Nisei Farmer" Heals from Historic Wounds
1988, under the Reagan administration, the United States
government accepted full responsibility for the sins
it committed against the Japanese-American community
during World War II. The government issued an apology
and a redress in the sum of $20,000 to any persons interned
in any of the many camps that dotted the desolate Mid-West
Dean Yamada's short thesis film, "The Nisei Farmer,"
the impact and memories the redress dredged up in the
victims of that injustice is explored through Hank (Steven
Kondo), a Japanese-American farmer in Northern California.
Through flashbacks, we see a young Hank and his family
suffer betrayal and humiliation at the hands of the
US government during their internment; in particular
we see Hank's embittered and angry father becoming abusive
towards his family. With the memory of his youth rushing
back, Hank must make a decision as to whether he will
take the $20,000; he believes that the redress money
is an insult and diminishes the memory of the crime.
With his wife (Jude Narita) in support of accepting
the money, Hank must come to terms with the demons from
his past and move on into the present.
one of his first directing efforts, Yamada does a good
job of condensing an emotionally complex story into
12 minutes; the audience is able to relate to Hank's
dilemma. However, the film may have been better served
with a more affecting performance in the lead role.
While capable, Kondo seemed a bit stiff and sometimes
unsure of his decisions on screen. However, Narita,
in the role of the wife, adds the necessary emotional
poignancy that allows the audience to empathize with
a technical level, the film opens with a beautiful shot
of Northern California with the rising sun peeking above
the horizon, giving everything its rays touches a soft
golden hue. The flashbacks worked especially well as
the blue tones evoked the ominous emotional tone of
the scenes. Nonetheless, the camera work by cinematographer
Cliff Hsui seemed unusually grainy, leaving us to wonder
whether the effect was intended. The music (by Dana
Niu) with its synthesized ethereal notes, at first would
seem a bit misplaced but was surprisingly evocative
Nisei Farmer" is currently being shown at festivals
throughout the country. To find out more information
about the film, please visit its website at: www.theniseifarmer.com.