A film that chronicles the life and work of noted author and civil rights activist Michi Nishiura Weglyn has just been released on DVD. Narrated by Sandra Oh (star of TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy”), “Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn” tells the story of the woman who gave up a successful career as a costume designer for the popular Perry Como Show to write a book that set the record straight about the forced incarceration of more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. Her book “Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps” became one of the most important books ever written about this chapter in history, not only for its thorough documentation, but also because it was the first book on the subject penned by a Nisei.
Although Weglyn has been widely cited as an author whose importance to Japanese American history and the redress movement cannot be overestimated, little has been known about the complex, private woman behind the book. Using archival photographs and film and audio recordings of Weglyn, “Out of Infamy” paints a portrait of her dynamic personality, which evolved via incarceration in the Gila River, Ariz. camp from California-born farm girl to New York City sophisticate to nationally known civil rights activist.
The film also chronicles for the first time the invaluable contributions of Weglyn’s husband Walter, a German Jew who spent seven years of his childhood fleeing from his oppressors in Nazi-occupied Holland. Weglyn herself often said that without the support of Walter, a man who understood civil rights abuses better than anyone, the book would not have been completed.
Having spent more than seven years interviewing those who knew Weglyn as well as examining original documents and letters, writer/producer/directors Sharon Yamato and Nancy Kapitanoff uncovered previously little-known information about the very private couple who lived in relative obscurity in New York City.
The release of the film marks the tenth anniversary of Michi Weglyn’s death on April 25, 1999. Funded in part by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and the Cecilia Nakamura Fund of JACS, “Out of Infamy” will be screened later this year in New York and Washington, D.C. It is available for sale at the Japanese American National Museum and at www.michiweglyn.com.