In this day and age when razzle dazzle seems to rule the documentary world, it's rather refreshing to watch a film like Proof of Loyalty: Kazuo Yamane and the Nisei Soldiers of Hawaii, a rather straightforward yet immensely involving documentary telling the story of a Japanese American who played a crucial strategic role in World War II.
Kazuo Yamane was drafted into the U.S. Army just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Plucked from the infantry ranks due to his expert knowledge of Japan, Yamane would serve at the Pentagon, at that time still a secret facility in Maryland, and finally under Eisenhower in Europe. He would eventually identify a secret document that tremendously aided America's war in the Pacific.
Proof of Loyalty tells a story largely unfamiliar to Americans despite its importance to America during World War II. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, it had a population consisting of nearly 40% with Japanese ancestry. While mainland U.S. had mass incarcerations of Japanese Americans, only a small percentage had this experience in Hawaii and, in fact, a large number of the Nisei, or second generation American citizens, would volunteer to serve in the U.S. Army both as infantry and in vital intelligence roles.
With remarkable, painstaking detail, co-directors Lucy Ostrander and Don Sellers have assembled a feature doc that is absolutely fascinating from beginning to end and immensely moving emotionally. The film is screening as an official selection as it begins to wind down its festival run, a successful run that began in August 2017 with an Audience Award at the 40th Asian American International Film Festival.
If you see this film, and you should, you'll understand completely why audiences rave about it.
Running just shy of an hour, Proof of Loyalty tells its story quickly and doesn't waste time with any unnecessary filler. Fortunately, there's also no gimmicks here or unnecessary histrionics. There's simply the story of Yamane, the Nisei soldiers, and their unwavering loyalty despite experiencing tremendous discrimination from an American public that tended to regard those of Japanese descent as "the enemy" no matter how passionate their loyalty.
In this time, especially, with many immigrants having their military service questioned and even ended, Proof of Loyalty is a powerful reminder that America operates best, even during times of war, when it embraces its diversity.
Proof of Loyalty: Kazuo Yamane and the Nisei Soldiers of Hawaii is screening at the following times:
- Oct. 14th @ 12:15pm at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
- Oct. 15th @ 2:45pm at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
- Oct. 20th @ 2:45pm at AMC Castleton Square 14
For information on tickets, visit the Heartland Film website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic