The Picture Taker - film poster

The Picture Taker (2022)
Directed by Phil Bertelsen and produced by Lise Yasui
Original score by Erin O’Hara; Additional songs by Sumi Tonooka

Famed photographer Ernest Withers was credited with documenting the civil rights movement, but his legacy was blemished when it was revealed after his death that he’d been an FBI informant.

The Picture Taker – Trailer

Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings The Band - film poster

Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings The Band (2015)
Directed & produced by Carol Bash
Music composed by Sumi Tonooka

A feature documentary on the life and music of this renowned jazz pianist, composer and arranger. She was ahead of her time, a genius. During an era when Jazz was the nation’s popular music, Mary Lou Williams was one of its greatest innovators. As both a pianist and composer, she was a font of daring and creativity who helped shape the sound of 20th century America. And like the dynamic, turbulent nation in which she lived, Williams seemed to redefine herself with every passing decade.

Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings The Band – Trailer

A Family Gathering - Academy Award nominated film by Lise Yasui

A Family Gathering (1998)
Academy Award nominated film by Lise Yasui

Produced by Lise Yasui and Ann Tegnell
Music composed by Sumi Tonooka

On December 12, 1941, Masuo Yasui was arrested by the FBI as a “potentially dangerous enemy alien.” His family was left to fend for themselves; then they were separated by being sent to government internment camps. Family Gathering is a deeply personal exploration by Masuo’s granddaughter of that time period and the family’s memories. This film received an Academy Award nomination and premiered on PBS as part of the American Experience series.

Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter - film poster

Mrs Groundo’s Daughter (2011)
Directed & produced by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater
Original music composed and performed by Sumi Tonooka

Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter is the story of a young mother’s quest to keep her baby daughter healthy and whole. It is also the story of the African tradition of female genital cutting, which dates back thousands of years—and how it affects people’s lives in just two of the many places where the practice is being debated today.

Mrs Goundo’s Daughter – Trailer

Rosita - film poster

Rosita (2005)
Directed & produced by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater
Original music composed and performed by Sumi Tonooka

In January 2003, news spreads throughout Central and South America that a 9-year-old Nicaraguan girl has become pregnant as the result of a rape. Rosa, or Rosita as the girl becomes known in the press, is the only child of illiterate campesinos working in Costa Rica as coffee pickers at the time of the assault. Fearing for their daughter’s life and mental health, Rosa’s parents are determined to obtain an abortion for their child.

DARING TO RESIST: Three Women Face the Holocaust - a film by Martha Goell Lubell and Barbara Attie

Daring To Resist: Three Women Face The Holocaust (1999)
Directed & produced by Barbara Attie, Martha Goell Lubell
Original music performed and composed by Sumi Tonooka

Janeane Garafalo narrates this trilogy of three teenage girls fighting genocide during WWII, taking risks they never dreamed possible: Faye, a photographer and partisan fighter in Poland; Barbara, a ballerina in Amsterdam who hid and moved Jews to safety; and Shulamit, who led groups of Jews in underground border crossings from Hungary to Rumania. Despite losing their own families to the Nazis, these young women chose resistance, rather than submission, and helped keep others alive.

Queen Of The Mountain (2001)
Directed & produced by Martha Goell Lubell
Original music performed and composed by Sumi Tonooka

The story of Theresa Goell, a woman who ignored the dictates of her family, her time and her body (she was deaf), opting for adventure and challenge in a man’s field: Archaeology. In so doing, she achieved her life-long dream at the age of 50: Leading the excavation of Nemrud Dagh, a burial site in southeastern Turkey and the final resting place of King Antiochus of Commagene, who controlled Euphrates River-crossings in the century before Christ.

Crosstown - a documentary by Miriam Camitta

Crosstown (2001)
Directed & produced by Miriam Camitta
Original music composed by Sumi Tonooka

The story of how a community saved itself through the dedication, solidarity, struggle and ultimate triumph of everyday people. These hometown heroes came together to prevent the building of a crosstown expressway that would have divided Philadelphia in half and destroyed some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.

You Don’t Know Me (2000)
Directed & produced by Cambiz Khosravi
Original music composed and performed by Sumi Tonooka

This film tells the story behind the trial of Dewin Vargas, a teenage boy charged with the murder of his foster parent. By exploring Dewin’s life and the events that led to his act of violence, the film is a window into the institutionalized injustices of the foster care system.

Shizue (1990)
Directed by Emi Tonooka
Produced by Nadine Paterson, Emi Tonooka

Emiko Tonooka, a Nisei American woman (and Sumi’s mother) tells the story of her search in Japan for her half sister whom she had never known. Through story telling, photography and carefully choreographed video work, a powerful portrait of family, history and connection emerges.

Susumu (1991)
Directed & produced by Gei Zantzinger
Musical director: Sumi Tonooka

This film offers a musicologist’s view of Sumi Tonooka’s original work, Out From the Silence. The piece was dedicated to Sumi’s mother, who at the age of 16 was taken with her family and thousands of other Japanese from her home on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, to internment camps. Jazz Times called the work “spellbinding.” The film includes interviews with Ms. Tonooka and her mother, the late Emiko Tonooka. It also has live footage of the actual piece being performed live in the studio, by a band featuring Rufus Reid on bass, Akira Tana on drums, Wallace Roney on trumpet, Bill Easley on clarinet, Clifton Anderson on trombone, John Blake on violin, Bob Kenmotsu on tenor sax, Fusako Yoshida on koto, Ronnie “Nyogetsu” Seldin on shakuhachi, Steven Hideo Morris on vibes and percussion and Sumi Tonooka on piano.

Susumu – Full length

Japanese Women: A Sense Of Place (1992)
Produced by Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, Leita Hageman
Original music composed and performed by Sumi Tonooka

This documentary addresses the lives and points of view of Asian American women who examine questions of ethnicity, racism and identity, and how these issues have shaped their lives and experiences.

Mysterical Awakenings (1994)
Dance work commissioned, choreographed and performed by Mariko Tanabe
Original music by Sumi Tonooka, performed by Sumi Tonooka and John Blake

Mariko Tanabe, a former premier dancer for the Edwin Hawkins Dance Company, now leads her own company, Mariko Tanabe Danceworks. This piece explores the metamorphosis and arrival of a woman’s creative soul. With a magical kind of grace, it illuminates Ms. Tanabe’s personal influences, which have included modern dance, traditional Noh and butoh dance from Japan, and flamenco. Scored for synthesizer, koto and percussion.

Voices Found (1995)
Dance work commissioned/choreographed/ performed by Mariko Tanabe DanceWorks
Original music performed and composed by Sumi Tonooka

Voices Found looks at the connection between mothers and daughters. Through explorations of the past and present, it delves into emotions expressed and transferred in the womb. An intimate view of the maternal bond and its capacity to evoke, sometimes all at once, expressions of love, anger, loss and triumph.

Are You Black, White Or What? (1998)
Directed by Lillian Paulmier and produced by PBS
Original music composed and performed by Sumi Tonooka

A mother examines the effects of identity and race on her bi-racial child. How do parents best help their children to cope with questions such as, “Are you black, white, or what?”