Doc Talk Podcast: Celebrating A Japanese-American Artist Who Survived Incarceration; Plus, We Sit Down With A Film Festival Innovator

As Georgia O’Keeffe was to the landscape of New Mexico, artist Chiura Obata was to the grandeur of Yosemite.

The national park in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains inspired the Japanese-born painter, who found in Yosemite a perfect embodiment of what he called “great nature” (dai shizen in Japanese). His ink and brush paintings, scrolls and woodblock prints captured the transformative power of natural beauty on a monumental scale.

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Obata’s work is explored in the new documentary Obata’s Yosemite, which can be seen on YouTube and the National Park Service’s website. Director Adam Prieto joins the latest edition of Deadline’s Doc Talk podcast to discuss his film and how Yosemite inspired his own spiritual journey. Kimi Hill, Obata’s granddaughter, also joins the pod, explaining how her grandfather’s work has recently been rediscovered almost 50 years after his death.

Obata’s art exudes a sublime and healing quality, and yet he faced many obstacles in his own life and career, much of them caused by prejudice against his Japanese background. He was incarcerated in the concentration camps set up in the U.S., during World War II, but Hill explains how he overcame that trauma to spread a love of art to many fellow detainees.

Hill also shares how Obata responded to the devastating 1906 earthquake in San Francisco that shook the artist out of his house. He had only been in the country three years when that massive temblor occurred.

This is a two-part episode of Doc Talk. We also speak with Cara Ogburn, artistic director of Milwaukee Film, the organization that puts on the Milwaukee Film Festival. She tells us how Milwaukee Film is innovating in the festival space at a time when other festivals (Sundance, Hot Docs, TIFF) are finding themselves struggling with financial issues.

That’s on the latest edition of Doc Talk, co-hosted by Oscar winner John Ridley and Matt Carey, Deadline’s documentary editor. Doc Talk, a 2024 Webby Awards honoree, is a production of Deadline and Ridley’s Nō Studios.

Listen to the episode above or on major podcast platforms including SpotifyiHeart and Apple.

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