September 27, 2004
Film on WWII Japanese-American Experience in Region Premieres Oct. 2 at Whitworth
What began 15 years ago with a Whitworth historian's curiosity about a photograph of five Japanese-American players on the college's 1944 basketball team has become a feature-length documentary about the varied experiences of Japanese-Americans in the Inland Northwest during World War II.
"In Time of War," which was written, directed and co-produced by 2000 Whitworth alumna Andrea Palpant, will premiere at 5 p.m. on Oct. 2 in the William P. Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall as part of the college's Homecoming Weekend. Whitworth alumna Rose Sliger, '02, who, along with Professor of History Dale Soden, provided research support and consultation on the project, will join Palpant to discuss the film.
The 54-minute film, funded in part by a grant from the Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program and produced by North by Northwest Productions in collaboration with Whitworth College, is also tentatively scheduled to air on Spokane public television station KSPS in December and is being submitted to various national networks for potential broadcast.
Featuring exclusive interviews with Japanese-Americans in the Pacific Northwest -- including several Whitworth alumni -- who were affected by evacuation, internment and military service during World War II, as well as recognized historians, "In Time of War" tells the stories of a former soldier who participated in a battle with German forces that turned the tide of the war, two former internees whose life together began behind barbed wire, and a resister still wounded by the liberties and chapter of his life lost to incarceration. Palpant believes the film expands understanding of the varied experiences of Japanese-Americans during the war and raises questions about contemporary applications related to post-9/11 public policy.
"One of the strongest features of the documentary is the different ways in which the subjects talk about what it meant for them to be Americans and how they reacted to their experience during the war," Palpant says. "There are figures who fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and figures who resisted the war -- both out of a strong sense of patriotism."
North by Northwest Productions is also working on a shorter documentary about Japanese-American internment from a child's perspective for elementary-school audiences. In addition, Sharon Mowry, director of Whitworth's Graduate Studies in Education program, and Whitworth archivist Janet Hauck are developing curriculum for a teacher workshop on how to tie the documentaries to civics and contemporary events.
The projects build on an earlier audio documentary -- "From Coast and Camp to the Inland Empire: Japanese-American Evacuation and Relocation to Eastern Washington during World War II" -- produced in 2002 by Soden, Sliger and Hauck through the Institute of Northwest Protestant Studies of Whitworth's Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith & Learning.
Based on Whitworth archival material as well as oral-history interviews, the project sought to document the experience of Japanese-Americans who were evacuated from the coast and relocated to the Inland Northwest but were not necessarily interned for extended periods of time or at all. A number of these individuals enrolled at Whitworth, including five who filled out the 1944 basketball squad, and their stories represent more multi-faceted experiences than those most often reflected in history books and school curricula about the era, Soden says.
"Oral history is such an unpredictable medium because you never know what you're going to get, and you have to be careful with what you use because the mind can play tricks on people," Soden says. "But some details come out during interviews that are so vivid and so poignant that you just know they're true. And it's those details that help people make connections with the history."
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,400 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs. The Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith & Learning is dedicated to being a catalyst for changing the lives of faculty, students, clergy and laity by helping them to better understand how faith and learning can be integrated. The center's Institute for Protestant Studies in the Pacific Northwest supports the study of religion in the region and the way in which the church has influenced and has been influenced by the larger culture.
North by Northwest Productions is a full-service production and post-production studio, offering script-to-screen services for commercials, television programs, feature films and other productions.
Dale Soden, professor of history and director of the Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith & Learning, (509) 777-4433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrea Palpant, producer, North by Northwest Productions, (509) 324-2949 or email@example.com.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, (509) 777-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.