13th annual Films of Remembrance Feb. 24-25 in S.F., San Jose Japantowns


The 2024 Films of Remembrance sheds light on the forced removal and incarceration of the Japanese American community into American concentration camps during World War II.

Films of Remembrance, a showcase of films on the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans in American concentration camps during World War II, will be held Feb. 24 at the AMC Kabuki 8 at 1881 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown and Feb. 25 at the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin at 640 N. 5th St. in San Jose’s Japantown. The films will also be accessible through online streaming from Saturday, Feb. 24 through March 10.

“The annual Films of Remembrance program is so important because it brings our community to learn and share together,” said Christen Sasaki, Ph.D., an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at San Diego, who serves on the Films of Remembrance Committee. “Many times films like this year’s ‘Removed by Force,’ which documents the stories of those who were forcibly removed from their homes in Hawai‘i, sheds light on stories that usually aren’t given that much space in the main narrative of wartime incarceration.”

“I think one of the beautiful things we are seeing is younger generations exploring this history,” said fellow Films of Remembrance Committee member Wendi Yamashita, an assistant professor in Asian American Studies at California State University, Sacramento. “Either grappling with their own family history and trauma (“Blue Garden”) or finding themselves responsible for telling this history despite not having familial ties (“Omoiyari”), Films of Remembrance not only teaches us about the Japanese American WWII incarceration experience, but it prompts us to consider our roles in continuing to share this history.”

The films will be followed by panel discussions with filmmakers, and a Filmmakers Reception will take place from 8:30 to 10 p.m. at the AMC Kabuki 8 in San Francisco on Feb. 24.

The following is the offering of 12 films this year, including animations, short narratives and short and feature-length documentaries:

11 a.m. — War on Citizenship
“Nisei” (2023, 21 min.) by Darren Haruo Rae. Inspired by stories from the director’s grandfather, “Nisei” follows the journey of two Japanese American brothers during WWII. Stripped of their citizenship and placed in concentration camps, they volunteer for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to prove their loyalty to a country that doesn’t want them. With panelist actor Jonathan Tanigaki from Southern California.

“Community in Conflict” (2023, 45 min.) by Claudia Katayanagi. Community leaders set out to create a historical monument acknowledging the WWII internment camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but find themselves embattled by local veterans and fierce opposition. With panelists Nikki Nojima Louis and Sue Rundstrom from New Mexico.

12:40 p.m.: Untold Stories
“Removed by Force: the Eviction of Hawai‘i’s Japanese Americans During WWII”
(2023, 60 min.) by Ryan Kawamoto. Immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, about 1,500 Americans of Japanese ancestry were evicted from their homes by the U.S. government throughout the Territory of Hawai‘i, but not incarcerated or sent to detention facilities. Nearly 40 years later the Japanese American Citizens League helped them seek justice. With panelist William Kaneko, a redress advocate with the Honolulu JACL.

2:15 p.m.: Artistic Interpretations
“Blue Garden”
(2022, 5 min.) by Natalie Murao. The history of a Japanese Canadian fisherman during WWII. The film explores how trauma can fester and family stories can remain unspoken for generations. However, the younger generation is able to reconcile their grief and feel empowered to tell their family history.

“Traveling Rice Pot” (2019, 7 min.) by George Wada. This particular kitchen item followed a family through their history of life on a flower farm, to incarceration, to forced relocation to Japan and their return to American life.

“The Blue Jay” (2023, 14 min.) by Marlene Shigekawa. A Japanese American incarcerated in an Indigenous reservation during WWII forms an unlikely friendship with a Mohave Indian.

“Because of You, I Am” (2023, 30 min.) by Pear Urushima and Doug Menuez. A short documentary about PJ & Roy Hirabayashi, two quietly radical Japanese American taiko drummers who defied traditional cultural expectations in their quest for identity and purpose. With panelists Roy and PJ Hirabayashi.

4 p.m.: Life and Death Behind Barbed Wire
“Missing Pieces”
(2023, 14 min.) by Barbara Kagawa Shore. In a search for answers, the filmmaker discovers how the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans in 1942 led to two deaths in her family. With panelist Gwenn Jensen, Ph.D., an oral historian and medical anthropologist from Colorado.

“Baseball Behind Barbed Wire” (2023, 34 min.) by Yuriko Gamo Romer. The story of the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans, through the uncommon yet popular lens of baseball. Playing baseball was a chance to assert their citizenship and affirm their loyalty as Americans, even as camp guards in towers pointed their rifles inward and the barbed wire kept them confined.

5:45 p.m.: Films of Resistance
“We Hereby Refuse:
The Akutsu Family Resists” (2023, 15 min.) by Shannon Gee, Ian Devier, Randy Eng. Adapted from the graphic novel “We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration” written by Frank Abe and illustrated by Ross Ishikawa, this animated film tells the story of the Akutsu Family, brothers Gene and Jim and parents Kiyonosuke and Nao. With panelist Frank Abe, writer of “We Hereby Refuse,” from Seattle.

“One Fighting Irishman” (2023, 30 min.) by Sharon Yamato. The story of attorney Wayne M. Collins, whose passionate and uncompromising defense of the Constitution drove him to spend 23 years representing Japanese Americans who renounced their American citizenship while imprisoned at the embattled Tule Lake Segregation Center.

7:15 p.m.: Songs of Remembrance
(2023, 74 min.) by Kaoru Ishibashi / Justin Taylor Smith. Violinist and songwriter Kishi Bashi embarks on a musical journey to understand WWII era Japanese Incarceration, assimilation, and what it means to be a minority in America today. Followed by performance by Kishi Bashi.

Films of Remembrance is presented by the Nichi Bei Foundation. Presenting Sponsor is The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, and Media Sponsor is the Nichi Bei News.

Tickets to individual programs are $10 in advance ($12 at the door); “Songs of Remembrance” in San Francisco is $25 (includes Filmmakers Reception). All-Day passes are $60 in San Francisco (limit 40), including the Filmmakers Reception, and $50 in San Jose (limit 60). All-Virtual pass (view from Feb. 24 through March 10) are $50. Students with ID are free (limited), and discounts available for Nichi Bei Foundation members.

Proceeds benefit the Wayne Maeda Educational Fund; proceeds from ticket sales in San Jose benefit Yu-Ai Kai Japanese American Community Senior Service and the Japanese American Museum of San Jose.

For more information or to order tickets, visit: www.filmsofremembrance.org.

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