of the Japanese American National Museum to develop and produce new ways to document, preserve and make known the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry.
Professor Nakamura surely will be missed, but we trust that he will continue to grace us with his presence not only as an emeritus professor, but through his on-going projects. He has been spotted recently in a photography dark room in Little Tokyo.
Please join us in thanking Professor Nakamura for his dedication and invaluable contributions to UCLA and beyond, and to wish him well for his upcoming retirement.
Professor David K. Yoo,
Director, UCLA Asian American Studies Center
Professor Jinqi Ling,
Chair, UCLA Department of Asian American Studies