By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
The latest film to detail the Japanese-American experience in relocation camps during World War II, David Ono’s “The Legacy Of Heart Mountain” has a free screening this coming Sunday, March 15th, at the Nisei Veterans Committee Memorial Hall 1212 S. King Street in Seattle, from 1 to 3 pm.
The documentary film focuses on the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center, situated in Wyoming. Bruce Inaba, NVC Foundation President, had family at Heart Mountain. He’s seen the film already, and he took some questions over email.
NWAW: Please describe your own background. Are you originally from Seattle? How have your perceptions of the city, and Seattle’s Japanese and Asian communities, changed over time?
Bruce Inaba: I am third generation Japanese American, born and raised in Seattle. I started school in the fall of 1957 in the very southern part of Seattle. There were only a handful of Japanese and Chinese American students at my grade school for the majority of the Asians lived on Beacon Hill, the central area, or Rainier Valley. Asians were restricted from living in many parts of Seattle which is not the case today.
NWAW: How did you get involved with the Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee and the Memorial Hall, and what were your duties there? What sticks in your mind the most about that time?
Bruce Inaba: My parents were members when I was a kid and my family attended the social events sponsored by the Nisei Veterans Committee. Since I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood, the NVC allowed me to meet and socialize with other Japanese Americans.
NWAW: How did you get involved with “The Legacy Of Heart Mountain”? How did you first hear of the film?
Bruce Inaba: I first heard of it when Densho did a screening of the film last fall. The film does an excellent job of telling the adversity of what Japanese Americans had to deal with during World War II. Producer, David Ono, shares the same passion as the NVC Foundation of “Honoring the past, and educating the future,” and his film does a better job of it than anything I’ve ever seen
NWAW: How many times have you watched the film, and how have your impressions changed?
Bruce Inaba: I’ve only watched the film once but it left such a lasting impression, I’m hoping as many Japanese Americans as possible are given the opportunity to experience it.
NWAW: Please describe the film’s approach. How does its story unfold? How does it differ from other films covering the same era and the same topics?
Bruce Inaba: The story has been told on many occasions how Japanese Americans were stripped of their rights and forced to live behind barbed wires after the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Legacy of Heart Mountain” not only focuses on the war heroes who were born out of these camps, but also on lesser known heroes who with their resilience and creativity, restored normalcy to thousands during these most abnormal times.
NWAW: How did you meet the film’s director, David Ono? What is his story, and what are your most vivid impressions of him?
Bruce Inaba: I met David Ono at Densho’s screening of “Legacy of Heart Mountain.” I had previously seen his report for KABC News on the Nisei soldiers who served in the 442 RCT/100th Battalion. He is an extremely talented news journalist. What surprises me is that neither his parents or grandparents were interned in an incarceration camp, nor did they serve in the military during World War II.
NWAW: What awards has the film won?
Bruce Inaba: The film has won the Radio Television Digital News Association’s national “Unity” award for diversity programming, an Edward R. Murrow regional award, three Emmy Awards, and a national Asian American Journalist Association’s Pacific Islander Issues Television/Online Award.
NWAW: Please describe the The George and Frank C. Hirahara Photo Collection of Heart Mountain. How much of it ended up in the film?
Bruce Inaba: The photo collection was the inspiration for producing the film. Not many photographs were taken in camp since most cameras were confiscated. Washington State University has the rights to the Hirahara’s photo collection. (end)
For more information about the “Legacy Of Heart Mountain” screening, visit http://www.seattlenvc.org/calendar/185. Information about the film itself may be found at http://www.heartmountainfilm.com.
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.