International filmmaker Kate Tsubata produced the film Dancing Joy, winner of awards in numerous film festivals. She visited Goldendale recently to look into it as a location for filmmaking.

International filmmaker Kate Tsubata visited Goldendale recently to investigate its potential for film projects and to support the concept of building a thriving arts center in the area.

“Film is a low-impact industry, environmentally, but a high-impact industry, economically,” she noted. “Arts production brings talent and spends money—but it doesn’t erode land, take minerals or destroy waterways.”

Goldendale and Klickitat County enjoy wide open vistas, dramatic scenery, and a dry climate—great for film, she noted.

Tsubata spoke with city and county officials about how the arts can bring positive social and financial growth to rural area, referring to examples like Sundance; Telluride; Sevierville, Tennessee; and Newport, Rhode Island. “The key factor is to build the qualities you want—the integrity—into the arts activity. That determines the audience you attract and the experience they will have.”

Tsubata has a lot of experience with “impossible dream” projects. Traveling through Israel in 2005 with her performing team, WAIT, she witnessed an event that sparked a vision that led to the production of an amazing film.

“Our teens met kids from a school group that was touring the Dead Sea area, who wanted to see what we do. We set up some mats and did some singing, dancing, and a funny skit, there in the parking lot. Then they turned on some music and showed us their traditional dance—a Debka—and we joined in. Suddenly, all the spectators—tourists from all different countries—joined in! In a minute, we were all dancing and laughing together, winding around the parking lot, like old friends.”

“I saw that, and thought, ‘This is the power of music and dance—complete strangers can melt together and celebrate. Wouldn’t it be great if the whole world could dance together to the same song?’”

Tsubata couldn’t shake this vision—the idea of bringing the world together in dance. Over time, she immersed herself in filmmaking and production, working on professional sets and creating her own.

For her original films, she started small, gathering family and friends to shoot the movie with creative workarounds and in-kind investment.

“We shot one film in a small town in West Virginia, and half the town became extras in a courthouse scene that day,” she smiled. “On our next film, another town opened its doors, contributing vacant shops, wardrobe, a large wedding hall, and the use of the town hall and courtroom for the various scenes.”

In 2017, dismayed with the way that adversarial politics and increasing violence was escalating, the Tsubata family decided to move forward on the ambitious concept of the world dance film in the hopes of enabling people to see each other’s value.

“The music we wanted was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony—the Ode to Joy—because its message fits the idea of all mankind connecting to joy,” she explained. “We invite dancers of traditional cultures to participate. We used technology to send them portions of the symphony to choreograph, and they sent back videos of their dances. Then, we found locations using satellite imaging systems and lots of research.”

Daughter Lan Tsubata Lee, a dancer and choreographer herself, became the director. Designing the production and doing all of the film’s editing was her other daughter, Mie Tsubata Smith. Son Kensei helped with the sound engineering. Son-in-law SunJae Smith, a professional director of photography, shot some of the scenes, although the principal photography was by cinematographer Henrik A. Meyer and camera/drone operator Yousuke Kiname.

“We traveled 56,000 miles to film the dancers in 10 nations, circling the globe,” Kate said. “The complexity was enormous, and time was tight in each place. The director often communicated by learning the group’s choreography and showing them what she wanted by dancing their steps, and indicating the camera movement.”

The film, Dancing Joy, took nearly 18 months to edit the thousands of shots and scenes to match the specific parts in the symphony, to convey a beautiful experience to the audience.

“We were entered into film festivals, ready to bring it out in screenings—and COVID struck,” Kate said. “How do you share your movie when everything is shut down? Our solution became streaming. We put it on Itunes, VUDU, GooglePlay and Amazon Video, so people could rent and stream the film while they were stuck at home.”

The film has earned top awards from festivals like IndieDance, Lady Filmmakers and Docs Without Borders. More importantly, to Tsubata and her family, are the responses they get from the film’s viewers. “We post them all on our website. We want people to know what kind of experience they can expect when they see it.” (The website,, also has the links for streaming or purchasing the film, as well as some of the vlogs and blogs that followed the crew’s travels around the world.)

“Technology has changed the game,” Tsubata points out. “Now the little guy can do things that in the past, only those with massive bank accounts and huge organizations could do. The only limit, now, is our imagination.

This is the message she wants to share with the people of the Goldendale and Klickitat County area. “It’s really true: what the mind can conceive, and believe, it can achieve,” she said. “The only difference between an impossible dream, and a dream achieved, is taking that first step.”