“Tsuru” short film about JA internment reaches Kickstarter goal in 3.5 days, looks forward to stretch goals

There’s an embarrassingly small library of fiction books and feature films, about the Japanese internment during World War II. The humiliating experience of 110,000 people of Japanese descent carted away from the West Coast and into hastily built concentration camps is still under-represented in American pop culture.

Classics like “Farewell to Manzanar” (in both book and film form) can be hard to find, and better-known Hollywood productions such as “Snow Falling on Cedars” (again, on both the page and screen) can be hits but are fleeting. One of my favorite indie feature films about the era, “Come See the Paradise” starring Tamlyn Tomita and Dennis Quaid, is little-remembered and deserves much wider acclaim.

There are still many stories left to tell about Japanese Americans and their time in concentration camps during WWII.

So it’s cool to see a young filmmaker using the contemporary tools of social media and “crowdfunding” (asking the public to donate money) to bring his original JA story to life. And, it’s even cooler to see that Chris K.T. Bright’s project, “Tsuru” has caught the attention and gained the support of enough people that its Kickstarter fundraising campaign reached its initial goal of $15,000 in a mere three-and-a-half-days. Kickstarter gives the money to a project only if it meets its goal; if the campaign fails, every donor gets her money back.

Now, Bright and his crew are hoping to keep raising money to reach their “Stretch Goals” in the month remaining in the campaign.
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When JAs say “camp” they’re not talking about summer camp

Amache Japanese American internment camp

The Amache Museum, a block from Granada High School, is managed by students from the school who take the “Amache Preservation Society” class. The students maintain the concentration camp site outside of Granada.

It’s a rite of greeting among older Japanese Americans. I’ve seen it happen over and over – one JA is introduced to another, and if they’re old enough, the first question they ask of each other is, “what camp were you at?”

We all know that “camp” in the context of Japanese Americans has nothing to do with summer camp. These people are not being nostalgic about singing “Kumbaya” around the campfire, hopping along in potato sack races (maybe it would be rice sack races?) and learning how to “rough it” in the great outdoors.

“Camp,” of course, in the Japanese American context, are the internment camps, or as I increasingly call them, “concentration camps,” that 110,000 people of Japanese descent were held in during World War II. So an elderly man says he was in Arkansas, and the other man says “Oh yeah? Which one?” “Jerome.” Common ground is found, and the two reminisce, if that’s the right word, about their families’ unjust incarceration.
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“Linsanity” DVD now available for everyone to be inspired all over again by Jeremy Lin’s story

jeremylin-linsanity

Evan Jackson Leong, the director of the entertaining and inspiring documentary “Linsanity: The Jeremy Lin Story,” tells interviewers that Lin’s story “transcends sports, race and culture.” That’s true enough, because Jeremy Lin‘s story — a determined young man loves basketball above all else but is ignored by colleges and the NBA despite his talent, and perseveres in the end by sheer determination and religious faith — is universal.

But as an Asian American, Lin’s story is inspirational for me precisely because he’s Asian American. His ethnicity was the main reason he was dismissed by colleges and the NBA, even though he was an all-star leader in high school.

I hope everyone watches “Linsanity,” which went on sales on DVD this week, and is inspired by his universal story, or his incredible accomplishment as an Asian American.

I know many Asian Americans watched it at film festivals, or during one of many special fundraising screenings for Asian and Asian American nonprofit organizations across the country. In Colorado it was screened by an Asian American fraternity at the University of Colorado in Boulder and a Japanese American history group in Denver. If Asians didn’t watch the documentary in a theater, they probably watched it on cable TV — Comcast featured it in its Asian American channel for months.

But it’s great to revisit “Linsanity” on DVD (wish there were some extras added, though).
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