Most narratives about the World War II internment of Japanese Americans focus on the internees' silence and patriotism, as proven by their service in segregated military units like the 442nd Battalion. Emiko Omori offers an extraordinary alternative perspective, which portrays second-generation Japanese American, or Nisei, camp survivors not as passive victims or model citizens but angry, active, critical individuals. The inspiration for the film is the director's struggle against the silence in her own family concerning the internment, in particular their amnesia about her mother, who died soon after her release from camp in Poston, Arizona. In the process of recovering her memory, Omori interviews former internees, including her sister, who describe how the camps whittled away the community's cultural strength and self-esteem and the federal government maneuvered the rise of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), a leadership organization which championed unquestioning compliance with the evacuation and encouraged military service to prove loyalty. Rabbit in the Moon aggressively overturns the JACL image of Japanese Americans during the war and brings an end to a generation of silence. Dissenting voices by interned Nisei are brilliantly used to renarrate newsreel propaganda films about the camps. Draft resisters from the Heart Mountain camp speak angrily about having to prove an American citizenship that was supposed to be their birthright. Impressively archived and beautifully photographed, Rabbit in the Moon is a historically important documentary with a poetic voice that reflects a culturally ingrained restraint.
Director: Emiko Omori
Writer: Emiko Omori and Chizuko Omori
Producer: Emiko Omori and Pat Jackson
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