Greetings! My name is Chihiro Wimbush and I am an independent Mediamaker with a passion for bringing my creativity to everyday stories of the human experience. I love what I do for it’s an opportunity to meet people and help share their unique stories with the world. Roger Ebert once called films “empathy building machines” as they allow us access and insight into otherwise remote experiences. Yet what the camera can reveal over time is not only the beauty of our differences, but the common humanity we all share beneath the surface of things.
I wear many hats as a director, producer, editor, and cinematographer. I have worked in various capacities for a wide-range of projects from documentaries to narrative, nonprofit fundraising pieces to music videos, art installations to a museum piece. I’ve documented homeless shopping-cart recyclers in West Oakland, untouchables in India, disabled students in Guangzhou, China, AIDS orphans in Africa, aspiring baseball players in Cambodia, peach farmers in the Central Valley, godfathers of Asian American jazz, a conspiracy theorist's journey across America; all are among the many stories I’ve helped tell.
I’ve been a filmmaker for nearly a decade after deciding to leave a successful radio career and take a leap of faith to pursue my passion for film and storytelling. Back in the fall of 2006, I made a short black and white 8mm film and never looked back. I left my radio gig hosting a global music program, moved back to the Bay Area and started working in narrative films working as a production manager/producer of 3 feature films, my first job working for the legendary Wayne Wang. At the same time, I was writing and directing another short film, Double Features, that played in film festivals from Vancouver to Austin.
In 2008, I began working in documentary films with Jim Choi, a frequent collaborator with our K Pacific Production venture, creating numerous short documentary films together, for entities like the Chinese Culture Center and especially the Center For Asian American Media, a relationship that continues to this day. The highlight was Don’t Lose Your Soul chronicling Asian American jazz founders Anthony Brown and Mark Izu, that premiered at the Kansas City Film Festival Cinejazz showcase and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival before airing on Comcast on Demand and broadcasting nationally on PBS as part of the series Japanese-American Lives hosted by Kristi Yamaguchi.
That same year of 2008, I embarked on a life-changing journey for over 5 years, chronicling the lives of homeless shopping cart recyclers in West Oakland, often going out on all-night recycling runs solo with camera, following recyclers through gang-ridden neighborhoods and in and out of dumpsters. This documentary feature film, Dogtown Redemption, recently premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival, where it won an Audience Award for Active Cinema, and broadcast in May 2016 on Independent Lens on PBS.
One week before my wife Meena and I married in India, we shot a short documentary, Touching the Untouchable, on the Dalits (Untouchables). The film currently is streaming on Karmatube with a discussion guide and curriculum on untouchability designed by Meena, and it won the Spirt of Bernal Award, 2nd place for the Eldon Activist Award at the My Hero Film Festival in Santa Monica, as well as official recognition from the California State Assembly.
I edited the feature documentary Changing Season about a year in the life on the Masumoto family peach farm outside Fresno, California. The film recently premiered at the Oakland Museum of Calfornia as part of CAAMFest, won the Best Documentary Director award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, as well as Best Documentary Feature at the Sacramento Asian Pacific Film Festival, and broadcast nationally on PBS in May 2016.
Most recently, I co-directed/edited The People's Hospital a half-hour documentary about the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco's Chinatown and edited the short documentary The Ride on SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi and his fight against racial injustice in the justice system, which is transforming into the feature-length Defender which also addressed the fight against immigrant deportations in the Trump era. Simultaneously, I am producing and editing the documentary Aswat Nabila about a group of Arab musicians in the Bay Area using music as a tool to fight oppression.
Long before I was a filmmaker I was: a musician in many bands, a teacher for homeless at at-risk preschoolers in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, teaching English on the JET program in Hiroshima Japan, a non-profit employee, a DJ, and a producer of live radio broadcasts. All these varied experiences have helped make me the filmmaker and the person that I am today.
I started meditating around the time I started making documentary films and I think it's no accident this was the case. Each enhances the practice of the other as they both focus on being present in the moment, deep listening, and compassion. These are the qualities I bring to each project I put my heart into.