This year’s 10th annual Films of Remembrance presents some old, some new and some old-school.
Given the global coronavirus pandemic, this year’s milestone event may look and feel a bit different. There have been less films made due to the COVID-19 virus, and of course we do not have the luxury of in-person events.
But out of adversity arises new opportunities.
Our committee thought it was a opportune occasion to present a virtual retrospective of some of our best films over our first decade, while still presenting what few new films were available, and adding a special and exciting old-school twist.
The 10th annual Films of Remembrance, a showcase of films commemorating the wartime forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans in American concentration camps during World War II, will be held on Saturday, Feb. 20 and Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, featuring a record 40 films — including a retrospective of past selections (available from Feb. 20-28), a few new films, and a very special 45th anniversary screening of the landmark 1976 John Korty film based upon James D. and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s landmark book, “Farewell to Manzanar.”
“Farewell to Manzanar,” which was broadcast once on NBC TV in 1976, was an early telling of the wartime incarceration experience, giving much of America its first glimpse into this dark chapter of American history. The film was aired at a time when Nisei parents did not readily share their wartime experiences with their younger Sansei children.
After being rediscovered at the Universal Studios archives, a series of 25th anniversary screenings were held in Sacramento, Marin County, San Francisco and Southern California in 2001. As there wasn’t a community screening in San Jose in 2001 to commemorate its 25th anniversary, it’s only fitting that we present this groundbreaking film in San Jose.
After months of isolation, we feel this is a great opportunity to gather safely in “community” while honoring Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and her efforts to bring our story to the masses through the film and her book, which has become required reading for many.
The special drive-in screening of “Farewell to Manzanar” at the drive-in will include an exclusive virtual on-screen reunion of cast and crew including actors Clyde Kusatsu, Akemi Kikumura Yano, Momo Yashima, Gretchen Corbett, Dori Takeshita; cinematographer Hiro Narita; crowd scene extras from the community; and hosted by cast member Frank Abe.
After presenting Films of Remembrance in San Jose’s Japantown for the first time last year, the Nichi Bei Foundation is proud to collaborate this year with Yu-Ai Kai Japanese American Community Senior Services in San Jose’s Japantown, to whom the Foundation will donate partial proceeds from the drive-in screening. Senior centers have been working hard to serve our beloved seniors over the year-long pandemic, so we are proud to be able to do a small part to support those efforts.
While there had been about 10 to 11 new films being presented annually the past several years, this year there are relatively few fresh offerings.
There will be two “live” programs with post-film discussions this year, starting with the Saturday, Feb. 20, 1 p.m., screening of Janice Tanaka’s film “Rebel With A Cause: The Life Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga.” The film presents an endearing portrait of Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga, a noted researcher and activist whose discovery of governmental misconduct during World War II was crucial to efforts for Japanese American redress. Aiko also has a special place in our hearts, as a founding member of the Nichi Bei Foundation Advisory Council.
On Sunday, Feb. 21, 1 p.m., there will be a screening of “Bearing the Unbearable” (2019, 29 min.) by Rory Banyard, examining the forced removal of Japanese Americans from their home on Bainbridge Island during World War II and their subsequent incarceration in Manzanar and Minidoka concentration camps. Two shorts will accompany the screening, “A Hero’s Hero” by Robert Shoji, which examines Heart Mountain draft resister Yosh Kuromiya and his nephew Kiyoshi Kuromiya, a pioneering civil rights activist in the African American and gay communities; and “Within Their Gates” by Matthew Goriachkovsky, on concentration camp survivor Yukio Shimomura.
Retrospective of Past Films
Since 2012, the Films of Remembrance Committee has curated an annual offering of films, providing a much-needed venue for filmmakers to showcase their work on the wartime experience and shed light on little-known stories from the era.
Through the years, new films have included untold stories about incarceration of Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i, Alaska and Canada; little-known stories of resistance behind barbed wire; the cultural and musical arts that were practiced in the camps; the movements to right a wrong; and even what happened to the barracks that once housed the wartime inmates.
Films of Remembrance also helped to present a series of short dramatic narratives created by descendants of concentration camp survivors, which helped to touch younger audiences.
We thank all of our filmmakers for helping to keep our history alive through their dedicated work.
We hope that you enjoy this year’s offering of virtual programming, and we hope to see you at the drive-in!
Kenji G. Taguma