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Starting Over: Japanese Americans After the War (film)

Documentary film centering on the return of Japanese Americans to their homes after their exclusion and incarceration in concentration camps.

Made in a conventional style by producer/director Dianne Fukami, Starting Over is built around interviews with Japanese Americans—almost all of whom were Nisei—who returned to the San Francisco Bay area after their wartime incarceration. In addition to drawing from archival footage and still photographs, Fukami also uses segments of the War Relocation Authority (WRA) propaganda film The Way Ahead to contrast the optimistic view expressed in the film with the more difficult realities faced by the returnees. Proceeding more or less chronologically, the film begins with a quick recap of the mass forced removal and incarceration and with the "resettlement" of some inmates in areas outside the West Coast prior to 1945. When the West Coast was opened up to Japanese Americans at the beginning of 1945, the return of both those who had moved east and those leaving the concentration camps began. Interviewees recount the trepidation many felt about leaving the protective environment of the camps for the unknown circumstances on the outside and the difficulties they faced in finding jobs and adequate housing. Some describe being housed in hostels and government housing projects and others recount the restrictive covenants then in place in many areas. The film next turns to the violence and threats many returnees faced, the continuing prejudice as the years went on, and the psychological effects that lingered for years. The film ends with some of the positive developments of the postwar years, from the Issei being allowed to become citizens to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 . Jan Yanehiro serves as the narrator and also appears on camera on occasion.

The film was produced by KSCM-TV and the San Mateo Community College District as part of "The New Americans" series in 1996. Also produced in cooperation with the San Mateo Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League , many from San Mateo are interviewed in the film. Of the more than four dozen interviewed for the film, thirty-three appear in the film. Funders for the film included Chevron Corporation, the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation and the Ray and Peggy Daba Fund. Starting Over premiered at the Kabuki 8 in San Francisco on May 6, 1996, and was shown on Bay Area public television stations later that month.

Though the history as presented in the film is generally accurate, there are a couple of minor issues:

• At about the 35 minute mark, Norman Mineta tells a story about a wounded Nisei veteran from San Jose who is shot to death in Stockton. George Yoshioka was actually bludgeoned to death by two assailants who also robbed him of a substantial amount of money.

• At about the 44 minute mark, narrator Jan Yanehiro says that Issei had been denied naturalization since 1924. The Ozawa Supreme Court decision that definitively established this came in 1922.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Chrysanthemums and Salt (1994); Resettlement to Redress: Rebirth of the Japanese-American Community (2005); Invisible Citizen (1983)

Media Details
Release Date 1996
Runtime 57 minutes
Director Dianne Fukami
Producer Dianne Fukami
Narrator Jan Yanehiro
Starring Steven Doi (interviewee), Fujio Yamamoto (interviewee), Aya Ishizuka (interviewee), Norman Mineta (interviewee), Fumi Kamada (interviewee), Eimi Kuramoto (interviewee), Bess Kawachi Chin (interviewee), Florence Hongo (interviewee), Yoneji Takaha (interviewee), Sam Sato (interviewee), Maya Aikawa (interviewee), Bill Yokoyama (interviewee), Marie Kido (interviewee), Mas Fujii (interviewee), Shig Takahashi (interviewee), Eiko Hayashi Fujimoto (interviewee), Arrice Mori (interviewee), Tomoye Takahashi (interviewee), Mas Yamasaki (interviewee), Fumi Hayashi (interviewee), Mel Tominaga (interviewee), Kiyoko Tominaga (interviewee), Frank Fujitani (interviewee), Kazumi Mori (interviewee), John Enomoto (interviewee), Bill Takeda (interviewee), Lillia Yamada (interviewee), Jere Takahashi (interviewee), Eiichi Sakauye (interviewee), Mitsu Kumagai (interviewee), John Hada (interviewee), Patrick Okura (interviewee), Kay Sakanishi (interviewee)
Music Michael O'Neill
Cinematography John Hall
Editing John Hall
Studio KCSM-TV
For More Information

For More Information

Starting Over in Bridge Media catalog.

"Nisei Families 'Starting Over' Subject of New Documentary." Pacific Citizen , Apr. 19–May 2, 1996, 7.