Back to All Events

Hidden Histories and the Power of Narrative Film: Telling the Story of Japanese American Incarceration and Beyond

  • Chicago Cultural Center 78 East Washington Street Chicago, IL, 60602 United States (map)

Join us for the Chicago premiere of The Orange Story!  This event will include a a screening of The Orange Story along with three other short films, and a post-screening discussion panel. RSVP on Eventbrite.

The troubling story of Japanese American incarceration during WWII is an important but often glossed-over part of American history. Hidden Histories and the Power of Narrative Film commemorates and explores this complicated history through four short films, coupled with a post-screening discussion. These films are unique in their creative use of narrative techniques to bring audiences into the emotional core of powerful first-person stories. The screening will be followed by a discussion about Japanese American incarceration and how this history is still relevant today.

Short Films


Erika Street // Narrative // 2016 // 18 minutes

February 1942. President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, which authorizes the forced “relocation” of 120,000 ethnic Japanese from their homes and into confinement sites throughout the U.S. Koji Oshima is the proud owner of a small corner grocery store, but he must now abandon everything and report to an assembly center. His belongings, his business – everything must be sold or left behind, except what he can carry in one large duffel bag. Up against a wall, Koji receives only one low-ball offer for his store, which he has no choice but to accept. The lone bright spot during this turmoil is the friendship Koji develops with a precocious nine-year-old girl. On the day of his departure, however, Koji is saddened to learn that even this friendship has been tainted by the larger forces of fear and wartime hysteria.


Kazuko Golden & Phil Emerson // Narrative // 2015 // 18 minutes

A Song for Manzanar is based on chapters of a novel being completed by Yoshimi Golden. The film draws upon a true story about the forced internment in 1942 of a young Japanese American father, mother, and their toddler son in Manzanar Concentration Camp located in the Owens Valley near Lone Pine, California. The film depicts the relationship between the protagonist who is in Manzanar and her younger sister who is in Hiroshima, Japan during World War II. The closeness of the sisters is shown in glimpses of childhood experiences, a conversation as young women, and the dogged effort of the older sister to get a letter out of the camp to her sister in Hiroshima.


Robin Takao D’Oench // Narrative // 2015 // 15 minutes

George, Akiko, Kaori, and Kazuo return to their former house in the summer of 1945, following the end of World War II and the closure of the Japanese American Internment camps. Arriving home, they find the house ransacked by vandals and in a state of disrepair. Emotions flair and each individual member of the family react differently to the homecoming. While rebuilding their home, the family is able to recover a “takarabako” – a chest of memorable items that had to be left behind before the evacuation, bringing the family closer together. As the day draws to a close, there is a glimmer of hope that the future holds better days. TADAIMA honors the legacy of Paul Takagi, 92-year old former internee, WWII veteran, Berkeley Professor Emeritus, and the Director’s grandfather. The film stars Toshi Toda (PEARL HARBOR, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA), Vivian Umino, Mackenyu Maeda, and Jordyn Kanaya.