Susanne Tabata

Region: Vancouver British Columbia
| Nanaimo British Columbia


Susanne Tabata is a documentarian and digital media creator whose passion is to find truth in overlooked subject material. She was born in Nanaimo and grew up in Tokyo and Victoria before moving to Vancouver to study International Relations at UBC. She is a hapa-sansei, whose Steveston born father Susumu was the first student from an internment site to enter UBC in 1947 after the World War II.

Themes of alienation or belonging are present in her work.

Tabata was a UBC CITR radio DJ prior to involvement as an on-camera host on the first underground cable television show Nite Dreems, which led to immersive involvement in the late night club culture in Vancouver and aesthetic influences from late 70s early 80s punk and gay disco.  Music videos and commercials form a style bed on which she has made a number of educational resource films including the Noam Chomsky keynoted Shaking the Tree: Social Responsibility in Education; the environmental film U-Turn narrated by Severn Cullis-Suzuki, and the award-winning Us & Them: Race Relations and Canadian Identity.

In 1996, CBC Newsworld discovered Talk to Me, a film which asks 10 diverse students to explore the same questions about race, gender, sexual orientation, and privilege.  This national broadcast opened the door to producing Barenaked in America, the 35mm touring film of the Canadian band the Barenaked Ladies, screened at Tiff & directed by Jason Priestley.  As a writer-producer-director she has created the west coast Canadian surfing history film 49 Degrees. She was the only female out of ten winners in the FoxFUEL Experiment in Los Angeles and created Skategirl, which follows the parallel journeys of professional women skateboarders from the 70s til 2005. Her documentary Bloodied But Unbowed  completes the trifecta of surf-skate-punk, and chronicles the life and death of the first Vancouver punk scene of the late 1970s.  The film opened at the mid-festival presentation at DOXA and has won accolades including a 28 day screening in Shibuya Tokyo and the audience choice at the Berlin Punk Film Festival.  Her broadcast relationships are with Fox, CBC, CTV, Knowledge, Super Channel, SCN and TVO.

Tabata is also involved in the Japanese Canadian community and related initiatives, including sitting on the Community Council for the University of Victoria-led Landscapes of Injustice research project, the board of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association, and in an Arts, Culture & Education capacity with the National Association of Japanese Canadians. She is a partner on the Nikkei National Museum project Writing Wrongs: Japanese Canadian Letters of Protest from the 1940s, currently in development for the Virtual Museums of Canada.  She has also contributed her filmmaking skills to the community with such projects as the centrepiece video for the UBC Japanese Canadians Students of 1942 honorary degree ceremony and the Nikkei National Museum Ohanashi oral history series.

A part-time college media arts college instructor, and pop culture writer, Tabata counts raising her two sons in East Vancouver as the biggest accomplishment of her life thus far.