The U.S. government could not take every civil liberty away from newlyweds Itaru and Shizuko Ina during World War II.Officials may have forced the young Japanese
American couple to leave their San Francisco home. Imprisoned them at two separate internment camps. And caused Shizuko to give birth in horrendous camp conditions.
But there was one thing they couldn't take away-their right to choose citizenship.
While many are aware that 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned during World War II and stripped of their civil rights, many do not realize that in a controversial act of empowerment a group of imprisoned
internees, known as the "No-Nos," renounced their American citizenship.
The recently released docudrama From a Silk Cocoon reveals how emeritus professor Satsuki Ina's own parents renounced their American citizenship while interned.
The film was recently accepted into the New York International Independent Film Festival and is scheduled to be broadcast on PBS in May. It debuted in Sacramento and at the San Francisco International Asian American
Film Festival last spring. The film will be shown on campus on Sept. 28.
"My parents renounced their citizenship under wartime duress and because they lost faith in the country of their birth," says Ina, the film's producer and screenwriter. "In standing up for their civil rights, they were labeled as 'disloyal' by the American government and by fellow Japanese Americans. They kept their decision quiet, holding their silence in shame for the rest of their lives."
The Inas were imprisoned for four-and-a-half years at two of the 10 remote camps established on the West Coast not long after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The film traces their painstaking decision of whether to remain in the United States or go to Japan at the end of World War II. It is largely based on her mother's diaries and letters the couple wrote to each other while in imprisoned, including haiku poems written
by her father.
While interned, Shizuko gave birth to Satsuki and her brother Kiyoshi. In many heart-wrenching re-enacted scenes, Itaru is taken from the family and Shizuko is left to care for her two small children behind barbed wire.
The movie, made with a $70,000 budget, relied heavily on more than 150 local Japanese
American volunteers, including several
children. Filmmakers included Sac State alum, co-director and editor Stephen Holsapple (M.F.A, '72) , who is the film's co-director and editor; nursing student Chris Sato Wong who portrays Itaru Ina; and Japanese
alum Sumitaka Saito (Business, '05), who plays the voice of a family friend and supporter, Kenji Kimoto.
It took appearing in the film for Sato Wong to understand the details behind his own grandparents' internment during World War II. "My mother couldn't give me many answers because she herself couldn't get many answers," says Sato Wong, whose maternal grandparents were interned for nine months.
He said he was surprised to learn of the camps' brutality and the details behind the No-Nos' decision. "Prior to working on the film all I heard (growing up) was that they went to camp," Sato Wong says. "It was a chance for me to at least try to understand and to try to participate in the aftermath of what my family had gone through and their losses."
Holsapple, who also directed Ina's first film Children of the Camps (1999), says the Inas' decision to renounce their citizenship was the ultimate act of patriotism. “American citizens can't allow this to happen again," Holsapple says. "We have to have a voice. We have to be dissenters if we see our rights and our freedoms
in jeopardy. That's what they did. They took a stand as real and true Americans."
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. Copies of the film are available by contacting Hesono O Productions at (916) 452-3008.