…I TOLD YOU SO weaves scenes of Japanese American poet and professor Lawson Inada’s life with his writings.

“[Lawson] Inada’s impassioned reading of his verse, interviews with his friends and family, and observational sequences on the streets of his multiethnic hometown of Fresno, California, all create an understanding of how Chicano, African American, and Japanese communities informed Inada’s upbringing.”

Joshua Glick, Los Angeles Documentary and the Production of Public History, 1958-1977
Synopsis: 

At turns pastoral and gritty, Alan Kondo’s memorable monochrome documentary brings to life the writings of Japanese American poet and professor Lawson Inada. Titled after one of his best-known poems, …I TOLD YOU SO follows Inada to Fresno, California for a sentimental journey to his childhood neighborhood. That Fresno, a panoply of urban blight — graffitied downtown walls, bars, the local Nisei Barber Shop, a skyline of factories belching smoke into the sky — contrasts with the Fresno of Mexican and African American schoolmates, familiar hometown haunts, and even local denizens as Inada’s own aunt, one of the subjects of his poems who asks, “All this identity thing. What is it you’re looking for?” Inada’s answer is contained in his poem, “Nightsongs in Asian America” inspired by author John Okada (NO-NO BOY); and in his active resistance to World War II incarceration and his relationship with his son.

     …I TOLD YOU SO was written and directed by Alan Kondo, whose lasting impact at Visual Communications is evidenced in his introduction of industrial video to the organization’s creative arsenal. An alumnus of Loyola Marymount University’s film production program, he additionally directed TRACKS, part of VC’s “Hidden Treasures” series; and for the National Coalition for Redress & Reparations, JUSTICE NOW! REPARATIONS NOW!

Reviews

Director's Commentary: 

…1974 was when I started …I TOLD YOU SO. It was an exciting project for me because the subject was Lawson Inada, who was one of the first and most well-known Japanese American poets. For me, it a real learning experience because for him, the roots of his poetry are not only his Asian American identity, but also the Chicano community that he grew up in, the Black music that he liked to listen to. His poetry embodied for me the synthesis of what it meant to be ‘Asian American.’

— Excerpted from an interview conducted by Arthur Dong, August, 1990