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Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story (film)

DVD cover. Courtesy of Claire Mix and Charles Class
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Documentary film that tells the story of the mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans through the eyes of Ruth Mix, who as a fifteen year old, accompanied her mother Frida, a teacher, to Gila River and lived among the inmates. Filmmaker Claire Mix is the daughter of Ruth.

The film is largely based on a 2007 interview of Ruth, recording shortly before her death. Her recollections are filled out with interviews with former inmates—including former students of Frida Mix—and on camera reflections by Claire. In addition to family and archival photographs, many of the stories Ruth tells are illustrated through reenactments, with actors playing Frida, the young Ruth, and various inmates.

The story begins with a brief profile of the Mixes prior to the war. A teacher and something of a crusader, Frida is determined to help Japanese Americans and takes a job as a teacher at Gila, bringing Ruth along with her. Ruth volunteers as a nurse's aide and also assists Frida at times in the classroom. She tells stories of the inadequate medical facilities that led to unnecessary deaths and illnesses, of friendships made with inmates, and the general poor quality of life in a concentration camp. Japanese American interviewees fill in other aspects of the story, including the forced removal and roundup of Japanese Americans and the difficulties they faced when they returned to their homes after the war.

The film was funded by a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, Transvideo Studios, the Gila River Reunion Committee and many individual donors.

Mix's story is also told in a young adult novel by Claire Mix, The Girl with Hair Like the Sun (2012), and in a play by Charles B. French titled Hair Like the Sun (2016).

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like The Music Man of Manzanar (2005); Days of Waiting: The Life and Art of Estelle Ishigo (1990); My Friends Behind Barbed Wire (2008)

Media Details
Release Date 2011
Runtime 49 minutes
Director Claire Mix
Producer Claire Mix
Writer Claire Mix
Narrator Delta Pick Mello
Starring Ruth Mix (interviewee), Marielle Tsukamoto (interviewee), Hayao Shishino (interviewee), Charles Class (interviewee), Claire Mix (interviewee), Cherri Sakamoto (interviewee), Ben Tonooka (interviewee), Sandy Mix (interviewee), Shigetaki Murakami (interviewee), Clara Mello (young Ruth Mix), Lisa Jo Clement (Frida Mix), Talon Akira (Kuni), Mari Jacobson (Chiye), Heddy Kung Yep (Miyoko)
Music Claire Mix
Cinematography Ben Ferrer
Editing Claire Mix
Studio Solo Films Production
For More Information

For More Information

Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story official website: .

Yoshida, Edward. Documentarian Claire Mix: The Story of an Angel in a Desert Dungeon . Discover Nikkei, July 26, 2011.