Of Civil Wrongs & Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story

This immensely moving 1999 film documents the legal battle waged by Fred Korematsu, a young blue-collar worker, against the forced relocation of American citizens of Japanese descent to internment camps during World War II. Through skillful selection, director Eric Paul Fournier revitalizes the tired conventions of the historical documentary, constructing a compelling narrative from montages of talking heads along with photographs, archival footage, and brief, understated reenactments. Korematsu was convicted for resisting the internment, and neither the Japanese-American Citizens’ League nor the ACLU’s national office supported his wartime lawsuit. The bigoted climate, revealed in neighborhood signs rejecting “Japs” and one general’s reference to Japanese-Americans as an “enemy race,” helps explain Korematsu’s loss in a 1944 Supreme Court decision. Four decades later, documents came to light showing that the government, in its argument before the court, suppressed evidence that Japanese-Americans posed no threat to security; then Korematsu sued again, and his conviction was overturned in a courtroom full of former camp internees who wept at this vindication. Also showing is Michael Wilson’s short Brown (1999). Both films are showing as part of the fifth annual Asian American Showcase, presented Friday and Saturday, April 7 and 8, by the Film Center and the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, April 7, 6:00, 773-871-1977 or 312-443-3737.

–Fred Camper