Filmmaker to Attend JANM Screening of ‘Lt. Watada’


Academy Award-winning filmmaker Frieda Lee Mock will be on hand to answer questions after a screening of her documentar “Lt. Watada: A Matter of Conscience”, set for Saturday, March 26, at 2 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. First St. in Little Tokyo.

In 2006, Lt. Ehren Watada of Hawaii was a promising young officer who had walked away from a possible career in finance after 9/11 to fight terrorism for his country. However, in studying the history of Iraq and deciding that America’s invasion of that country was based on “intentionally manipulated intelligence,” he refused to deploy as ordered.

Invoking the U.N. Charter and the Geneva Convention, Watada said that the conflict in Iraq was “an illegal war” and asked for a different assignment, such as Afghanistan. When the Army refused, Watada said he would not deploy to Iraq and was court-martialed.

Mock captures the struggle Watada went through and how it affected his parents and friends. The film also documents the challenge of an individual taking on the Army, while being criticized publicly, including by Japanese American veterans.

But Mock does not focus on Watada’s Japanese/Chinese American identity because it was “his own personal act of both an intellectual decision as well as a decision of conscience,” she explained.

In the end, she saw Watada as “an intelligent person, incredibly articulate, well read, very reasoned out about his position. I think the fundamental thing to ask is: ‘Why are you going to war?’ You have to ask yourself that question. Most people don’t.”

The original documentary was completed before Watada’s case reached its ultimate conclusion. Mock then added an epilogue to provide an ending to the film.

Watada’s lawyers summed up their client as “a hero and a patriot . . . [who]took a lonely stand as a matter of conscience, never attempted to spread discord within the ranks, and never sought to evangelize about his ethical convictions. … It is our belief that history will treat Lt. Watada far more favorably than the United States Army sees fit to regard him now.”

Mock won an Oscar in 1995 for “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision,” a feature film about the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the most visited monument in Washington, D.C. Her other Oscar nominated films include: “Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember”; “Sing,” about a Los Angeles-based children’s chorus; “Never Give Up,” about Holocaust survivor and conductor Dr. Herbert Zipper; and “To Live or Let Die,” a story that explores the ethics in neonatal intensive care.

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