Filmmaker Spotlight: Robin Takao D’Oench

The X1 Asian American destination will feature “Tadaima,” written, directed and produced by Robin Takao D’Oench. You can find the film in the Nisei Stories collection this March. We had the pleasure of asking Robin about his inspirations and how his Japanese American heritage impacts his work.

Image credit: Robin Takao D’Oench.

Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month.

Robin Takao D’Oench: My short film “Tadaima” is about a Japanese American family returning to their former home after the closure of the American internment camps at the end of World War II. The family is forced to come together and rebuild their home after the war. The film is loosely inspired by my grandfather, Paul Takagi, who was interned at Manzanar Relocation Center.

How did you get into filmmaking?

RTD: I was an adamant movie watcher when I was a kid. When I was pretty young, someone told me that I could make a living making movies. I was fortunate to do a high school film program, shooting on 16 mm cameras, with the New York Film Academy when I was 15 years old. I completely fell in love with the process. When I heard the whir of the film rolling in the magazine I said, “I want to do this for the rest of my life.”

What are some films that have inspired you?

RTD: I love films and stories that completely immerse the viewer in the world of the story. I love environments that the audience can get lost and experience truthfully. Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, and Martin Scorsese are some of the directors whose work stands out the most to me. I hope to one day make at least one film that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the works of the folks named above.

“Tadaima” still. (Photo: Robin Takao D’Oench)

Do you have a favorite Asian American film?

RTD: I think singling it down to one film is difficult, but the three filmmakers who inspire me to continue working and force me to aspire to create the best work I can, would be Cary Fukunaga, Justin Chon, and Tad Nakamura. All three of them have a distinct style, language, and message in all of their films and on top of all of that, their work is incredibly entertaining.

How does your Asian heritage influence your work?

RTD: I’m often interested in stories that are about overcoming or succumbing to oppression, prejudice, and racism. Growing up in New York City, my friends were predominately Jewish, Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, Ecuadorian, Dominican, and African American. A lot of my personality and character is shaped by the folks who raised me, and because my family has roots in one of America’s darkest chapters, it inspires my voice to speak out and against any type of oppression, bigotry or bias in all sections of American culture.

What is your outlook on the state of Asian American cinema?

RTD: I’m really inspired by a lot of the films and filmmakers that have come forward over the last few years. Obviously, there’s a large void of Asian American presence on and behind the screen. But I think that starts here, with the writers, filmmakers, and actors. I’m a big believer in “if you build it, they will come.” It’s good that people are speaking up about the lack of Asian American presence because it challenges the filmmakers and content creators to build something that hasn’t been done before.

What’s next for you?

RTD: Currently, I’m rewriting a draft of a feature screenplay that I wrote about an Asian youth gang in New York City’s Chinatown during the late ’80s and early ’90s. I’m also developing two other screenplays with writer friends and am hoping to make another film very soon!

“Tadaima” still. Image credit: Robin Takao D’Oench.

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Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Robin Takao D’Oench! Watch “Tadaimaon the X1 Asian American destination or with Xfinity Stream this March.

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For more Filmmaker Spotlights or Asian American news and entertainment visit Xfinity Asian American.