Topaz (film)

Title Topaz
Date 1987
Director Ken Verdoia
Producer Ken Verdoia
Screenplay Ken Verdoia
Narrator Ken Verdoia
Starring Roger Walker (interviewee); Minè Okubo (interviewee); Edward Ennis (interviewee); Yoshiko Uchida (interviewee); Harry Kitano (interviewee); George Kondo (interviewee); David Tatsuno (interviewee); Faith Terasawa (interviewee); Leonard Arrington (interviewee); Herbert Maw (interviewee); Michi Kobi (interviewee); Tharol Larson (interviewee); Sam Nakaso (interviewee); Fumi Hayashi (interviewee); Mary Kimura (interviewee); Sherman Tolbert (interviewee); Arthur Hayashi (interviewee); Cheryl Roper (interviewee); Mel Roper (interviewee); Eleanor Sekerek (interviewee); Amy Iwasaki Mass (interviewee); Beth Brown (interviewee); Venice Knight (interviewee); A.N. Ray (interviewee); Eldon Eliason (interviewee); Donald Nakahata (interviewee); Emil Sekerek (interviewee); Albert Nickle (interviewee)
Music Steve Holmes
Cinematography Carl Seibert
Editing Bill Lauer
Studio One West Media
Runtime 58 minutes

Locally produced documentary on the history of the Topaz, Utah, concentration camp. Produced in 1987, by KUED, a public television station based at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Topaz was one of the earliest documentary films about a specific camp.

The film tells the story of Topaz in largely chronological fashion, starting the with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the arrest of community leaders, and the run up to Executive Order 9066 before moving on to detention first at the Tanforan Assembly Center and Topaz. Aspects of life at Topaz covered include the general living conditions, the shooting death of James Wakasa, the loyalty questionnaire and segregation, military service, and leaving the camp. Writer/producer/director/narrator Ken Verdoia tells the story using many still photos, archival footage that includes Dave Tatsuno's home movies shot at Topaz, and interviews with a range of former inmates, staff workers at the camp, residents of local communities, and policy makers. Among the notables interviewed are Tatsuno, writer Yoshiko Uchida, artist Minè Okubo, sociologist Harry Kitano, historian Leonard Arrington, Topaz schoolteacher Eleanor Sekerek, Justice Department official Edward Ennis, and Utah's wartime Governor Herbert Maw. Topaz also includes the story of Utah's other War Relocation Authority administered camp, the "citizen isolation center" Moab as well as Utah's reaction to the "voluntary evacuation" period prior to the forced removal.

Historian Roger Daniels praised the film in his review in The Journal of American History, calling it a "well-crafted documentary" that serves as a worthwhile "contribution to historical understanding," though he also cites the coverage of the loyalty questionnaire episode and how inmates left the camp as leaving something to be desired.[1] Upon completion of the film, producer Verdoia donated photographs and video used to make it to the Utah Division of State History.

The DVD of Topaz remains available and is distributed by the University of Utah Press.

Authored by Brian Niiya

For More Information

Daniels, Roger. Review of Topaz. The Journal of American History 75.3 (December 1988): 1048–49.

Finding aid to The KUED Topaz (Utah) Residents Photograph Collection, 1987 at the Utah State Historical Society. Links to digitized images from this collection at http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm/search/collection/ushs-KUED/cosuppress/.

Topaz at the University of Utah Press website.

Footnotes

  1. Roger Daniels, "Review of Topaz," The Journal of American History 75.3 (December 1988): 1048–49.