Linda Mabalot connection
She resolved the group's financial problems, then concentrated on expanding its scope by encouraging a wide swath of Asian American communities to tell their stories through film and other media.
She also led the group to sponsor young Asian American filmmakers such as Justin Lin, who directed this year's controversial social satire about Asian American teenagers, "Better Luck Tomorrow."
To support the work of artists such as Lin, Mabalot created the Asian Pacific Film and Video Festival, which began in collaboration with the UCLA film department and now is in its 19th year. One of the largest showcases of Asian and Asian American filmmaking in the country, the festival, held at several sites around Los Angeles, drew 10,000 people over seven days in early May.
Lin, a 31-year-old Taiwan native who grew up in Orange County, said Mabalot allowed him to use Visual Communications' offices in Little Tokyo for auditions and rehearsals and was a source of unwavering moral support for a movie that contradicted the image of Asian Americans as a model minority.
"When Linda read the script," Lin said, "she really got it. She helped to empower me as an artist to explore the issues I wanted to explore, to stay true to the characters and issues without having to water them down or worry about what so-and-so in the community might think. What she brought was unconditional support."
Inspired by the work of Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan, who wrote movingly about the experiences of Filipino immigrant farm workers, Linda Mabalot became an activist in the Asian Pacific American student movement while a pre-med major at UC Davis. She graduated in 1975 with a degree in biology, but her desire to make a film about Bulosan eventually led her to Los Angeles.
She met Duane Kubo and Eddie Wong, two of the founding members of Visual Communications, while walking in Little Tokyo one day in 1977. She joined their collective of artists and filmmakers to direct and produce a project about the history of Filipinos in California. The result was a documentary titled "Manong," which focused on Filipino farm workers in the Central Valley and on Philip Veracruz, a Filipino American pioneer in the United Farm Workers movement.
"It was one of the earliest documentaries about Filipino Americans," said Cas Tolentino, an administrative law judge who taught UCLA's first class on the Filipino American experience and knew Mabalot for more than 25 years.