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American (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 9, 2020


“AMERICAN” (2018)

Starring George Takei, Leonardo Nam, Keong Sim, Rachel Machiko Whitney, Araceli Prasarttongosoth, Michael Hagiwara, Marilyn Takuda, Ivan Shaw, Sahil Ganatra, Samira Azadi, RJ Howard, Dean Jacobs, Jake Oolman, Barrett Loose and Ulf Bjorlin.

Story by Richie Adams & Richard Barlow Adams.

Directed by Richie Adams.

Distributed by Monterey Media. 18 minutes. Not Rated.

Actor and activist George Takei survived life in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. Even though he was just a young boy when it happened, not surprisingly it was a life-altering event in his life, and even seventy-some years later, Takei has made it his mission that people do not forget this ugly moment in American history.

Just in the last decade, Takei was a guiding force for the short-lived Broadway musical Allegiance, which was based on his family’s experiences in the camps. He also movingly discussed what happened to himself and many other Japanese Americans in the documentary on his life To Be Takei and in speeches, on shows, and in many other venues.

This short film is also about the bravery and hardship survived by Japanese Americans during the big one, looking at the soldiers who had to protect our country while their families and friends were stuck in the internment camps.

It starts a little more pointedly politically, simply because in the Trump era these memories are taking on new pointed importance. In fact, the film starts specifically with an elderly Japanese man wearing a uniform and a unit cap sitting in a coffee shop, drinking some tea, and watching Chief of Staff John Kelly giving a press conference discussing the Trump administration’s attempted immigration bans.

This elderly man is Clinton, played by Takei. (The character is based on two real-life 90-something-year old surviving soldiers, one of whom has the first name Clinton – that’s not a political reference in any way.) Even though the man is well into his mid-90s, most days he dresses in his uniform, takes a bus into town and volunteers as a guide at the Japanese American National Museum.

The film looks at an afternoon in his life, a particularly dramatic one for the aging veteran. On this day a young woman and her little daughter come in looking for more information on her grandfather who died in combat, and he turns out have been a friend in Clinton’s platoon. This leads Clinton to flash back to memories of the man’s life and sacrifice. (Young Clinton is played by Leonardo Nam from Westworld.)

As immigration is more and more becoming a political football and the country is in the middle of the longest war in its history, with one or two potential new wars on the horizon, “American” is a nice reminder of what this country is really all about.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: May 13, 2018.

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