“The Empty Chair” (2014, 72 min.) by Greg Chaney is a unique documentary about how Japanese Americans from Juneau, Alaska were sent to prison camps during WWII and how the small Alaskan community stood in quiet defiance against the immoral incarceration of American citizens. In 1942 John Tanaka was going to be the valedictorian of his high school graduating class but was scheduled to be incarcerated in an American concentration camp before the ceremony. When the official graduation ceremony was held, they set aside an empty chair on the platform to acknowledge his absence.
For years, it had been common knowledge that Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from the West Coast during World War II. But what about in Hawai‘i, where those of Japanese descent made a significant portion of the population? Until recently, theirs had been an untold story.