Resettlement to Redress: Telling the Story of a Community’s Rebirth

In Resettlement to Redress: Rebirth of the Japanese-American Community, Don Young examines Japanese American history from a unique angle, focusing not on the incarceration experience itself, but instead on the resettlement of Japanese Americans after their release.

As the Director of Programs for the Center for Asian American Media, Don Young has great experience working with Asian American issues. He supervises CAAM’s national programming activities including CAAM’s funding and broadcasts of PBS programs, original productions, educational distribution, and the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

In an interview with the Japanese American National Museum, Young explained how the original concept for the Resettlement to Redress project had been determined: “KVIE, the station that commissioned the film, and their General Manager, David Hosley, specifically wanted to present a side of Japanese American history that hadn’t yet been told. There have been so many films on internment and its legacy, as well as the 442nd. Over the years, David had supported so many films that covered those parts of Japanese American history, but very little work had been done on how the community rebuilt itself after World War II. That was the window of time he wanted to focus on.”

Resettlement to Redress chronicles the redress movement—how individuals as well as Japanese Americans as a community went about rebuilding their lives after their incarceration. The documentary intertwines factual information, interviews of notable activists in the movement, and rarely-viewed tapings of the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians hearings that eventually led Ronald Reagan to sign HR442 into law in 1988.

Explaining how he conducted his research and found subjects for his interviews, Young said, “The subjects were a combination of people I had heard about before or come across in our research. Nearly all of my career has been focused on Asian American history and issues, so I was starting from a solid background. After that, lots of research into the moments in history that seemed important, and then going deeper into themes, stories, and individuals that resonated. Personally, I really like to follow history, so exploring this is something I really got into.”

Of course, despite his previous work with Asian American topics, Young confronted unique challenges with this project, such as organizing the telling of the stories in a dynamic way. “In the beginning, this seemed like such a daunting story to tell. In essence, it was the window between World War II and Redress, two extremely important moments in American and Japanese American history. They were also very dramatic moments, so I needed to find engaging communities and people to tell their stories, but once we found those, it all worked itself out.” Among those interviewed are Senator Daniel Inouye, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta.

Throughout his research for Resettlement to Redress: Rebirth of the Japanese-American Community, Don Young found himself moved by all that he had learned through the filmmaking process. “So much attention has been focused on the damage the community has suffered because of World War II (and rightfully so), but this piece helped me gain a much better appreciation for how a community built itself back up. It’s always fascinating to me to see how people adjust and move on under tough circumstances.”

Presently, Don Young is producing a documentary about Karen Meredith, whose son was killed in Iraq, and “The Princess of Nebraska,” an independent feature directed by Wayne Wang.

February 2008

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