Producer's Statement/About the Production
I was born in a prison camp in 1944. It has taken almost 60 years to uncover the story that would explain how such a thing could happen. The unjust and traumatic imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII has been buried in euphemisms and silenced in shame. We were referred to as “evacuees” and “internees” instead of prisoners; we were described as living in “pioneer communities” and “relocation centers” instead of prisons. My parents had two children during their 4½ years of incarceration. They never spoke to us about the shattered dreams, despair, or fears that led them to become dissidents and eventually, renounce their American citizenship. Without the benefit of a trial, without access to evidence used against them, and only by reason of race, were they “deemed by the Attorney General to be an alien enemy dangerous to the public peace and safety of the United States” and ordered deported to war-torn Japan in 1946. 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.
It comes as no surprise that I became a psychotherapist specializing in trauma and teaching courses on social justice issues, but it was only after years of conducting therapy groups for other Japanese Americans who, like myself, were children in the camps, did I become involved in filmmaking. My first documentary, Children of the Camps was broadcast on PBS in 2000. It examined the lives of six Japanese American women and men who have lived with the long-term impact of their wartime childhood experience in the camps. Shortly after the release of Children of the Camps, my mother passed away and I discovered 180 letters that were exchanged between my parents while they were incarcerated in separate prison camps . Many of the letters were in Japanese and had to be translated; most had huge gaps cut into them by military censors. What would be a familiar and cultural restraint of emotion s, could only have been reinforced by the ominous presence of armed guards and vigilant censors. Yet, these were clearly love letters exchanged between a young husband and wife struggling to find ways to survive and reunite the family.
In the course of my more formal research into the National Archives and California historical museums and libraries, some personal documents that belonged to my parents were found in boxes long stored in musty closets. My mother kept diaries beginning from her wedding day and all through her incarceration. My father wrote in his haiku journal almost every day while interned in Ft. Lincoln, North Dakota, miles away from my mother, brother, and me. Even secrets letters that my father had written on stripped bed sheets and sewn into the waistband of the pants that needed mending were found in perfect condition. Miraculously, perfectly preserved, these personal writings filled in the missing parts of the story that was being shaped by government documents and censored letters.
From A Silk Cocoon tells the story of the frightening and tragic outcome resulting from the wartime hysteria and racial profiling that occurred in the name of “military necessity.” Chilling similarities in government decision-making, euphemistic language, and suspension of constitutional and human rights are echoed in today’s post 9/11 America. Told in first-person voice through letters, diaries, and haiku poetry, this film puts a human face and heart to a historical incident that should never be forgotten, lest it be repeated again.