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Children of the Camps (film)

Documentary film that explores the long term impact of the wartime incarceration on those who were children at the time. Much of the film documents a three-day workshop that brings together former child inmates for co-counseling sessions in which they discuss often repressed memories of the incarceration and its aftermath.

A marriage and family therapist and professor at California State University Sacramento, Satsuki Ina was born in Tule Lake and like many of her generation, learned little of the incarceration from her parents. Through her professional practice, she noticed that Japanese Americans typically underused mental health services, and that some suffered from physical symptoms caused by psychological stress over the wartime incarceration. Inspired in part by seeing a picture of her father that she had never seen before in the Smithsonian Institution's 1987 exhibition A More Perfect Union , Ina began doing group therapy sessions with friends and acquaintances who had been children in the camp. As word spread, she continued doing these sessions over a ten-year period. She began the Children of the Camps Project that would include a documentary film, community workshops and screenings of the film and training of mental health professionals on the psychological trauma faced by Japanese American inmates and other ethnic minorities. Funding came in part from The California Endowment.

The documentary, produced by Ina and directed by Stephen Holsapple, was filmed in 1996 and documents a three-day workshop held at the Commonweal Retreat Center in Bolinas, California. Six Japanese Americans who had been children in the concentration camps—ranging in age from one who was born in camp to one who was fourteen when she entered camp—volunteered to be filmed for the project. After background on the forced removal and incarceration and on Ina's background, we meet the six participants through a mixture of footage of the group sessions and interviews with each of the participants. Each talks about their memories of the incarceration and its aftermath and the impact it had on their lives: stories of betrayal, familial discord, lingering discrimination, and self-hate. As the sessions go on, they delve deeper, triggering at times tears and at other times anger. By the end of the third day, each—as well as the audience—has a clearer understanding of the often hidden impact the incarceration experiences and its aftermath had on children who might not even have conscious memories of that time.

Children of the Camps had a national PBS broadcast in 1999 that was accompanied by an extensive website that included background on the project, related curricular materials, and information about setting up community screenings and workshops. The film has been continually screened since that time. As of February 2015, there had been some 110 screenings around the country.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like When You're Smiling: The Deadly Legacy of Internment (1999); Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration (2016); Rabbit in the Moon (1999)

Media Details
Release Date 1999
Runtime 57 minutes
Director Stephen Holsapple
Producer Satsuki Ina
Writer Satsuki Ina
Narrator <a href="/wiki/Lawson_Fusao_Inada" title="Lawson Fusao Inada">Lawson Fusao Inada</a>
Starring Marion Kanemoto, Ruth Yoshiko Okimoto, Bessie Masuda, Toru Saito, Howard Ikemoto, Richard Tatsuo Nagaoka
Music Patrick Minor
Cinematography Emery Clay III
Editing Stephen Holsapple
Distributor Center for Asian American Media
For More Information

For More Information

Official website: .

Children of the Camps on Center for Asian American Media website: .

Kanopy Streaming link:

Inouye, Karen M. "Changing History: Competing Notions of Japanese American Experience, 1942–2006." Ph.D dissertation, Brown University, 2007.

Yamato, Sharon. "Through the Fire: Nothing Personal." Rafu Shimpo , Aug. 28, 1999, 3.