Alumna’s Documentary Explores a Buddhist Family Dynamic

Above: Yoko Okumura’s ‘Sit.’

Sit, CalArts alumna Yoko Okumura’s (Film/Video BFA 10) debut documentary, premiered on Tricycle: The Buddhist Review last month.

Okumura began work on Sit in 2007 as a BFA student at CalArts. Since then, the film has gone through several iterations, evolving from a quasi-narrative documentary hybrid, to a comparison between Okumura’s father and brother, to what it is now: a portrait of her family.

The documentary explores a family dynamic, particularly looking at the filmmaker’s younger brother’s struggle to find a life path through the lens of their father’s philosophies as a Buddhist monk.

Producer Chris Ruiz spoke to Bodhipaksa at the Buddhist website Wild Mind about the themes and goals of the documentary, saying, Sit dispels myths about the traditionalism, close-mindedness and rigidness attributed to Asian families.”

In a Q&A with Tricycle, Okumura said, “I hope people can watch this and find something to relate to, find some humor in it, and learn a little bit about a different side of a Buddhist monk.”

Okumura was born in a Buddhist temple in Japan and moved to the United States as a child with her family. Currently, she is based in Los Angeles where she directs, writes, and produces films. In 2014, Okumura won first place at the Director’s Guild of America Student Film Awards in the western region Asian American category with her film, Kimi Kabuki, and in 2016, she showed her film, Light Up the Sky, at the first Les Femmes Underground International Film Festival.

With additional writing by Soleil David.

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