BEVERLY HILLS — Filmmaker Claudia Katayanagi will show her recent award-winning feature documentary “A Bitter Legacy” on Sunday, Oct. 23, at 12 p.m. at Laemmle Theaters’ Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, as part of the L.A. Femme International Film Festival.
Setting the stage within the incarceration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, this film looks at the almost secret “citizen isolation centers,” now considered to be precursors to Guantanamo.
Moab Citizen Isolation Center in Utah opened after the notorious Manzanar “riot” on Dec. 10, 1942 to isolate dissidents from the rest of the camp population. The security director of this institution, Francis Frederick, imposed harsh restrictions on the inmates. Directors of the nine other concentration camps sent their “troublemakers” to this camp.
Leupp Isolation Center in Arizona opened on April 27, 1943, after Moab became overpopulated. This was a high-security prison where guards outnumbered the prisoners four to one.
After refusing to sign the loyalty oath imposed on Japanese American incarcerees in 1943, many men from Block 42 at Tule Lake in Northern California were removed and isolated to Camp Tule Lake, about 16 miles northwest of the main segregation center. In the film, Jim and Mori Tanimoto tell of their Camp Tule Lake experience.
Katayanagi’s father’s family, based in the Bay Area, was incarcerated first at the Tanforan Assembly Center and then Topaz, Utah. Her mother’s family, based in Sacramento, was sent to the Walerga Assembly Center and then to Tule Lake. When that camp became a segregation center for “disloyals,” the family went to Topaz and then Amache in Colorado.
“Both sides of my family were pretty wealthy before World War II, having worked hard for so many years,” she said. “They had the respect of many in their community, many who were not Nikkei. But after the war, having lost everything, and having endured so much pain, they ‘didn’t want to talk about it.’ My six siblings and I simply accepted this for many years.
“I realized I’ve denied my Japanese heritage for a long time. By exploring this Nikkei history in these American concentration camps, I began to fully appreciate my cultural heritage and all that pain and indignation all the Nikkei families have suffered.
“More than four years after starting this film, having interviewed dozens of historians, scholars, former incarcerees, and having personally visited and filmed at many of the former confinement sites, I have a deeper understanding of the many issues that were affecting the Nikkei people now, as well as before, and during World War II.
“I hope I have created a film that communicates this deeper understanding of what was done to the Nikkei people here in this country, with a few connections of how these same issues are still occurring to people of other cultural heritages today, and what can be done to move this country and all of its people forward in a just, equitable manner.”
Tickets can be ordered at the box office or online at www.eventbrite.com.
For more information about the film, visit www.abitterlegacy.com.