Observing the 50th anni of the opening of the 10 relocation camps for Japanese-Americans via Executive Order 9066, Mark Mohr’s earnest, often touching “Memories of the Camp” concentrates on two of them.
Host Joanne Ishimine visits Wyoming’s Heart Mountain and California’s Manzanar, spots where the camps once stood. Ardent, the program brings back hurtful memories.
Well thought out, with a painful climax in which an anniversary pilgrimage to Manzanar brings home the sadness of the camps, docu instructs as well as it warns.
Ishimine, a soft questioner, talks with former internees and with their offspring, and producer-writer Mohr skillfully bleeds original camp scenes into today’s desolate views.
One former internee plans to move a barracks from its camp spot to L.A. as a reminder of what so many Japanese-Americans endured during WWII.
Home movies (some taken surreptitiously) of life in the camps disclose the desolation and restrictions the people endured. The films and stills also show the resilience of so many of the internees, though more details of actual daily living would have helped.
Docu also spotlights several current Japanese-American institutions in L.A. and how traditions are being kept alive along with memories.
Photographer Toyo Mayatake’s record of the faces of sadness are an effective adjunct to the story of the camps, which were eventually declared unconstitutional; human as well as civil rights were only too apparently breached.
Mohr has created a lingering look at an injustice, though how such an injustice came to be isn’t much discussed. Valuable program has been slated against “60 Minutes,” but it’s at least available to viewers and vid recorders.