Steven Okazaki

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Steven Okazaki is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and writer, best known for his films about social justice issues and the experiences of Japanese Americans. He was born on April 7, 1950 in Venice, California, to parents who had been interned during World War II as part of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans.

After graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Okazaki began his career as a documentary filmmaker, exploring issues of race, politics, and human rights in his work. Some of his most notable films include "Unfinished Business," which chronicles the redress movement for Japanese American internment, and "Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street," which follows the lives of young heroin addicts on the streets of San Francisco.

Over the course of his career, Okazaki has won numerous awards and accolades for his work, including an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject in 1991 for his film "Days of Waiting," which tells the story of artist and internment survivor Estelle Peck Ishigo. He has also been recognized by the Peabody Awards, the International Documentary Association, and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

One of Okazaki's most powerful contributions to Japanese American history and activism is his work on the redress movement. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was an active participant in the movement to secure an official apology and reparations for Japanese Americans who had been interned during World War II. He captured the struggle for redress on film, documenting the activism, lobbying efforts, and personal stories of those involved.

In addition to his work as a filmmaker, Okazaki has also been a strong advocate for diversity and representation in the film industry. He has spoken out about the lack of opportunities and recognition for filmmakers of color, and has worked to create more opportunities for underrepresented voices in the industry.

Overall, Steven Okazaki's work as a documentary filmmaker and activist has made a significant impact on Japanese American history and the wider social justice movement. Through his films, he has given voice to marginalized communities and shed light on important issues, while also advocating for greater representation and recognition for filmmakers of color.


  • "Unfinished Business" (1985)
  • "Living on Tokyo Time" (1987)
  • "American Sons" (1989)
  • "Days of Waiting" (1990)
  • "Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street" (2000)
  • "The Mushroom Club" (2005)
  • "White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" (2007)
  • "Minding the Gap" (2018, executive producer)