War, unfortunately, never seems to be in short supply; and, lately, movies about war have also been plentiful.
One of the most prolific is the 68-minute documentary “Kash: The Legend and Legacy of Shiro Kashino.” In it, filmmaker Vincent Matsudaira profiles men who served in the 100th Battalion 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. Focusing on Shiro “Kash” Kashino, Matsudaira presents a straightforward tale of conflict that transcended the battlefield.
The all-Nisei division with its slogan, “Go for Broke!” was the most decorated of WWII. Yet, soldiers of that unit found themselves in a peculiar situation. While their families were herded into concentration camps, and in spite of being American-born citizens, they were treated like foreign enemies. With Japan attacking U.S. interests, many felt their only option was proving their loyalty by joining America in fighting overseas. The irony of having loved ones trapped behind barbed wire, while battling on behalf of those who held their families as hostages, was not lost on those Nisei.
Born in Seattle in 1922, Kashino lost both of his parents at an early age and was raised by older siblings. Like other Japanese Americans on the West Coast, he was interned along with his family. After volunteering for the 442nd, he distinguished himself in combat. Yet, in spite of earning six Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars and a Silver Star, Kashino — once a platoon sergeant — came home a private. Wrongly implicated in a bar room brawl, he faced a court martial, was twice thrown into a stockade, had his medals taken, and his rank stripped. It wasn’t until 40 years later, encouraged by his wife Louise, family and friends, that he sought exoneration — all the time enduring setbacks while suffering from cancer.
Until he became ill, Kashino was reluctant to revisit what had occurred during the war. But his wife convinced him that younger generations like their three daughters needed to know the truth. In fact, one daughter recalls being unsure during her childhood whether her father fought on the Japanese or American side in WWII.
Skillfully threading archival stills and footage throughout interviews, Matsudaira guides the viewer towards an emotionally charged experience. The last interview Kashino participated in is deeply moving. In one chilling scene, he remembers that upon seeing a German POW camp in Italy, he thought it looked like Camp Minidoka where his family was imprisoned.
On January 14, Congressional Gold Medals were presented to Seattle Regional Veterans of the 442nd and the Military Intelligence Service. Sadly, “Kash” was not there to receive his overdue justice.
For more information, or to buy a DVD, visit: www.kashthemovie.com. Purchases can also be made to benefit Nisei Veteran’s Committee: www.seattlenvc.org.
Another film about another war, “David and Kamal” is a Japanese production directed by Kikuo Kawasaki. Although it takes place during a time of uneasy peace between Palestinians and Jews, it portrays the potential for battle at any moment.
Just nine-years old, Kamal works the streets of Jerusalem hustling tourists and charming them into buying his postcards, only “three for a dollar.” Harassed by teenage bullies, he’s admonished by his stern grandfather for not making enough money and for losing the precious postcards to the bullies. Dreaming of becoming rich someday, Kamal spots his opportunity in a Jewish American boy visiting his father.
David, who lives in the U.S. with his divorced mother, is wary of vacationing with his workaholic father, Joseph, who charges his son to his girlfriend, Raisa. Weak with asthma, David clings to his coin collection, disappointed by his indifferent dad. While shopping with Raisa, David is robbed of his rare coins by Kamal.
Furious, he gives chase and the boys race through streets filled with dark passageways and sudden dead-ends. But soon, they find themselves fighting together against common enemies; settling their differences in ways that adults wouldn’t.
In English, Hebrew and Arabic, the DVD is available at: www.elevenarts.net.
Yet another war film hit theaters on January 20. Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s long-awaited “The Flowers of War,” depicting the massacre of Nanking, was scheduled for a press screening, but cancelled due to snow. Check local listings for show times.