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Resistance at Tule Lake (film)

Documentary film that tells the story of the Tule Lake concentration camp, with a focus on the post-segregation period, through interviews with former inmates, archival images, and scenes from contemporary pilgrimages .

Filmmaker Konrad Aderer uses footage from Tule Lake Pilgrimages to begin and end the film, introducing the themes of Tule Lake as part of the story of Japanese American resistance during the war years and how Tule Lake inmates lived with the stigma of "disloyalty" over the years. Interviewees—both newly conducted ones and older ones taken from Densho's Digital Repository—tell the story of the camp from the attack on Pearl Harbor and the roundup of West Coast Japanese Americans to their arrival at various concentration camps run by the War Relocation Authority . The heart of the film focuses on what happens after the so-called " loyalty questionnaire " and the subsequent segregation of the "disloyal" at Tule Lake. Former leaders at Tule Lake recall the unrest that began in a truck accident that killed an inmate in late 1943, the authoritarian rule of camp director Raymond Best, and the establishment of martial law and the notorious stockade. The film goes on to cover the establishment of the pro-Japan Hoshi Dan and the pressures that led to the mass renunciation of citizenship by almost 6,000 Nisei. Several of them recall their arrival at a desolate Japan and the efforts of the Tule Lake Defense Committee and lawyer Wayne Collins that led to most getting their American citizenship eventually restored. Scholars Barbara Takei, Tetsuden Kashima, Roger Daniels, and Sachiko Takita-Ishii provide the historical background to the story.

Aderer told Norm Masaji Ibuki that he "became engrossed in the story of Tule Lake Segregation Center" while he was making a prior documentary, Enemy Alien , about the arrest and incarceration of a Palestinian immigrant activist after 9/11 and the parallels with the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. "I knew I wanted to do a documentary about it the second I was finished with Enemy Alien ." He attended the 2010 Tule Lake Pilgrimage, where he met may of the key historical figures he would interview for the film. "The more we learn about what happened at Tule Lake," he wrote on his Life or Liberty website, "the more it informs the vexing questions raised in the pervasive and unending war the U.S. now sustains, encompassing 'national security,' immigration, racial conflict and extremism." [1]

Aderer's maternal grandparents were married at the Tanforan Assembly Center and subsequently incarcerated at Topaz , where his mother was born. Raised in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, Aderer played a Nisei who ended up at Tule Lake in a high school production of Wakako Yamauchi's 12–1–A . [2]

The project was funded by a 2014 Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant of $109,961 as well as by the Center for Asian American Media, New York State Council on the Arts and others. Multiple versions of the film were produced, including a 79-minute theatrical version, an hour-long public television version, and a shorter version for classroom use.

Resistance at Tule Lake was first screened (in a "pre-premiere screening") on May 22, 2016 at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose as part of the J-Town FilmFest. It screened in multiple festivals and community events in 2017.

Authored by Brian Niiya

Might also like Rabbit in the Moon (1999); A Bitter Legacy (2016); From a Silk Cocoon (2005)


  1. Norm Masaji Ibuki, "Enemy Alien: An American Sansei's Story, Part 3, " Apr. 15, 2013, ; Ibuki, "Enemy Alien, Part 1," Apr. 1, 2013, ; "Resistance at Tule Lake," Life or Liberty website , all accessed on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Ibuki, "Enemy Alien, Part 1."
Media Details
Release Date 2017
Runtime 80/119 minutes
Director Konrad Aderer
Producer Konrad Aderer
Writer Konrad Aderer
Narrator Hiroshi Kashiwagi
Starring Satsuki Ina (interviewee), Barbara Takei (interviewee), Mori Tanimoto (interviewee), Grace Hata (interviewee), Tetsuden Kashima (interviewee), Roger Daniels (interviewee), Jeanne Mioko Tanaka (interviewee), Bill Nishimura (interviewee), Junichi Yamamoto (interviewee), Morgan Yamanaka (interviewee), Jim Tanimoto (interviewee), Stanley Shikuma (speaker), Hiroshi Kashiwagi (interviewee), Jessica Savage (interviewee), Tokio Yamane (interviewee), Sadako Kashiwagi (interviewee), Hiroshi Shimizu (interviewee), Jimi Yamaichi (interviewee), Yukio Kawaratani (interviewee), Sachiko Takita-Ishii (interviewee), John Tomita (interviewee), Kenge Kobayashi (interviewee), Wayne Merrill Collins (interviewee), Ernest Besig (interviewee), Tex Nakamura, James Yaegashi (voice of Iwao Shimizu)
Music Miles Jay
Cinematography Konrad Aderer
Editing Konrad Aderer
Studio LabHeart Media
Distributor Center for Asian American Media
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