Star-Bulletin Features

Saturday, November 17, 2001

Edgy Lee wil produce "Civil Liberties: Martial Law in Hawaii
1941-44" with a local and mainland television station.

Documentary filmmaker
Edgy Lee takes aim
at martial law

By Tim Ryan

Following the success of her three historical, award-winning Hawaii documentaries, independent filmmaker Edgy Lee is broadening the boundaries of her next project.

The Hawaii-born Lee and partner Jeffrey R. Mueller, through their company FilmWorks Pacific, will produce "Civil Liberties: Martial Law in Hawaii 1941-44" in partnership with two public television stations, including Hawaii's KHET and an as-yet-to-be-announced mainland station. Budget for the documentary, which begins filming next spring 2002, is $750,000. Filming will be completed by the end of the year.

"Civil Liberties" will tell the story of "ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances" during the four years of martial law in Hawaii, Lee said. "It's about how a generation of Americans from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds performed extraordinary feats of courage, fortitude and faith.

"Was martial law really necessary, and did it need to last four years?" asks Lee, whose other documentaries include "Papakolea, Story of Hawaiian Land," "Paniolo o Hawaii -- Cowboys of the Far West" and "Waikiki, in the Wake of Dreams."

The film delves into the daily lives of Hawaii residents during the war years. Some filming also will be done in California and Washington, D.C.

The film's subject is "very right" for the times, Lee said.

"This is a national piece," she said. "When Sept. 11 occurred, it dawned on me that we seem to be willing to suspend many of our rights because of the terrorism scare, fear of anthrax, fear of many things. I think we need to look at what happened in the past so if we decide to do this again, it's done appropriately."

The only time martial law had previously been declared in the United States was during the Civil War by President Lincoln.

Lee's research for "Civil Liberties" began more than two years ago, although her interest started in 1994 when she discovered the martial law exhibit at the King Street Judiciary History Center. "I knew this would be a very meaty, heavy story," she said.

She is especially fascinated by incidents in Hawaii involving non-Japanese residents who helped Japanese Americans during the war years. For instance, the Randalls, a family of Hawaiians, lived in Kalihi across the street from a Japanese family whose home was destroyed by "friendly fire" during the Pearl Harbor attack.

"The Randalls took in their neighbors for the duration of World War II," Lee said. "And when the Randalls moved to another part of Honolulu, the Japanese family moved with them. It was different in Hawaii."

Lee plans to add a multimedia educational component to the documentary, including a DVD of film excerpts with an in-classroom workbook, and Web sites where research and photos will be posted. She also wants to film the documentary in high definition.

KHET will provide "production assistance," receiving credit as a sponsoring partner, Lee said. KHET officials were not immediately available for comment.

Other sponsors so far include Prisma Pacific, a Hawaii-based company funded in part by NASA, which Lee hopes will fund the educational section.

FilmWorks Ltd. is a Hawaii-based firm which develops, produces and packages film, television, music and live-event special projects for domestic and international distribution.

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