Film reflects Japanese American internment on Day of Remembrance

Students watched archival footage revealing thousands of Japanese Americans being forcibly removed from their homes and transported to internment camps in the desert.


The Cross-Cultural Center showcased the film, And Then They Came for Us on Feb. 19 in the USU Ballroom as part of Day of Remembrance, a day commemorating the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.


According to Lucas Schact, Student Specialist in Programming for the Cross-Cultural Center, the film is about the internment of about 120,000 Japanese Americans following the Japanese bombings at Pearl Harbor in 1941. The film also compares Japanese American internment to the 2017 Muslim travel ban.


Schact said that the purpose of the film is to connect that moment in history to current events.


The film was directed by Abby Ginzberg and Ken Schneider and included interviews with several Japanese Americans, including Star Trek actor, George Takei, who was sent to the internment camps along with his family as a child. According to Takei, the internment of Japanese-Americans was fueled by war hysteria and the failure of political leadership.


Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many Americans began to fear that Japanese spies were among them. The film referred to this period in American history as a “yellow peril,” a time when Americans associated negative stereotypes with Japanese Americans and considered them a threat to Western civilization.


Influenced by the Japanese hysteria, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 into law, which called for the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps across the western and southern U.S.


The film showed a variety of pictures taken from inside the camps, capturing a glimpse into the personal lives of the Japanese Americans imprisoned there.


In an interview during the film, photo historian, Richard Cahran, said how famous American photographer Ansel Adams took some of the photos. Adams’ photographs “showed the Japanese as human beings,” said Cahran.


Adams’ photographs painted the Japanese Americans in a more positive light contrary to the negative stereotypes portrayed towards them.