New film on WWII nisei
soldiers almost ready

Stars will be on hand for a
private showing here Saturday

Filmmaker Lane Nishikawa's dream to tell the story of the famed 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team is slowly becoming a reality. A private screening of his 96-minute feature length film, "Only the Brave," will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Free tickets available
for WWII veterans

Admission to Saturday's screening of "Only the Brave" -- the first full-length movie feature on the exploits of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team -- is free to all World War II veterans, but they must have a ticket. A donation of $35 is suggested. Tickets and information can be obtained by calling the 442nd Veterans Club at 949-7997.

Donations to help "Only the Brave" can be mailed to the National Japanese American Historical Society, 1684 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94115.

Nishikawa, who was born in Wahiawa and now lives in Oakland, Calif., focuses on a pivotal battle that took place in October 1944, when soldiers of I and K companies of the 442nd RCT broke through German forces and saved the lives of more than 200 soldiers of the "Lost Battalion" -- the 141st Regiment, 36th Infantry Division -- but suffered 800 casualties.

Hawaii-born actors Mark Dacascos, Garret Sato, Michael Sun Lee and Jason Scott Lee joined the cast, which includes Tamlyn Tomita, Pat Morita and Yuji Okumoto.

Using flashbacks, Nishikawa tells the story of the diverse background of the Japanese Americans who volunteered to fight while some of their parents and siblings were held in internment camps.

"Each men had different images and memories," Nishikawa said.

Private screenings of the movie already have been held in Los Angeles and San Francisco as part of an ongoing fund-raising drive.

"The screenings are a chance for us," Nishikawa said, "to let the community to see the film, especially those who raised the money like the World War II veterans."

Nishikawa has raised about 75 percent of what he believes he needs to complete the film, and is negotiating with distributors for a premiere sometime in late summer or early fall.

"We still to need to do the finishing and final edits, convert the movie to 35 mm and add more music," Nishikawa said. He also plans to add two more minutes at the end of the movie to include a "Valor Roll" to recognize donors who have made the movie possible. The additional footage also is expected to include an interview with U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who lost an arm and received the Medal of Honor for service with the 442nd.

In his film, Lee and Dacascos are sergeants from Hawaii, while Okumoto's character volunteered to serve from an internment camp in Arkansas.

In an interview with the Star-Bulletin in 2003, Tomita said her character -- Mary Takata -- is a soldier's wife who "exemplifies the stereotypical nisei woman who is left behind at home and is stoic in the face of likely loss of her husband."

Lee, Tomita, Okumoto and Dacascos plan to attend Saturday's screening, Nishikawa said.

The movie opens as the nisei soldiers prepare to take a French town from the Germans. The town is unnamed, but the action is based on the experiences the soldiers faced when they liberated Bruyeres, Belmont and Biffontaine.

"I tried to the tell the story by focusing on a platoon of soldiers. By the end of the movie, you come away (with) the broad experience of the soldiers from Hawaii and the mainland," Nishikawa said. "What we've tried to do is get a good sense of these men as not only soldiers, but as fathers, husbands, boyfriends and brothers."

The rescue of the "Lost Battalion" is considered by the Army as one of the most significant battles since the Revolutionary War. Seven soldiers earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest medal for valor.

Nishikawa's film was shot during three weeks in May at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Nearby locations doubled for northern France and the Vosges. He worked with a crew of 85 and at one point had 125 extras. The first draft of the screenplay was written two years ago.

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