April 20, 2017
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Docmaker Loni Ding Dies
by Doniphan Blair
Lori Ding at work art KQED in San Francisco. photo courtesy KQED.
Loni Ding was an educator and activist as well as award-winning filmmaker who documented the Asian American experience. She also significantly widened community access to television programming through her PBS docs and as a founder of the Independent Televison Service (ITVS) and the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA). In February, she passed away of a stroke in Oakland at 78.
Isadora Quanehia Ding Welsh grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where her parents ran an herb shop in a bygone era when the neighborhood still sported opium dens. After studying sociology at UC Berkeley, she turned to film and media production, which she taught in UC’s ethnic studies department, before going on to produce more than 250 broadcast shows – notably at KQED of San Francisco, through its Open Studio, which she also founded in 1970.
These included the immigrant essays, “How We Got Here: The Chinese,” 1975; “China’s History Unearthed,” on the archeological finds coming out of Communist China; and “Ancestors in the Americas,” 1996, for PBS, which traced centuries of the Asian journey to the New World.
“She was a mentor to so many young people. A lot of people started their filmmaking careers because of her class,” said her husband, David Welch, in a SF Chronicle article by Walter Addiego, while Barbara Abrash, of NYU, told Addiego that the struggle of “ordinary people” to achieve social justice were “the passion of her life and subject of her films.”
Ding won several Emmys, was shown at the London and Berlin film festivals and garnered innumerable awards as well as Guggenheim and American Film Institute fellowships. She testified before the Senate to increase public broadcasting funding and her “Nisei Soldiers” and “The Color of Honor,” about Japanese American soldiers and the internment of their families during World War II, were presented as evidence during the 1988 reparation hearings.
Evidently, Ms. Ding was very persuasive when persuing her passions but also egalitarian and able to delegate. While forming NAATA, “She pulled us together, but then stepped aside, encouraging other members of the steering committee,” according to Stephen Gong, the director of the Center for Asian American Media. “She taught history and she made history... [indeed, her] many wonderful and important documentaries have changed the way millions of Americans have understood our common history.”
Ms. Ding’s activism, openness, and media abilities, as well as her warm personality and elevated cultural insight, will be sorely missed.
Posted on Apr 03, 2010 - 12:09 PM