Author Archive for: admin

Hometown Milwaukee

I’m thrilled that An American Contradiction has been accepted into the Milwaukee Film Festival. It’s my hometown after all. I wasn’t able to make it to the premiere, but my parents were at the Fox-Bay and said it went very well. If you happen to be in Milwaukee, there’s still time to catch the last screening at the Oriental Theatre this coming Saturday. I’ll certainly be there.

Saturday, September 29th | Fox-Bay Cinema | 7:50pm

Wednesday, October 3rd | Downer Theatre | 4:30pm

Saturday, October 6th | Oriental Theatre | 4:00pm

I’ve also been asked to be on a panel discussion this coming Saturday titled “Access and Ethics in Documentary Filmmaking.” The panel is free and open to the public. It will be held at Kenilworth Square East located at 1915 East Kenilworth Place, Rm 640.

Saturday, October 6th | Panel Discussion | 1:00pm

Since being home I had the wonderful opportunity to present An American Contradiction at my high school assembly. It was very rewarding to screen the film in an auditorium of about 300 students. I could sense the students were engaged, catching the nuances and holding their attention until the end. The students and teachers asked great questions about the editing and research process. Big thanks to my alma mater University School of Milwaukee for inviting me.


DocUtah Screening

An American Contradiction has been accepted into DocUtah, the Southern Utah International Documentary Film Festival, and will have two screenings.

Friday, September 7th | Red Cliffs Cinema | 6:10pm

Friday, September 7th | Crescent Moon Theater | 7:20pm

One screening is in St. George and the other in the town of Kanab, which the locals call “Little Hollywood.” Unfortunately, the theaters are separated by 78 miles, and I can only make it to one showing. Though I’m curious to know what Little Hollywood is all about, I’ll be at the Red Cliff Cinema in St. George. Before the screening I’ll be participating in a seminar at 2:45pm in the Eccles Sears Gallery.

Heart Mountain Screening & Exhibit Controversy

An American Contradiction is screening at the Multigenerational Arts Event at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center on Saturday, August 11th. I’m very excited to present at this venue, considering Heart Mountain is right outside the doorstep.

Saturday, August 11th | 11:10am, 1:15pm, 2:30pm

This year’s pilgrimage will be particularly interesting due to the controversy surrounding the new exhibit at the Interpretive Center titled “Perceptions of Muslims in America.” The Powell Tribune conducted an open poll on July 19th asking “Do you agree with the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center’s decision to host an exhibit featuring Muslim portraits?” Currently, 55.9% agree and 44.1% disagree. These percentages are surprisingly close.

It’s also interesting that the disagreement comes from the general public as well as within the Japanese American community. George Yoshinaga from the Rafu Shimpo bluntly wrote in his column on July 31st: “As a former resident at Heart Mountain, I am pissed off with an exhibit that has nothing to do with the evacuation of 120,000 Japanese Americans. Just who made such a stupid decision?”

Even I draw parallels between the Muslim American and Japanese American experiences in An American Contradiction. Prejudice in the time of war exists and needs to be carefully watched. Yoshinaga’s words clearly show that more work has to be done to make the incarceration relevant to current events.

World Premiere!

Please join us this weekend for the world premiere of An American Contradiction at the 36th Cleveland International Film Festival.

Saturday, March 24th | 2:15 pm

Wednesday, March 28th | 12:00pm

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased on the Cleveland International Film Festival website. Hope to see you there!

Celebration and Remembrance

Presidents Day is a commemoration of Honest Abe’s birthday and a happy day off for many Americans. I spent the long holiday weekend in Salt Lake City to celebrate my uncle Dr. William I. Higuchi’s conferment of the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan. After many years of waiting and a long application process, the honor was finally bestowed upon him on Sunday, February 19th in front of a roomful of proud relatives, friends and colleagues. Also known as Day of Remembrance, February 19th marked the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced removal of Japanese Americans along the West Coast. My uncle’s lifetime achievements in the pharmaceutical sciences and academia are exemplary and globally recognized. Like my family, he was interned at Heart Mountain, and as history would have it, he met his future wife and lifelong partner, my mother’s sister Setsuko Saito, while a school boy in camp. He has been instrumental in the preservation of the Heart Mountain site and with the building of the Interpretive Learning Center. My uncle is an extraordinary man, and I’m very proud of him. The weekend was full of awards, and on Saturday, the day before my uncle’s conferment, I was the lucky recipient of an extra ticket to a luncheon of 1000 people honoring Utah’s Japanese American veterans from WWII. The 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in November of last year but only a handful were able to make it to Washington DC for the ceremony. Only one gold medal was made, and the veterans were given bronze replicas stamped by the U.S. Mint. Overall, it was quite a few days of remembrance and celebration in the Japanese American community. Oh, I didn’t forget Abe and had a bite of birthday cake too.

Considering Guantanamo

I’ve been asked if there were parallels between the Guantanamo detention camp and the Japanese American concentration camps, and if there were parallels, what were they? Both entities were created out of a time of war and violated civil rights. Similarities also arise from the racism and prejudice against the racial groups, but the camps had fundamental differences. One distinction is that the camps have been run by different agencies. The Japanese American camps were run by the War Relocation Authority, a civilian agency created by the US government. The US government violated the Constitution by forcibly removing a mass of Japanese Americans from their homes, regardless of age, sex, age, and citizenship without due process of law. Guantanamo, on the other hand, is a detention camp run by the justice department and holds non-American individuals with suspected ties to terrorist groups. There is one recorded instance of an American who was captured in Afghanistan and detained at Guantanamo; however, he was eventually released and forced to renounce his citizenship (see Yaser Esam Hamdi). There is also substantial documentation that the incarceration of Japanese Americans was not a military necessity. Though the Japanese did bomb Pearl Harbor, there is no documentation of espionage within the Japanese American community (see summary in Personal Justice Denied). On the other hand, there have been documented Al Qaeda cells operating within the US, such as the result of 9/11.  However, the prisoners at Guantanamo have also been denied due process of law, calling into question whether or not the detention center’s existence is justified. Human rights organizations helped bring to light on an international scale the inhumane treatment of the prisoners, suspect conditions and violation of legal rights under the Geneva Convention. Japanese Americans who were incarcerated received an official apology from the US government with the passing of the Civil Liberties Act in 1988, over 40 years after the last camp closed. The US hasn’t yet closed Guantanamo or declared it unconstitutional, but perhaps time will tell. Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who was incarcerated at Heart Mountain, advocated “no racial profiling” after 9/11. Muslim Americans weren’t forcibly removed from their homes en mass like the Japanese Americans, but bigotry and fear against Muslim Americas, Islamic religion, and Arabic-speaking countries exist to this day and have influenced government policy such as the Patriot Act. In a time of war, when fear is high, maintaining the legal systems’ blindfold and even scale are paramount. The War on Terror challenges the Constitution and is an easy outlet for social prejudice based on race and religion.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

A date that lives in infamy. Today was the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which left thousands of Americans dead and wounded, and set off a cascade of events that changed the course of history. It is a day of remembrance. Over the course of filming, I interviewed several people who were school children at the time and remember the day vividly. LaDonna Zall, one of the Wyoming residents interviewed in An American Contradiction, was in the town of Lyman, lying on her stomach reading The Denver Post when the announcement came over the radio. She didn’t know what the announcement meant, but thought it was important and ran outside to tell her parents. She recalls that it was a nice, unusually warm Wyoming day. My uncle Alfred Saito, who was living in San Francisco, returned home from church when my grandfather called home from his store in Oakland to inform my grandmother that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Tension was high, and there were fears that my grandfather may be assaulted on his way back home across the Bay Bridge because he was Japanese. I try to imagine what it was like on Sunday, December 7, 1941 and draw parallels to my experience in New York City on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I witnessed first-hand the war, destruction and confusion that set off a cascade of events, changing the course of history, while fueling prejudice and paranoia against Muslim Americans. It appears that the times have changed, but wars and fears haven’t. Pearl Harbor is a tragic part of American history, and I remember the date as an echo of my own experience.

Expressing the Incarceration Through Art

While home for Thanksgiving, I went to the Kohler Art Museum in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and saw an excellent exhibition titled Hiding Places: Memory in the Arts. To say the least, I was surprised to see several artworks about the Japanese American incarceration. Masumi Hayashi‘s photo collages from the remnants of the camps at Heart Mountain and Tule Lake were visually striking. Tying in with the theme of memory, the large collages are shaped out of smaller photos, which when pieced together (like snapshots of memory), recall the incarceration experience as a whole.  There were also several pieces by Roger Shimomura, who was incarcerated in Minidoka, Idaho. His seemingly benign comic book style exposes the political and social contradictions of not only the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans but also the essence of American ideals and stereotypes. If anyone has a chance, swing by Sheboygan before December 20th. I highly suggest checking out the Hiding Places exhibition.

Japanese American veterans receive Congressional Gold Medal

Nearly 70 years after the start of WWII, Japanese American veterans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest honors awarded to a citizen. Approximately 19,000 soldiers served in these units. Sen. Daniel Inouye lost his arm in while in the 442nd and was the final speaker at the ceremony. He also spoke at the opening of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning center this past August.


The website for An American Contradiction is now up and running. Stay tuned for more more photos and videos!