February 11, 2005

Film takes personal look at internment

Psychotherapist-turned-filmmaker and professor emeritus Satsuki Ina takes a personal look at the internment of Japanese Americans in her new docudrama From a Silk Cocoon.

The film, her second documentary about the incarceration of thousands of Japanese American citizens during and after World War II, traces how discrimination and the humiliation of being imprisoned left her parents torn between two countries.

The Hesono O Productions film premieres at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Crest Theatre, 1013 K St. in Sacramento. Ina is the film’s producer, screenwriter and storyteller.

Cocoon is one of only a few documentaries made that explores how some imprisoned Japanese Americans—having been stripped of their civil liberties—denounced their citizenship after feeling betrayed by their country.

More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington to live in 10 remote internment camps on the West Coast not long after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“My parents had two children during their four and a half years of incarceration,” Ina says. “In standing up for their civil rights, they were labeled as ‘disloyal’ by the American government and by fellow Japanese Americans. My parents held their silence in shame for the rest of their lives.”

Ina’s parents’ story of renunciation comes to life through letters the two wrote each other while held at separate prison camps, her father’s haiku poems and her mother’s diaries.

The story begins when Ina’s parents, Shizuko and Itaru, meet at the World’s Fair in San Francisco. It then traces their love story from engagement to marriage, their incarceration and then follows their painstaking decision of whether to remain in the United States or go to Japan after the end of World War II. In many heart-wrenching re-enacted scenes, Ina’s mother is portrayed as alone and sick, often pregnant or with small children, in horrendous prison camp conditions.

Through the making of the film, Ina says she came to understand the sacrifices her parents made while she and her brother were young.

“They never spoke to us about the shattered dreams, despair or fears that led them to become dissidents and eventually renounce their American citizenship,” Ina says.

The film’s title comes from Shizuko’s family business of extracting silk from cocoons.

Ina’s first film Children of the Camps debuted on PBS in 2000. The film followed the lives of six men and women who grew up in the Japanese American prisons.

Some of Cocoon’s location shots were filmed in Japan. Most of the movie was filmed in the Sacramento area, including at the Florin Buddhist Church, at Futami restaurant and at Beach Lake Stables.

The movie, made with a $70,000 budget, relied heavily on more than 150 Japanese American volunteers, many of them children.

Ina says she doesn’t plan to work on any more movies soon. Instead she will focus on a book version of Cocoon.

Also involved in the production of the film are the film’s co-director and editor, Sacramento State graduate Stephen Holsapple, and current students Christopher Sato-Wong, who portrays Itaru Ina, and Sumitaka Saito, who portrays the voice of family friend and savior Kenji Kimoto.

Moviegoers are invited to attend a special reception before the Feb. 19 screening at the Crest Theatre at 6 p.m. for $50.

Others can attend just the screening of the film at 7 p.m. Advanced tickets are $12, and $15 at the door. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors.

The film’s official world premiere will take place during the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival on March 14.

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