Celebrating the DVD release in Los Angeles

LA screeningWho knew that a story outside the accepted narrative of the Japanese American community would still have the power to be considered controversial? Thanks to the 125 who turned out on May 12 for the DVD launch event and the lively Q and A at the Japanese American National Museum. See the photo gallery here.

And thanks to JANM, program director Koji Stephen Sakai, and new president and CEO Dr. Greg Kimura for daring to have us there in the first place. As Dr. Kimura said in introducing us, he’d received a couple of phone calls questioning the museum’s hosting of this film documenting draft resistance insideAmerica’s WW2 concentration camps. Dr. Kimura said the film and this subject remain controversial topics in the Japanese American community even today, but he said he believes the mission of the museum is precisely to offer those alternate narratives that are outside the accepted narratives of the community. As a new hire, that was a gutsy thing to say, and I hope the people of LA rally behind his leadership. It was fitting that you could see the name of the venue – Tateuchi Democracy Forum – writ large behind him as he spoke and throughout the screening.

After the screening I made the mistake of waving a red flag in front of my good friend Martha by holding up a copy of John Okada’s No-No Boy, as recommended reading. To be heard from the upper rows, Martha had to shout, and she sure let us know how the author is really a veteran trying to write about a resister, how the title misleads the reader as the main character is not a “no-no boy,” and how the resisters really hate the book. But Yosh Kuromiya was able to say that while he hated the book for years, after several more readings he now understands that Okada was not trying to portray the resisters as confused, and that the book truly is, as he put it, “a work of art.” And Martha joined a group of us for breakfast at Dick Obayashi’s Gardena Bowl two days later.

It was a pleasure to reunite with several key players in our film: Yosh and Irene Kuromiya, Tak Hoshizaki, Prof. Art Hansen, and our fabulous world-class film editor, Lillian Benson, A.C.E. Also thanks to Momo Yashima and Ralph Brannan, Soji Kashiwagi, Marie and Earnie Masumoto, Gerald Kado, Ben Toshiyuki, Harry Honda, and cousin Jeff Shinozaki for joining us in the audience. Thanks also to J.K. Yamamoto of the Rafu Shimpo for catching us in the lobby and posting this online photo with Art and Lillian.

One thought on “Celebrating the DVD release in Los Angeles”

  1. Dave Watanabe from Pasadena shared this comment via e-mail:

    Thank you Mr. Abe for showing the film today at JANM. It was both remarkable and educational for me. I am very interested in the stigma the “no-no” boys and the draft resisters have faced even till today. As a senior citizen (born in 1945) from Hawaii our family was not affected by any relocation/internment ordeal so I only learned of the details of the internment after I began to live in LA since 1971.

    I feel bad for the people who were and continue to be stigmatized within the Japanese-American community. I for one am unable to judge either side on the issue. If I lived through those days I really don’t know what I would have done. I think films like yours can open people’s minds for better understanding and acceptance of people who decided either way. Needless to say a very sensitive issue, but the only way to overcome it is to face the issue head on. I will be going on the Tule Lake pilgrimmage this year to learn more about the “no-no” people and resisters.

    It is too bad the Q & A session was cut very short due to another film showing today. There was a lot I would have liked to have heard from your 2 panelists who lived through this nightmarish period.

    Congratulations on such a superb documentary and for helping me understand a lot more.

    Dave Watanabe (in Pasadena)

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