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And Then They Came for Us (film)

Documentary film that provides an overview of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans while drawing explicit parallels to agitation against Arab Americans in the early months of the Trump Administration.

The film begins and ends with footage from an unspecified rally led by Japanese Americans against a proposed Muslin travel ban. Japanese American former inmates led by actor and activist George Takei and Satsuki Ina then tell their family's stories of mass roundup and incarceration. The film juxtaposes these stories with those of photographers Dorothea Lange , Ansel Adams , and Toyo Miyatake , who documented the removal and incarceration and of Fred Korematsu 's resistance and ultimate victory in having his petition for a writ of coram nobis granted in 1983. The last fifth of the film examines anti-Muslim activity following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and draws parallels with the agitation against Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The film ends with images of Japanese Americans speaking out against Trump-era travel ban proposals.

And Then They Came for Us traces its origins to a book by photography historians Richard Cahan and Michael Williams titled Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II , published by their Chicago based company CityFiles Press in 2016 with the support of the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, that focused on the photography of Lange, Adams, and others. Logan, Cahan, and Williams approached filmmaker Abby Ginzberg about making a companion film to the book. Having made other films with a civil rights or race focus—as well as having been a fan of Lange's work—the former civil rights lawyer agreed to take on the project given the funding support of the foundation. She filmed the opening scene at a candlelight vigil in San Francisco in November 2016 after the election of Donald Trump and also filmed a protest against the Trump travel ban at San Francisco International Airport in January 2017. The Logan Foundation also funded an related exhibition titled Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties at the Alphawood Gallery in Chicago in 2017 and that traveled to New York in 2018 and to San Francisco in 2019. [1]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Masters of Modern Design: The Art of the Japanese American Experience (2019); Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story (2000); Then Becoming Now (2019)


  1. Tomi Hirai, "And then they stood up for them," Nichi Bei Weekly , Feb. 1, 2018, ; Tomo Hirai, "Exhibition of wartime incarceration photographs ties to present day politics," Nichi Bei Weekly , Feb. 14–27, 2019, 3; Abby Ginzberg, co-producer/co-director, ; "Then They Came for Me," Alphawood Gallery, , all accessed on Mar. 1, 2021.
Media Details
Release Date 2017
Runtime 47/52 minutes
Director Abby Ginzberg
Producer Abby Ginzberg
Starring George Takei (interviewee), Bruce Tsurutani (interviewee), Gary Okihiro (interviewee), Saburo Masada (interviewee), Rachel Kuruma (interviewee), Satsuki Ina (interviewee), Elizabeth Partridge (interviewee), Paul Kitagaki, Jr. (interviewee), May Mochida Ikuma (interviewee), Dale Minami (interviewee), Karen Korematsu (interviewee), Ibuki Hibi Lee (interviewee), Richard Cahan (interviewee), Karlene Koketsu (interviewee), Mary Street Alinder (interviewee), Barbara Takei (interviewee), Marilyn Hall Patel (interviewee), Zahra Billoo (interviewee), Amelia Huster (speaker), Yukiya Jerry Waki (performer), Jeff Adachi (speaker)
Music Tatsu Aoki
Cinematography Ashley James
Editing Ken Schneider
Studio Social Action Media
For More Information

For More Information

Official website:

Hirai, Tomi. " And Then They Stood Up for Them. " Nichi Bei Weekly , Feb. 1, 2018.

Muller, Eric. Pacific Historical Review 87.4 (Fall 2018): 713–15. [... well-executed and clearly narrated, even if somewhat formulaic." Praises use of Lange photographs and commentary and score by Tatsu Aoki that "creates an uncommonly rich counterpoint to a script that is competent but common."]