November 29, 2009

video review: racism series 1

challenge to democracy-Japanese internment

This is definitely a propaganda film. It is trying to portray the Japanese internment camps in a good light. Much use of Orwellian double speak is used : evacuees vs. detainees, relocation centres vs. internment camps.

Has a "look how well the government takes care of Japanese people! They are doing okay!" feel to the movie. Baseball, football, religious services, are shown. A very paternal attitude. This is ironic as a few years and a horrible war later, the government would "champion" freedom and human rights during the Cold War.

Here in Canada, the government at the time did the same thing, interned Japanese Canadians. Communists were also rounded up and put in camps during the first part of the war. Canada had done this before of course. In WWI Germans and Ukrainians (parts of Ukraine were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time) and others were put into camps. And this was a time when Aboriginals living on reservations were not allowed off the reserve without a government pass.

There are a few reviews at the Internet Archives where this film is hosted:

"this is the most hypocritical (but at least they tried haha) explanation i have ever heard for a moronic governmental action!

no, of course they weren't nazi extermination camps; no one has said that. but they were a disgrace to human dignity and you MUST read between the lines. for example, read about the japanese unit during WWII. or that it might be BETTER to volunteer for the army than stay in a camp?

how about all these japanese who came from lovely parts of california (i know, because i live there), being fruit farmers or owning their own businesses or being doctors? and then they end up in the mid-west which is freezing doing menial jobs and are never asked their opinions.

yeah, i am sure all the nisei and isei have really forvigen the united states government. i haven't!"

here is another:

This stark film explains and attempts to justify the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. It's a tall order, and the filmmakers seemed to have known it, for despite their newspeak terminology of "relocation" and "evacuation", they end up not really trying very hard to make this seem any better than what it really was:the forced imprisonment of a group of American citizens based on race.

Most of the reassurances the film tries to give that this is not what it appears to be are contradicted at later points in the film. It's not imprisonment or even internment, the film says, but then it shows us the barbed wire fences and guards around the perimeter. The fact that these people are being "relocated" should not imply that they are disloyal, but then they turn around and say that their presence on the west coast was a "military hazard."

These people, despite their Japanese ancestry, are loyal Americans just like the rest of us, the film keeps saying, then it tells us that the Japanese-American medical personnel in the camps are supervised by Caucasians, and even the doctors earn the princely sum of $19 a month.

Finally, the film breaks down and admits that it's hard to teach the "values of Americanism" in a concentration-camp setting. Still, that doesnÂt stop them from ending the film by saying that we are fighting the war to preserve the American values of freedom and equal opportunity regardless of race, creed, or color, an ending for this movie that makes you want to throw up.

Of course, there are many positive scenes of camp life, but you get the impression that these good things were entirely due to the efforts of the internees themselves, with no real help from the government that imprisoned them. The film as a whole, as appalling as it is, is a fascinating historical record of one of the darker moments in the history of our government. It's definitely required viewing for those who may romanticize our participation in World War II.

Given the present "War on Terror" this film is important to consider as there are parallels, then and now.

don't be a sucker-(1947)

"Admonishes Americans that they will lose their country if they let fanaticism and hatred turn them into '"suckers." "Let's forget about 'we' and 'they' -- let's think about us!" In the context of the emerging Cold War, this film appears paradoxical."

Another review/comment as quoted: "The tone of this film puzzled me until the end. It preached tolerance, stressed that America was a nation of minorities, disavowed any differences in ability based on race, and in short would be considered liberal today and quite radical in 1947.

I was very suprised to see the final screen, where the movie said it was produced by the War Office and not to be shown to the general public. Based on this, I take this film not to be a relic of New Deal liberalism, but to be part of Harry Truman's efforts to desegregate the armed forces, which was as ahead of its time as this film. This makes sense, because a film like this would not have been tolerated in the segregated south..."

This movie is indeed a paradox, as the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunts and resulting blacklists were just about to begin.

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