Americans should watch this film, especially those who pride themselves, as I, patriotic Americans. Now honestly this is not an A-Plus movie; it’s more like a B or B-Minus. Based on historian and activist, Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States, it suffers the same faults. Both speak out against the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, an outrageous act which violated the rights of innocent Americans, but let’s place it in context of the time. The country had just been devastated by a crippling, near fatal attack and governments, like people, do stupid things when ruled by fear. So, Franklin Delano Roosevelt allowed for 110,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry to be robbed of their property and interned.
Conditions in these camps were rough, but compare them to the camps of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Tojo had ordered the same for all British, American, Filipino Prisoners of War, as well as families of foreign nationalities in Japanese held territories. These POW’s, totaling some 350,000, were to be immediately executed when the invasion of Japan stated. Ovens, to depose of the bodies,had already been constructed when the atomic bomb ended the conflict.
There are stirring moments in this film: Sean Penn reading Kevin Tillman testimony before the committee, Christina Kirk and Viggo Mortensen reading the statement of Phyllis and Orlando whose son died in the 9-11 attacks, and David Strathairn invoking the condemnation of war by Admiral LaRocque. Plus the film offers what the book couldn’t; music by Pink and Neil Young.
Yes, the internment was wrong, but more despicable was this government dragging its feet until 1988 before officially apologizing and offering those interned compensation for their lost. The devil is in the details, they say, but so are the angels.
The closing, by Staceyann Chin, is a poem entitled The Low Road by Marge Piercy, and for that alone Americans should watch this film. Especially patriotic ones.
Extended version available on DVD and On Demand from online vendors or click here for more information on The People Speak Out.
Filmmaker: Howard Zinn, Anthony Arnove, Chris Moore
Cast includes: Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Morgan Freeman, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover, David Strathairn, Sean Penn, Marisa Tomei, Sandra Oh, Eddie Vedder, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Benjamin Bratt, Jackson Browne, Don Cheadle
Rating: Not Rated
Year: 2009 (Originally airing on The History Channel)