My Films

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blog: Finding strength to work for peace

A blog that I had written in Janurary of 2005.

Since I received news that I was rejected from the Rotary Peace Scholarship last September, I have had time to reflect on how and why I want to work for Peace. I received notice the day before I left on a trip to shoot the first documentary in a series called "Portraits of Peacemakers: Families for Peaceful Tomorrows." It was difficult news to bare, and I must say I spent the entire plane-ride crying. I didn't know if I could go ahead and make this film. I felt rejected to my core. If five people sitting around a conference table didn't believe that my work for peace in this world was valid enough in offering me a two year scholarship to top university to study peace and conflict resolution. Then would anyone find my films worth watching?

But I was there in midst of New York and it was the third anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I had a camera in one hand and a list of questions in other. I wanted to ask these people who had lost their loved ones on 9-11 how they had found the space in their hearts to work for peace. Over the next couple of days as I documented and interviewed people and I did find life getting easier to bare... I was however still searching for my place: Where do I belong along the path to peace?
Prior to my rejection I had been searching for a way to work for peace in a more practical way... I know that I am a filmmaker and that ultimately my greatest contribution will be through my filmmaking. But I wanted working for peace to be apart of my daily life. I had a seen an ad in the back of the LA weekly classifieds that said: "Work for Peace, California Peace Action". A few weeks after I had returned from my NY trip, I gave that number a call.
It has now been over two months since I began working at CAPA. CAPA is a peace and justice-lobbying group whose work is mostly for anti-nuclear proliferation. I work for them as a grassroots organizer/canvasser. And so three times I week I spend about four hours a night knocking on doors throughout various neighborhoods in Los Angeles looking for people who hold similar views on issues of nuclear non-proliferation, missile defense, and the occupation in Iraq. I get people who want to see changes on these issues to become a member of CAPA, thus activating their political voice to say a resounding NO with the 90,000 other members of Peace Action nationwide.
This job as a grassroots organizer has been perhaps the most challenging work that I have ever done. I have gotten sick to my stomach with nerves before heading out to canvas. Perhaps it just a fear of talking to so many people, or maybe it's a fear of talking to those few who are so angry that they say something incredibly hateful towards me. But when the night is over, no matter how many people I have met who have felt motivated enough to become members, I feel great. I feel that I have spent a hard day working for peace. That even if I didn't get people to become members, that I have talked to people about these issues and let them know that there is a proactive way of voicing our concerns.

So now I am preparing to reapply for the Rotary Peace Scholarship... and I feel that I am even more stellar of candidate this year than last. I know today I speak with more confidence and articulation on my drive for peace. Not only am I gaining personal skills... I have met some incredible people through California Peace Action, other people just as concerned about these issues and just as active about seeing changes happen. And I am so grateful for that. I had spent the night of my rejection writing in my journal "Everything happens for the best, everything happens for the best" over and over. If it wasn't for my rejection I may never replied to the "work for peace" ad in the paper... and then I wouldn't be where I am today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Being Busy

I've somehow convinced my self to work 3 jobs on top of the volunteer work that I do. In all of it's various forms it's a contribution to peace, so I have no major complaints other than I'm really looking forward to my holiday vacation. :)

Most recently I've started an Assistant Editing gig with Sirena Films, working on documentary that is taking a hard look at the current situation in Kosovo. It's heart wrenching to see how much ethnic fear there still exists among the Serbs and the Albanians. To me they've created these invisible lines that they threaten each other from. It's like when I was a child looking out the airplane window and seeing that there were no actual borders that separated nations. Why? Why?

Also since August, I have been editing a documentary that is exploring one woman's spiritual journey to heal herself and the world. It's like the saying, "When you meditate for yourself, you meditate for the world" We've got a couple more months of work on it and the process of carving out a story out of hundreds of hours of footage is exciting. Anyways here's a link to the production company August Moon Entertainment.

I also have been teaching a music video workshop for inner city Los Angeles teens. The organization is called Live Arts Group. We meet twice a week, and I have been working with a group of five 12-16 yr olds. We just finished shooting two weekends ago and looking forward to screening day in two weeks time.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Talking with an Eight Grade Social Studies Class

This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to talk to an Eight Grade Social Studies Class at Our Lady School of Malibu. I spoke to them about what it means to be an active citizen shaping our government today, and specifically about the Department of Peace legislation. A little nervous about standing in front a class of 25 Thirteen years old, I feel good about what I shared. The 8th graders asked some great questions, such as "is the DOP saying that war is bad?" I also shared with them how two 13 yrs old from Minnesota were able to inspire and motivate their Senator Mark Dayton to introduced the bill in the Senate. So that even though they can't vote yet, they still have a power to help shape our democracy.

I think I am finally seeing the fruits of my work at California Peace Action, where for five months I went door to door to talk to people about anti-nuclear poliferation, and my work with kids in the film arts program. I think I am getting much more comfortable about standing infront of a group and talking to people about the issues that I care about. yay!

Monday, October 31, 2005

My film got accepted at Anchorage International Film Festival!

Yay! I just received an email that my short film, Peace Begins with Me and You got accepted to the Anchorage Film Festival.
Dates: December 2-11th, 2005.
I've always wanted to visit Alaska, but I don't think December is the right time of year for me. Either way it's great that my film is getting out there!

Here are the details of the screening:
Love Docs
Screening at:
2:00 pm Saturday 12/10
Fireweed Theatre

5:30 pm Wednesday 12/7
Bear Tooth Theatre Pub

Monday, October 10, 2005

Review of the Play "What I Heard About Iraq"

I saw the play "What I heard About Iraq" at the Fountain Theater in East Los Angeles this past Thursday. I knew very little about it before hand, only that it was based on an article written by Elliot Weinberger by that same name. The play opened with five performers sitting in wooden chairs strewn across the stage. On the screen behind them, the date "1992" appeared. One performer stood up and said, "I heard that Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense say..." One by one the performers came to life sharing what they heard various officials says about the war in Iraq. We hear the perspectives of US politicians, US Soldiers, and the Iraqi people, the performers constantly interchanging their roles. As the play draws to an end, we hear the climbing numbers of the causalities of the Iraqi people and of our US soldiers. It's a chilling, intense, disturbing and powerful performance. When all these verifiable quotes that you've heard over the years are condensed into 70minutes, I couldn't help but feel shaken.
After the performance, the audience is invited to participate in a town hall meeting where they can discuss their experience and any thoughts about the war in Iraq. I was invited to get on stage with the cast and crew and talk with the audience members. I shared with them that personally whenever I watch a play like this, a film, or hear an inspiring talk I get incredibly energized. And instead of feeling overwhelmed by the information that I received, I choose to use my energy positively and proactively. I talked to the audience about the Department of Peace campaign and the positive role it would play both internationally and domestically. Though I probably spoke too fast and stumbled over some words, it was important for me to share how positive social and political change can be made even in times likes these. The play will continue to run every Thursday night until December. I encourage you to go and see it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Events: "What I Heard about Iraq" and Peace Walk with Thich Nhat Hahn

Two upcoming events:

On October 6th, I will be participating in the play "What I Heard about Iraq" The play is based on a article by that same name written by Eliot Weinberger. Adapted for the stage by Director Simon Levy. The play has a four week limited engagement at the Fountain Theater in Hollywood. I have been invited to speak afterwards along with Frank Dorrel, publisher of the comic book "Addicted to War". I'm excited at the opportunity to speak about the Department of Peace and other peace activities that I am involved in.

On Saturday, October 8th I will be walking in a peace walk with Thich Nhat Hahn. Deer Park Monastery is organizing the event, and the peace walk will kick off at MacCarther Park at 10 am. Hopefully, I will be allowed to video tape the walk.
Contact me if you are interested in joining.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Vlog: Jazz for Peace

Jazz for Peace
Founder and Jazz Vocalist/Pianist Rick DellaRatta says" When we fill our souls up with creativity, artistry and intelligence, things of that nature, we have a better chance of avoiding the behavior that leads to destruction."
This vlog is from Jazz for Peace's performance at the Riverside Church in Harlem, New York from September 11th, 2004. This event was organized by PeaceBoat.
To watch the video click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Short Film: Peace Begins with Me and You

Please Click Here for Video.
Peace Begins with Me and You
4 min. Director Megumi Nishikura
May 2005

Floor Statement by U.S. Senator Mark Dayton Introducing Department of Peace and Nonviolence Legislation


September 22, 2005
Contact: Press Office, 202.224.3244
Press Release

Floor Statement by U.S. Senator Mark Dayton Introducing Department of Peace and Nonviolence Legislation

Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation to create a Department of Peace and Nonviolence, headed by a Cabinet-level Secretary of Peace and Nonviolence. While I am loath to add another agency to the already-oversized Federal bureaucracy, it is imperative that we elevate peace to at least the same level as war within the Federal Government, inside the President's Cabinet Room, and in our national policymaking.

The Department's mission is set forth in Section 101 of the proposed legislation. It says:

The Department shall hold peace as an organizing principle, coordinating service to every level of American society; endeavor to promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights; strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking; promote the development of human potential; work to create peace, prevent violence, divert from armed conflict, use field-tested programs, and develop new structures and nonviolent dispute resolution; take a proactive, strategic approach in the development of policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, nonviolent intervention, mediation, peaceful resolution of conflict, and structured mediation of conflict; •address matters both domestic and international in scope; and encourage the development of initiatives from local communities, religious groups, and nongovernmental organizations.

The legislation mandates that an amount not less than 2 percent of the Department of Defense's annual appropriation be expended for those peacemaking and peace-advancing efforts, which does not affect the Department of Defense's level of funding. Now is clearly the time to create a Department of Peace and Nonviolence. The continuing war in Iraq, a war which I opposed, a war initiated before all attempts at peaceful resolution had been made, should teach us again that war is not the answer. Despite the incredible heroism of the men and women in our Armed Forces who have fought, patrolled, and helped so well and for so long in Iraq, 138,000 of them are still there with no end in sight. More of them are wounded, maimed, and killed every day. Terrorism activities against our troops and against Iraqi citizens are continuing and even increasing in their lethality. Tragically, wrongly, but unavoidably, anti-American hatred also continues to grow throughout the Arab world. Who can doubt that some of the sons and daughters of Iraqis killed during the past 2 ½ years of war will grow up to become vicious terrorists, hell-bent on revenge against America. Our leaders did not intend to create this anti-American backlash, what the CIA calls ``blowback.'' However, they are ignoring it at our peril. Our Nation possesses a military might that is unprecedented in the world's history and unparalleled in the world today. We must remain so. Yet, if we are to remain the world's leader, and if we are to lead the world into a more secure and a more prosperous future, we must become better known and more respected for our peacemaking successes than for our military forces. Peace is far more than the absence of war, although that is the starting point. Peace, to have any lasting value, must be advanced, expanded, and strengthened continuously. Doing so requires skill, dedication, persistence, resources, and, most importantly, people. We need thousands of American emissaries of peace at home and abroad. We need our embassies to become centers for peaceful initiatives worldwide, and we need advocates for peace-promoting policies here in Washington. This country was founded by a Revolutionary War, a necessary war for independence. But our nation's Founders wanted this to be a nation of peace. President Thomas Jefferson said, in 1801: "That peace, safety, and concord may be the portion of our native land, and be long-enjoyed by our fellow-citizens, is the most ardent wish of my heart, and if I can be instrumental in procuring or preserving them, I shall think I have not lived in vain." Mr. President, 158 years later President Dwight Eisenhower, himself no stranger to war, said: "I think people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it." To further that goal, in 1984, Congress passed legislation, and President Ronald Reagan signed it into law, creating the U.S. Institute of Peace. Today, the Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan organization funded by Congress to promote peace and curb violent international conflict. The last 20 years have shown that the Institute, and all of us, have much more to do to create and to sustain a peaceful world. As with Thomas Jefferson, peace, safety, and concord for our fellow citizens is the most ardent wish of my heart. If I can be instrumental in procuring or preserving them, I think that I shall not have lived in vain. A peaceful world, inhabited by people throughout the world who have learned how to keep peace better than how to make war, who want peace, who know its benefits, and who insist that their governments let them have it--that would be the best world and the greatest inheritance we could give to our children and our grandchildren and generations that will follow them. Without it, nothing else is reliable. With it, everything else is possible.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Blog: Reporting back from DOP conference

Where do I even begin? 2 years ago when I attended this conference and I felt that I had taken the red pill akin to Neo in the Matrix. I felt I had truly woken up to my life purpose; that what I had been exposed to at the conference: the speakers and the attendees had shown me a world that my heart had always known possible. And I knew that after the conference, that I had been changed for ever.
This 3rd Annual DOP conference was even more amazing than 2003's. From Azim Kahmisa's program that helps reduce gang violence by 80%, to Patch Adams call for us to be beacons of love, to Laurie Meadoff's TV Program Chat the Planet which connects and facilitates dialogues between American and Iraqi youth, this conference showcased only a small slice of what the Department of Peace could do create a positive change in this nation. I cried through out the entire event, and cried right into my congressional meeting with Congressman Henry Waxman's aide Zahava Goldman.
My own personal point during that meeting was my belief in the importance of creating a Peace Academy, where graduates would be taught cutting edge ways to wage peace. To me this is personal, because if such a program existed, I would be enrolled in it right now. Because there is nothing that I want to do more than be a facilitator of peace.
If you have yet to check out the Peace Alliance website, I encourage you to do so. This is necessary work and it's time has come.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Blog: Heading to DC to Lobby for a Department of Peace

Hey, I'm hours away from boarding a plane to the east coast. I will be video taping the Department of Peace conference in Washington DC. The conference takes place from Saturday September 10th to Monday September 12th. There is a huge line up of really wonderful speakers, from Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Marianne Williamson, Walter Cronkite and I will be meeting with activists from all over the country.
I also have scheduled a meeting with Congressman Henry Waxman's office. He is my congressperson for District 30, which includes Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, West LA, West Hollywood, and Hollywood. The conference is happening this weekend because Dennis Kucinich will be reintroducing the DOP bill on September 14, 2004. I urge you to call your representative at (202) 228-1793 asking them to cosponsor this important legislation. Yay!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Screening: Peace One Day

A couple of nights ago, I attended a screening of Peace One Day. It is a documentary following Jeremy Gilley as he knocks on the doors around the world, asking our highest officials to endorse the United Nations day of peace. (September 21st of each year) He talks to all of today's big wigs: Dalai Lama, Kofi Annan, Oscar Arias.
Interestingly enough, the International Day of Peace has been brought to my awareness in the last couple of years, and it seems Jeremy had a lot to do with it. It is a truly beautiful film about how one person who has enough drive and passion can work towards making a difference.
He is currently on his next project which is the sequel to Peace One Day, which I believe is he working towards having a truly ceasefire day celebrated on the September the 21st.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Art: When My Heart Began to Sing

These images are my memory from February 15, 2003 in NYC, when half a million people stood in twenty degree weather and said no to war.
This is the day my life changed, and I began to understand my life purpose.

Art in Progress: Transform Peace

Transform Peace

I'm still working on this one. Have so for over a year now....
I keep on adding and subtracting elements from it, but I love the overall idea. If you have any suggestions leave me some comments!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Vlog: Marianne Williamson Speaks at Venice Methodist Church

Click here to watch video.

May 15, 2005
Venice Methodist Church, Venice, CA
A snipit from Marianne Williamson's talk about the Department of Peace.

Be inspired, get involved, take action, cultivate peace.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Short Film: Self Portrait

Click here to watch this video.

Self Portrait 3 min
Spring 2000

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Short Film: March 22

Click here for video.
March 22
2 min Documation. April 2003
Two days after the pre-emptive war in Iraq broke out, thousands of people poured into the streets of New York City to protest. This docu-mation gives voice to the protestors that were left unheard by main stream media.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Short Film: Eighty Year Wait

Click Here to Watch this Video.

Eighty Year Wait 5min
Director: Megumi Nishikura & Lise Johnson

Hey this is a short film Lise and I made at Film School during our sophmore year. It's one of the first videos we made, but it still has such a special place in our heart. This really doesn't have anything to do with my peace actvisim but it can't hurt to showcase fun work!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Meditation for Peace


2003-04-10 - 11:37 a.m.

peace begins with me...

meditation is a big part of my life, and i can only see it growing from here.
yoga and the meditation disciplin in its various forms is a practice of peace.
it is stilling the mind, stilling the surroundings and really tuning into the self.
in the self, something so perfect exists and it is love. peace is love,
understanding, forgiveness, and trust.

for me, cultivation of my own inner peace is essential. and part of it is because
i want to translate my own inner peace to the rest of the world.
i think the biggest reason for lack of peace is fear, or lack of love. and fear is strong
strong as hell, but ultimately love is so much stronger.

i believe everyone contains the capacity for peace. just in my own experience of love,
love from family, friends, and from the self. the connection between me to you is enough
to motivate to believe it can exist between any two individuals in this world.
we have been so blessed to know this from our own life experience, and i think
that it is amazing that we desire to give this gift to those who need it most.
peace begins in the heart, and starts with an individual.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Why We Protest

Why we protest by Megumi Nishikura (I wrote this in April 2003)

Having been to three protests (2 in NYC, 1 in DC) and several community meetings and panel discussions this is what I discern: People are protesting for a variety reasons: From opposing the US military imperialism that affects countries around the world (thousands of troops occupy Japan, Korea, Philippines to name a few) to true pacifists who believe violence is not the answer. There are people who are angry, who will get arrested, who will barricade streets, and there are people who are just trying to voice their opinions and stand up for what they believe in a peaceful manner.

As an independent media activist, I have been speaking to a number of protesters and their opinions are all varied. Just like those who support the war, nothing is black and white. Even the “liberated" people of Iraq vary: some feel free from Saddam's oppression, while others are morning the loss of their family members due to Shock and Awe. I believe that I am patriotic (despite what war-supporters have called us). I am exercising my rights as a citizen more than ever before. I protest this war (and not protest-ed because I believe we are still at war) not because I think Saddam should stay in power. Not because I don’t have some anxiety about another 9-11 occurring (I live in NYC) or that a county that supposedly harbors weapons of mass destruction should go unnoticed (though we are the largest creators/suppliers of these weapons) And not because I don’t support my troops.

Instead, I protest this war, and all wars, because I have a higher vision of humanity. I believe that war is an outdated means of achievement, that we can achieve massive change through peaceful discourse. Though the Bush Administrations intentions may be peace, are we any different than Saddam by using military force and killing people to achieve it? A nation as powerful as ours should lead by example.

Why do we honor the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.? They preached non-violence and made amazing strides in breaking old paradigms and changed world ideologies. Why do their messages resonate with us? Whether you have supported this war or not, the most important thing in the current outcome, is to focus on what positive can be achieved.

Our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, are not just in our coalition troops but are also the Iraqi people. Let us hope that the people in our administration will honor the Iraqi people wishes. And as US citizen let our voices be heard that humanitarian aid is given quickly and plentiful. May we send our own wishes that the through all the terror of the first Gulf War, 12 years of UN Sanctions and Operation Iraqi freedom, that the hearts of Iraqi people will one day heal-fully.