Ema Ryan Yamazaki is a documentary filmmaker based between Tokyo and New York. With a unique perspective as an insider and outsider in both Japan and the US, Ema strives to tell stories that empathetically show human struggle and triumph.



Born in Kobe, and raised by a Japanese mother and British father, Ema grew up navigating between cultures. As a teenager, Ema’s passion was modern dance, through which she learned discipline and self-expression.

Her interest in filmmaking began in middle school, when she was given the opportunity to tell stories using a video camera.

When she was 19, she moved to New York and attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, focusing on documentary and editing. Upon graduating from NYU, she began her career as an assistant editor, mentored by documentary mogul Sam Pollard.

During her first year out of film school, Ema was selected through an open-call process with Al Jazeera English to make MONK BY BLOOD, a 25-minute documentary about a family that runs an 800-year-old temple in Kyoto.

In 2014, Ema was an editor on CNN’s docu-series CHICAGOLAND, executive produced by Robert Redford. She went on to edit and co-produce CLASS DIVIDE, an HBO documentary directed by Marc Levin, which won the Grand Jury Prize at DOC NYC in 2015.

In 2016, she co-directed a documentary for NHK on Martin Scorsese’s film SILENCE.

In 2017, Ema’s first feature length documentary, MONKEY BUSINESS: THE ADVENTURES OF CURIOUS GEORGE’S CREATORS, was released worldwide.

The documentary uses animation, archival materials and interviews to tell the incredible story of Hans and Margret Rey, the authors of the beloved children’s book series Curious George. For the film, Ema successfully raised over $186,000 on Kickstarter.

Acquired by The Orchard, the film premiered at the LA Film Festival and won the Audience Award at the Nantucket Film Festival.

Having lived in New York for 9 years, Ema developed a new perspective toward her homeland of Japan, gaining an appreciation for the core values that had shaped her own character.

With a desire to tell more complex stories about Japan than what is typically available in international media, Ema decided to create a base in Tokyo from the spring of 2017.

In 2018, Ema embarked on her second feature documentary KOSHIEN: JAPAN’S FIELD OF DREAMS, exploring the cultural phenomenon of Japanese high school baseball as a microcosm of Japanese society. In co-production with NHK, the film is an intimate and dramatic journey following coaches and players from two high schools during the historic 100th summer Koshien tournament.

Koshien examines the past, present, and future of Japan's national obsession, as it struggles to balance character building traditions with more moderate ways to educate the next generation of successful adults. It premiered at DOC NYC in 2019, aired on ESPN in June 2020, and was subsequently released in theaters across Japan.

Also in 2019, Ema directed a 47-part mini-documentary series for NHK that aired in tandem with its annual historical “Taiga” drama, IDATEN, featuring stories about the history of Japan, sports, and its Olympic quest.

Additionally, her 11-part short documentary series about baseball player Ichiro Suzuki, “#dearICHIRO”, was commissioned by Yahoo! Japan.

In 2020, Ema completed her 5-year long project on the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s long-time Japanese Associate Artistic Director, Masazumi Chaya, CHAYA: AILEY’S KEEPER OF THE FLAME.

Ema also directed WHEELS OF FATE: THE STORY OF THE RICKSHAW MAN, exploring the fateful history of Japan’s singular humanist film made during World War II. The short documentary premiered together with the 4K restoration of THE RICKSHAW MAN in the Venice Film Festival’s Classics section.

In December 2020, Ema received the "Documentary Filmmaker of the Year Award" from Yahoo! JAPAN.

Ema edits all of her own work. In 2017, Ema married film producer Eric Nyari, and they frequently collaborate as producing/directing partners.


Cineric Creative

Cineric Creative is an independent production company based in New York and Tokyo.

It is especially focused on international co-productions with Japan, where it has a strong reputation for helping to realize ambitious art-house films.