“Directors Mike Cheng and Ben Wang do an admirable job condensing such a full life into 90 educational, entertaining, and enlightening minutes.” – San Francisco Bay Guardian, 3/9/10
“The filmmakers weave archival footage with interviews of key players including – Bobby Seale, Kathleen Neal Cleaver and Aoki himself – to create not just a portrait of the man but also the movements he took part in.” – Nichi Bei Weekly, 2/25/10
“The filmmakers blend Aoki’s speeches and interviews with commentary from friends and colleagues including Bobby Seale, Kathleen Cleaver, and his biographer Diane Fujino, capturing the passion — and wicked sense of humor — of a man of the people.” – Hyphen, 11/7/09
AOKI is a documentary film chronicling the life of Richard Aoki (1938-2009), a third-generation Japanese American who became one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party. Filmed over the last five years of Richard’s life, this documentary features extensive footage with Richard and exclusive interviews with his comrades, friends, and former students. Viewers will learn about Richard’s childhood in a WWII Japanese American concentration camp, growing up in West Oakland, and serving eight years in the U.S. military. The film explores previously unknown facts about the formation of the Black Panther Party such as how Richard became intimately involved in its founding and contributed the first two firearms to the Party. AOKI highlights how Richard’s leadership also made a significant impact on individuals and groups in the contemporary Asian American Movement. Richard’s contributions to the groundbreaking organization Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) and its involvement in the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) student strike led to the formation of ethnic studies at U.C. Berkeley. Above all else, AOKI is a film that demonstrates the incredible dedication to justice that one man’s life has had and how the lessons of solidarity, commitment, and discipline can carry on from one generation to the next.
Official Film Festival Selections: 28th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, 15th Annual Chicago Asian American Showcase, 2010 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival presented by Visual Communications, 11th Annual DC Asia Pacific American Film Festival, 2010 Vancouver Asian Film Festival, 2010 Boston Asian American Film Festival, 3rd Annual Harlem Black Panther Party Film Festival.