Congratulations to Brenda Berry, photographer, filmmaker, and EduCulture Board Member, on the selection of her film, Only What They Could Carry – Return to Manzanar, in the 2014 Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival. In 2012, Brenda graciously filmed and produced the documentary to tell the story of our Bainbridge Island Delegations to Manzanar, organized by EduCulture’s Only What We Can Carry Project (OWWCC).
This short documentary tells the story of the Japanese American Exclusion during WWII through the lens of a delegation of Bainbridge Islanders who journey to the former Manzanar concentration camp. Current Island educators and community leaders accompanied former incarcerated Islanders to the High Sierra desert of California on the 70th anniversary of their forced removal and relocation to Manzanar. Only What They Could Carry shares the delegates’ intimate experiences of exclusion, inclusion, citizenship and community during this journey of bearing witness and discovery.
“Only What We Could Carry” was the rule,
so we carried Strength, Dignity and Soul.
– Lawson Fusao Inada
The film is about Bainbridge Island’s past and present as a community. While the focus is on the experience of our Japanese American neighbors during WWII, the legacy of this exclusion has involved a process of healing and reconciliation over the past 30 years that has made this episode a Bainbridge Island story. The delegates in the documentary span eight decades of current and former Islanders. These Delegations to Manzanar began in 2009, in collaboration with Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, Bainbridge Island School District, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and the National Park Service.
“It was an honor to travel with these people,” said Brenda, “to go from Bainbridge to return to Manzanar in order to hear first hand and capture these wonderful and unique stories. I have lived with my family on Bainbridge Island for 18 years and am proud to call this community my home.”
Even better, the film will be featured in a special series of documentaries that thread stories about Japanese American Exclusion, Bainbridge Island, and the Manzanar concentration camp. Along with Only What They Could Carry – Return to Manzanar, Celluloid Bainbridge has selected to screen, After Silence: civil rights and the Japanese American internment, by Lois Shelton, which documents a group of Bainbridge High School photography students working with Dr. Frank Kitamoto on a collection of images documenting his experiences with the Exclusion. Dr. Kitamoto was one of the founders of our OWWCC Project. Sadly, he passed away earlier this year. The third film in the series will be The Manzanar Fishing Club by Cory Shiozaki, about a small Japanese American incarcerated at Manzanar who made a hobby of sneaking outside the barbed wire and machine gun towers to catch fresh fish in nearby streams, then return to camp, without ever being discovered by guards or camp officials.
Our OWWCC Project, with Bainbridge Island History Museum and BIJAC, will be organizing a post-film panel discussion at the Festival featuring former delegates, along with educational resources about the experience of exclusion and its legacy for this Island community and beyond.
The series on Japanese American Exclusion at the Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival will be Sunday, Nov 16th, from noon to 3pm at The Historic Lynwood Theatre.
EduCulture’s Only What We Can Carry Project and our Delegations to Manzanar were created to help bridge school and community around this important story in our community heritage. Many Islanders know what happened before and after WWII, but few understand what our Japanese American neighbors endured during the war. As an educator responsible for this topic of study, the chance to bear witness to the experience of exclusion by walking side by side in the sand with Islanders who lived this experience seven decades ago, is a powerful pathway to uncovering the values of citizenship, identity, community and inclusion that can be taught today. Sometimes you have to go far away from home to find out what you can carry, as a survivor, teacher, community leader or citizen. We are currently planning for our Delegation to Manzanar in Spring 2015.
We are so grateful to Brenda Berry for joining our 2012 Delegation and producing such a powerful film to help tell the stories of these transformative journeys.