The Japanese American (film)

Title The Japanese Amerian
Date 1974
Producer Norman Foster
Narrator Ken Kashiwahara
Cinematography Peter Mertens; Robert Foster
Studio Handel Film Corporation
Runtime 29 minutes

Short film produced by Handel Film Corporation in 1974 that provides an overview of the Japanese American experience. Almost entirely focusing on the West Coast experience, much of it is devoted to the wartime removal and incarceration.

Leo Handel (1914–2007), a former director of audience research at MGM, started the Los Angeles based Handel Film Corporation in 1953. Over the next three plus decades, the company produced around 150 16-mm films aimed at the educational market, mostly in the areas of history, science, and art. Handel is perhaps best known for The Magic of the Atom, which extolls the virtues of atomic energy.

The Japanese American was part of the "Americana Series," a series of one reel films on various aspects of American history and on American ethnic groups including Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans. The 29-minute film is narrated by Ken Kashiwahara, who often appears on camera, referring to Japanese Americans as "we" in providing a quick overview of the experiences, starting with the history of pre-modern and modern Japan, conditions that led to migration, settlement of the Issei, the World War II years, and current Japanese American community life as of the 1970s. The story is mostly told through Kashiwahara's narration over paintings (for the early Japan sections), photographs, and newsreel and contemporary footage, though there is a brief interview with Gardena, California Mayor Ken Nakaoka and with two unidentified Nisei. Japanese koto music is heard in the background throughout. Norman Foster is credited as the producer; no writer or director is credited, though Harry Honda, editor of the Pacific Citizen, is credited as a consultant. The film emphasizes a success story framework, noting that Japanese Americans "accepted their [wartime] fate with stoic fortitude," served en masse in the U.S. armed forces, and have attained economic success while retaining their culture.

Perhaps indicating a continuing demand for it, Handel produced a VHS release of The Japanese American in 1989.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho