Interview: “Betrayed”

Starting today and for the month of May you can watch director Rory Banyard’s new film on Minidoka, Betrayed:  Surviving an American Concentration Camp, on select local PBS stations and the PBS app.

Frank Abe in filmI want to thank Rory for calling me in to talk about the Munson Report, the wartime JACL, growing up Sansei, and other stuff.  What he produced isn’t another victim narrative of camp, but something that digs into the more complicated threads of the draft resistance at Minidoka and the postwar campaign for justice through redress. So I’m pleased I had the chance to contribute to the film, along with Satsuki Ina, Tom Ikeda, Clarence Moriwaki, Lawrence Matsuda, Michael Ishii, and many others. I can never bear to watch myself on screen, but this one is okay.

The Munson Report is not something I’ve researched on my own. It was prepared by a special investigator especially for President Roosevelt, and informed him that the Japanese in America posed no military threat and that the Nisei were in fact “pathetically loyal” to the U.S. It’s existence was first  revealed by Michi Weglyn in her groundbreaking book, Years of Infamy, where I read about it like everyone else. But the director wanted to bring it out so I  obliged by re-reading that section and talking about it as a means of honoring the memory of dear, sweet Michi.

Frank Chin in filmIn the first few minutes of the film you will see long-unseen archival footage of the very first Day of Remembrance, on November 25, 1978, including an interview with DOR creator Frank Chin holding a very young Joby Shimomura, daughter of Bea Kiyohara. Rory licensed the footage from a film archive that had acquired it from KOMO-TV in Seattle. It’s a great way to open the film as it captures the moment when many of those who were removed from Seattle to Minidoka first stood up for redress and reclaimed the history of camp as their own.

Check it out!

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