‘When You Leave’ explores the separation of friends and family in camps

Writer-director Jason Yamamoto’s short film “When You Leave” focuses on Japanese American incarceration from a different perspective, exploring the emotional bonds that break when family members and friends take divergent paths from the close confinement of camp life.

The film opens with a young man, Yukio, working as a farm laborer for two weeks. Then the scene shifts to his family’s barracks and the tensions between his complex and conflicted emotions upon his return, where he doesn’t want to talk about his experience. The family has learned they can leave the camp like some other families whose members found jobs or sponsors, but he isn’t happy about the approval to leave.

His friend Hijiri is happy that Yukio’s family gets to leave to go to Utah, but Yukio says he’s tired of moving and asks angrily, “How do you know it’s better?” Yukio is actually happy in camp, woodworking and making furniture and boxes including a box for knitted baby booties that his sister Tomoko made.

Tomoko gets upset that he touched them — she’s even angrier than her brother about being in a prison camp. Then Yukio finds his friend Hijiri enlisted to show his patriotism.

The layers of psychological trauma feel almost unbearable by the end, and leaves you wanting to know more about this damaged family who are, in the end, determined to stay together and love and support each other.

Yamamoto’s film is a quiet, thoughtful gem.

“Before They Take Us Away” and “When You Leave” will screen as part of the “Untold Stories Program” Saturday, Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the AMC Kabuki 8 at 1881 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown and Sunday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at the San Jose Betsuin Buddhist Church at 640 N. Fifth St. in San Jose’s Japantown. It will also be available online from Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. through March 12 at 11:59 p.m. For tickets or more information, visit www.filmsofremembrance.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *