LIGHT (2017), 57 minutes (3 DVDs, 1 poetry & photo book)
by Lenora Lee and Tatsu Aoki
in association with Lenora Lee Productions, Innocent Eyes and Lenses Films, and Asian Improv aRts, powered by Asian Improv Nation
Inspired by the life of Bessie M. Lee (1894 – 1955), who, after migrating to New York City, spent two years in indentured servitude, LIGHT is a film in which dance, memory, music and poetry collide in a visual and aural landscape; a meditation on women being propelled into the unknown by courage and faith to risk their lives and everything they have for freedom. In LIGHT, Aoki and Lee highlight the lives of women, including Bessie M. Lee, who through the resilience and triumph over unimaginable experiences, were grounding forces in the creation of the New York Chinatown community in the early 1900s.
Tatsu Aoki (director and filmmaker) is a prolific artist, a filmmaker, composer, musician, educator, and a consummate bassist and shamisen lute player. Based in Chicago, Aoki works in a wide range of musical genres, ranging from traditional Japanese music, jazz, experimental, and creative music and producing experimental films.
Aoki was born in Tokyo in 1957 to Toyaki Moto, an artisan family proficient in Okiya, the tradition of working as booking and training agents for geisha in downtown Tokyo. At the age of four, Aoki became part of his family performance crew and received the essence of traditional Tokyo geisha cultural training and studies, which combine history with creativity. In the late 1960s, upon Tokyo’s economic and social decline and his grandmother’s passing, he shifted his training to American pop and experimental music. By the early 1970s, Aoki was active in Tokyo’s underground arts movement as a member of Gintenkai, an experimental ensemble that combined traditional music and new Western forms. At the same time he began working in small-gauge and experimental films, influenced by his biological father, who was a movie producer at Shintoho Studio.
In 1977, Aoki left Tokyo to study experimental filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is now adjunct associate professor in the Film, Video, and New Media Department, teaching film production and history. He has produced more than 30 experimental films and is one of the most in-demand performers of bass, shamisen, and taiko, appearing in over 90 recording projects.
Lenora Lee (producer, choreography director)
Lenora Lee has been a dancer, choreographer, artistic director, and producer for the past 19 years in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. She has been an Artist Fellow at the de Young Museum, a Djerassi Resident Artist, and a Visiting Scholar at New York University through the Asian / Pacific / American Institute. She is currently an Artist in Residence at Dance Mission Theater.
For the last ten years she has been pushing the envelope of large-scale multimedia dance performance that connects various styles of movement and music to culture, history, and human rights issues. Her work has grown to encompass the creation, presentation, and screening of films, museum and gallery installations, civic engagement and educational programming. Lee creates works that are both set in public and private spaces, intimate and at the same time large-scale, inspired by individual stories as well as community strength.