Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 18 minutes
Production Studio: River Road Creative
Distributor: River Road Creative
A couple of months after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. In accordance with this directive, over 100,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry were herded up and taken to internment camps for the duration of World War II.
“American,” though set in the present, revisits that shameful chapter in our history. It is appropriate that the poignant picture stars George Takei, best remembered as Lt. Sulu of Star Trek fame since, at the tender age of 5, he and his family were forced out of their home at gunpoint and relocated to parts unknown.
In “American, he plays Clinton Nakamato, a 94-year-old veteran who proudly served his country in WWII, despite having been shipped to a concentration camp on account of his Japanese heritage. At the point of departure, we find him volunteering at the Japanese-American National Museum as he recounts his unfortunate ordeal on U.S. soil to a visitor (Rachel Michiko Whitney) with an impressionable young daughter (Araceli Prasarttongosoth) in tow.
As Clinton conducts an impromptu tour for them, we learn what life had been like for him when housed behind barbed wire. Ironically, he started every school day with the Pledge of Allegiance to the country imprisoning him. Nevertheless, when he came of age, he opted to enlist in the army.
The plot thickens when the little girl shows him a picture of her grandfather, who had also been a member of the 442, a Japanese regiment which suffered very heavy casualties while fighting the Nazis overseas. The photo triggers a battlefield flashback in Clinton which ultimately leads to a couple of touching tableaux it would be unfair for me to spoil.
Directed by Richie Adams (Of Mind and Music), “American” is a character-driven drama which packs quite an emotional punch, given its duration of less than 18 minutes. Kudos to George Takei for this labor of love doubling as a very timely teachable moment about racial tolerance.