As outrage and conflict continue to swirl around Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s remarks on Muslims, a local director is attempting to shed light on the mistakes of a period in which similar statements were made against Japanese Americans.
Brian Maeda, a documentary feature filmmaker who started his career on the Academy Award-winning “Bound for Glory” with renowned cinematographer Haskell Wexler, is working on a new docudrama entitled “We Said No! No!” The film focuses on the experience of thousands of so-called “disloyal” Japanese Americans who were sent to the Tule Lake Segregation Center in Northern California during World War II.
Specifically focusing on one of the more controversial groups, the no-no boys, Maeda hopes to tell the story of internal conflict and strife brought about not only from the unfounded fears of Japanese American espionage and terrorism, but from a confusing — and what many Japanese American citizens considered to be insulting — loyalty questionnaire distributed to all Japanese American adults during their incarceration in some of the most barren and uninhabitable regions of the United States.
Incarcerees were asked if they were willing to forswear any allegiance to Japan’s emperor, but were not given the option saying they were never loyal to Japan. The Issei, who were barred from U.S. citizenship, feared that they would become stateless if they answered “yes.”
Nisei men were also asked if they were willing to serve on combat duty wherever ordered. Many answered “no” to both questions to protest their incarceration without due process, or to keep their families from being separated.
With such relevant ties to today’s headlines regarding Muslim Americans, Maeda, himself born in the Manzanar camp, hopes that the story of the no-no boys will remind people of the injustices of the past and that ultimately, “no race or ethnicity will be subject to this kind of discrimination in America again.”
“We Said No! No!” is currently in production in Los Angeles and is scheduled for completion in 2017. It is partially funded by a grant from the National Park Service and supported by the 11th District of Los Angeles, represented by Councilmember Mike Bonin. Fundraising activities are ongoing.