Today's review is something of a departure for me; I'm writing
about a film that is going to appear on television in a few days rather
in the movie theaters. The title of the film is "Rabbit in The Moon," and
it will be broadcast nationally on the PBS series P. O. V. on July 6th.
is both a documentary and a personal memoir made by veteran
Japanese-American cinematographer Emiko Omori as she explores her and her
family's experiences in the internment camps into which thousands of
Japanese and Japanese-Americans were forced to relocate between 1942 and
"Rabbit in The Moon"
A Film Review by
Linda Lopez McAlister
on "The Women's Show"
WMNF-FM 88.5, Tampa, FL
June 26, 1999
The film, for which Omori won a special award for cinematography at
this year's Sundance Film Festival, is one of the most visually beautiful
documentaries you will ever see. It is also one of the most emotionally
touching ones as Emiko, with the help of her elder sister Chizuko,
the last years in the life of their mother whom they lost in 1946 of
bleeding ulcers less than a year after coming out of the Manzanar
camp and who has been, like the camp experiences themselves, a repressed
unspoken part of their personal histories until now.
I have seen other documentaries and quasi-fictional narrative films about
this sorry era in American history, but I have never seen one that is as
explicit and intent on showing the ways camp life affected the people sent
there, the conflicts--both political and generational--among the
internees, and the details of the U.S. government's often inconsistent,
not to mention
unconstitutional, policies with respect to the internees. How ironic that
the film will be screened on July 6 just a few days after Independence Day
when we celebrate "the home of the free and the brave." Some of the
Japanese and Japanese-Americans interned during WWII were very brave
but their freedom was curtailed and the privileges of citizenship abruptly
revoked merely on the basis of their Japanese ethnic heritage if they were
only as much as 1/16 Japanese. You'll learn a lot from this film.
Being a native of Southern California and about the same age as
Emiko Omori, I recall this era and I vaguely knew of the camps when I was
child; my mother used to complain that the produce in the grocery stores
inferior to that that had been available before the Japanese truck farmers
were moved away. We also heard that young Japanese American men were
to prove their loyalty to the U.S. by forming their own military division
and fighting bravely in the war in Europe--those who were not signing up
military intelligence as translators.
The Japanese-American Citizen's League was the group of Neisi (second
generation)leaders which encouraged unquestioning support of U.S. policies
as a way to display one's loyalty to the USA. What was seldom mentioned
the media was the hurt and resentment of their parents who had either been
born in Japan or born in the US but educated in Japan. They had been the
community leaders before the war and now they were being passed over,
thought to be a bigger security risk than their American born and raised
children. These generational tensions contributed to the breakdown of the
families who lived in the several camps that ranged across the country
California to Florida. The older generation and many of their children
certainly did not think that the JACL spoke for them, though the U.S.
propaganda machine favored the organization because its positions were
wholly supportive of the government policies. In fact, there was much
resistence within the camps to government policies. This film, for the
first time, documents many of these issues. As I said, you'll learn a lot
from this thoughtful and sensitive memoir.
When westerners look at the moon they are supposed to see the Man in
the Moon; Japanese, however, see the Rabbit in the Moon. During this
of pre-McCarthy repression these people were being asked , in effect, to
stop seeing the rabbit and from now on only see the man in the moon. What
an apt and beautiful metaphor to express the impossibility of changing
ethnic heritage on command.
Because I won't be here for the next couple of weeks (I'll be back on
17), I want to mention briefly another P.O.V. film coming up on Tuesday,
July 13. Almost their whole season this summer features films by women
filmmakers. The film on Tuesday is called "Corpus: A Home Movie for
Selena," directed by well-known feminist filmmaker Lourdes Portillo. The
cinematographer is, once again, Emiko Omori. I have not been able to
preview this film so I can't speak about it except to say I'd certainly be
watching it if I were going to be in the country on July 13. It has to be
an improvement over the little-plaster-saint version of Selena that we got
in the Hollywood biopic last year.
For the WMNF Women's Show this is Linda Lopez McAlister on Women and