Manzanar, Diverted provides a fresh interpretation of the Japanese American confinement site by examining the environmental and political history behind the World War II camp. Prior to the war, Manzanar was where Native Americans were driven out and farmers and ranchers were bought out by the LA Department of Water and Power (LADWP). By connecting this camp to California’s environmental history, this film shows the intersectionality of how Japanese Americans, indigenous communities, and locals have been mistreated by government entities who have not served the interests of all of their citizenry. The film exposes the legacy of colonization, racism, and social injustice at Manzanar.
Through interviews with those who have inhabited Manzanar, we hope to draw connections between the federal government’s treatment of Japanese Americans and Native Americans. Manzanar has both the violent history of Native American colonial cleansing and the legacy of being a concentration camp for Japanese Americans who were similarly pushed away from the coast. The administration of the World War II camp was in the hands of many former Bureau of Indian Affairs staff, revealing how the government equated handling of these two groups.
Similar to the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience that endeavors to inspire people “to interact, learn, and be sparked into action by history,” this film aspires to bridge these communities and engage in important public discussion that makes Manzanar a site of conscience that all of these communities can claim as their own.
This project grew out of work with a team of humanities scholars (history and Asian American studies) from UC Irvine and UC Riverside, who attended the 2015 Manzanar Pilgrimage to look at it as a site of interfaith and intercultural exchange. This trip triggered a desire to find a fresh way to view the Manzanar story that reframed it in California history, not as an isolated event during World War II. More about this research project and writings that came out of it can be found here.
Manzanar, Diverted was awarded a 2017 UCLA Aratani CARE Grant which will help to facilitate a work-in-progress screening at the 2017 Manzanar Pilgrimage. Since 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, this marks a special occasion. There will also be a screening at the Association for Asian American Studies Conference in Portland, Oregon. Please see News for more details for both of these events.