Japanese AmericansDisney's summer $140 million blockbuster film "Pearl Harbor" has touched off strong feelings among some Japanese Americans in Hawaii and across the nation -- even before its nationwide opening Friday.
worry about film
Many feel the movie
'Pearl Harbor' may spark
anti-Asian feelings nationwide
Japan, Germany to get
tweaked 'Pearl' dialogue
By Jaymes Song
Some say the movie, based on the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that left 2,400 Americans dead, could resurrect dark memories of a period in U.S. history where the loyalty of Japanese Americans was questioned and thousands of families were forced out of their homes and into internment camps.
"We're concerned with one particular scene in the movie. It really implies Japanese Americans were involved in acts of espionage," said attorney Clayton Ikei, spokesman for the Honolulu chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League. "That's simply not true."
The scene involves a Honolulu dentist of Japanese ancestry who answers questions from an unidentified Japanese-speaking caller about the ships in Pearl Harbor.
The dentist, whose office overlooks the harbor, appears puzzled after receiving the call.
"For decades, Americans of Japanese ancestry could not escape the backlash associated with the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor," Ikei said.
"THIS MOVIE HAS the potential to rekindle the hatred that misguided individuals and organizations traditionally have directed against AJAs (Americans of Japanese ancestry), especially because such hatred recently is on the rise," Ikei said.
William Hoshijo, executive director of the state Civil Rights Commission, said the movie could spur resentment of Asian Americans in the context of other recent events, such as the prosecution of nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee and the Navy plane detained in China.
"There's already a lot of anti-Asian sentiment out there," he said.
However, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who lives on Kauai and plays a Japanese commander in the movie, said he was satisfied with the film's portrayal of Japanese, despite initial concerns.
"When I heard the words Pearl Harbor and Hollywood, I thought, Oh, please, don't do that," Tagawa said.
"But when I read the script, I was really pleasantly surprised."
In Los Angeles' Little Tokyo neighborhood, about 10 people gathered outside the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center on Monday to express concern that inaccuracies in the film could cause an anti-Asian-American backlash.
JACL LEADERS have been involved in the production of the film but thought the dentist scene had been deleted from the final product.
"Despite what has been the sincere efforts of all involved, any movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor, and particularly one of this scale with enormous publicity surrounding it, is a cause for concern because of the racist reactions it will provoke and the certainty that (AJAs) and Asian Americans will be the target of that reaction," Ikei said.
He said the JACL is publicizing their concerns and contacting local school districts in Hawaii and on the mainland to ensure that children of Japanese ancestry are not taunted because of the film.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions in World War II, said the movie may revive the emotions of 60 years ago and cause some people to reflect negatively upon Americans of Japanese descent.
"However, we hope that those who may be so inclined will recall that, not withstanding the incarceration and the 4-C (enemy) designation, thousands of Japanese Americans volunteered to stand in harm's way for our nation," said Inouye, who lost his right arm in battle while serving as a 1st lieutenant with the mostly Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Italy.
"After the bombing of our naval base at Pearl Harbor 60 years ago, Japanese Americans ... almost immediately came under suspicion, and their loyalty and patriotism were sorely questioned," Inouye said.
More than 120,000 men, women and children were shipped to 10 concentration camps across the country.
Inouye said Americans should never forget those events, and he encouraged people to watch the film because "it is a movie that portrays an important chapter in our history."
LOS ANGELES >> The war spectacle "Pearl Harbor" will play in slightly revised form in Japan and Germany, where some dialogue is being tweaked to avoid offending audiences.
to get tweaked
Star-Bulletin news services
Disney, which is releasing the film under its Touchstone Pictures banner, decided to alter some dialogue for the Japanese and German markets, said a Disney source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The changes are minor and were made out of sensitivity to how "Pearl Harbor" will be perceived among moviegoers in Japan and Germany, the source said. The source would not disclose the nature of the dialogue changes.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman said yesterday that the movie described the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in a "historically accurate" manner.
The world premiere of the three-hour, $140 million movie on Monday evening was "a great event to pay tribute to those that were actually a part of Pearl Harbor 60 years ago, as well as today's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines," Rear Adm. Craig Quigley told a news briefing.
"We think the movie is historically accurate. ... We're very proud of the way that the men and women in the movie are depicted," the spokesman said.
The Navy assisted Disney in its production of the movie and in the premiere. Disney reimbursed the Navy for the costs involved, and the Navy reportedly had some say in the script.