LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: In Defense of ‘Prisoners and Patriots’

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Dear Editor,

This review (“‘Santa Fe’ Fails on the Facts” by Martha Nakagawa, published in The Rafu on March 29) showcases the complexity of the story of Santa Fe. There was not one path that prisoners followed, and the film “Prisoners and Patriots” actually stresses this fact.

It also covers the fact that the men arrested spent most of their time trying to be reunited with their families. In some cases, this meant filling out forms they did not believe in, in hopes they could return to Japan faster — and frequently that meant being sent to Santa Fe.

The reviewer, however, has failed to accurately depict “Prisoners and Patriots.” In wanting to see the story in black and white, the reviewer has failed to realize that history is filled with gray areas.

It is true, that based on diaries from inmates, some inmates were loyal to Japan and hoped Japan would win the war, but it is also true that many (most) inmates were loyal to the United States.

The film speaks of the fact that the inmate doctors were still paid just as though they were unskilled workers and it uses government propaganda quotes to emphasize the hysteria that drove wartime policies in America. As the filmmaker, I detest these policies and language, but show them to educate the audience about our history.

The fact of the matter is, this film is welcomed by many families of former inmates and it is the first ever to delve into the difficult subject matter that is the Santa Fe DOJ camp. To tell every prisoner’s personal story of how they ended up in Santa Fe would serve to only confuse viewers about the larger story.

In making this film, I tell a story accurately, and most importantly, raise awareness in the general public about the existence of this camp and the wrongheaded policies that governed it.

Regarding the Japanese Latin American experience, I have also written publicly about the need for the U.S. government to address the Japanese Latin American experience more directly.

Rather than take one reviewer’s negative view of this film, I hope people will watch the full documentary and then comment on whether they think it has helped to preserve a story that has nearly been lost to history.

Neil Simon

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  1. Barbara Takei on

    In response to Neil Simon’s Letter to the Editor in which he attempts to defend his limited understanding of the Santa Fe story, and disingenuously suggests that Martha Nakagawa is his only critic, please see the review I wrote after seeing his film in Northern California. It’s posted on the Nichibei Weekly website, and at the Discover Nikkei website.
    http://www.nichibei.org/2012/04/a-review-of-prisoners-and-patriots/
    http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2012/2/28/prisoners-and-patriots/

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