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‘Right of Passage’ to Screen at Gardena JCI on Sept. 23

The National Coalition for Redress and Reparations, one of the groups interviewed for “Right of Passage,” takes a photo during their lobbying delegation to Washington, D.C. in 1987.

GARDENA — “Right of Passage,” a documentary on the signing and passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, will have its first showing in the South Bay on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 2 p.m. at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute, 1964 W. 162nd St. in Gardena.

The event is co-sponsored by GVJCI and the Little Tokyo Historical Society working with Iku Kiriyama (Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California) and is part of the year-long remembrance of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066.

The documentary, considered controversial by some, has been difficult to obtain, and this is the first screening opportunity for the South Bay community.

Filmmaker Janice D. Tanaka, screenwriter/editor Sreescanda and co-producer Nancy Araki were able to examine newly declassified documents from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Much of the storyline centers around the Reagan years (1981-1988) and his signing of the bill. The attitude of the Reagan Administration was to veto any redress bill coming out of Congress. “Right of Passage” posits how Reagan ultimately decided to sign the redress bill, using papers from the Reagan Library and interviews with former Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.).

A number of legislators and other Washington, D.C. figures with key roles in the legislative process are interviewed, such as then-Rep. Norman Mineta (D-San Jose), Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians Chair Joan Bernstein, and Aiko Yoshinaga Herzig, CWRIC researcher.

A key part of the redress victory was the grassroots movement, and the role of the community who put a human face on the Japanese American concentration camp experience and brought a deeper moral insight into this issue. The filmmakers interview community members, including Alan Nishio and Miya Iwataki of the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations (NCRR), now known as Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress; leaders of the Japanese American Citizens League, including Cherry Kinoshita, Grace Uyehara, John Tateishi and Ron Ikejiri; and other figures like Rose Matsui Ochi, Rudy Tokiwa, Stuart Ishimaru, Glenn Roberts and Grant Ujifusa. The complex storyline and varying perspectives lend an almost Rashomon-type flavor to the documentary.

“We decided we would include only those statements in the film that could be substantiated with a paper trail or came from a source with first-hand knowledge,” says Tanaka.

Immediately following the film will be a panel featuring Yoshinaga Herzig, Nishio, Iwataki and Tanaka, moderated by Professor Lane Hirabayashi. Light refreshments will be served. LTHS and GVJCI welcome all those who were a part of, who benefited from, and/or are interested in learning more about Japanese American redress.

Admission is free. For reservations, email or call (310) 324-6611.

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