InterSection Films is proud to announce the world premiere of “Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust,” directed and produced by Ann Kaneko and produced by Jin Yoo-Kim, at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

An inspired and poetic portrait of a place and its people, “Manzanar, Diverted” follows intergenerational women from three communities who defend their land, their history and their culture from the insatiable thirst of Los Angeles. In this fresh retelling of the L.A. water story, Native Americans, Japanese American WWII incarcerees and environmentalists form an unexpected alliance to preserve Payahuunadü (Owens Valley), “the land of flowing water.”

Ann Kaneko

Featuring breathtaking photography and immersive soundscapes, the film recounts more than 150 years of history, showing how this distant valley is tied to the city of Los Angeles. It reveals the forced removals of two peoples — the Nüümü (Paiute) and the Newe (Shoshone), who were marched out of the valley in the 1860s, and the Japanese Americans who were brought here from their West Coast homes and incarcerated in a World War II concentration camp.

“My family was unwittingly swept into a dark chapter of American history, and this film has become a platform for me to unravel how our story is entwined in the formation of the West and L.A.’s development as a megalopolis.” says Kaneko.

“Manzanar, Diverted” will be the closing weekend film at this year’s online festival; available to view Feb. 26-28. The documentary is also in competition for the Big Sky Award, which is awarded to a film that artistically honors the character, history, tradition and imagination of the American West. There will be a live Q&A on Sunday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. MST. Tickets can be purchased online at the festival website.

Filmed over five years, “Manzanar, Diverted” captures stunning and intimate imagery of this valley, combined with archival gems and careful research to narrate this epic story of the American West. It begins before colonizers came to the valley and then shows how the U.S. Army and setters forced out the Nüümü and the Newe; how the Los Angeles Aqueduct sucked the valley dry; how incarcerated Japanese Americans made the land green again; how the Owens Lake became a huge health hazard and how this valley now bears the pain of these stories and the consequences of losing water to diversion.

Manzanar is the name of the former concentration camp, which has become a national historic site. Its annual pilgrimage unifies descendants of those incarcerated and activists who strive for social justice. The film offers a hopeful message of how communities can come together to overcome histories of oppression and halt further development and monetization of a land.

This is Kaneko’s third feature film. Her past films include “A Flicker in Eternity,” “Against the Grain: An Artist’s Survival Guide to Perú” and “Overstay,” which have won numerous awards and premiered to full houses at film festivals worldwide.

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