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Film screening follows attorney fighting for incarcerated Japanese

by Matthew Yoshimoto, AsAmNews Intern

Producer, director and writer Sharon Yamato will be screening her film One Fighting Irishman this weekend at the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin in San Jose’s Japantown, in hopes of telling the story of a civil rights attorney who advocated for Japanese Americans during their incarceration in World War II.

The film, Yamato noted, follows the 23-year battle by San Francisco civil rights attorney Wayne M. Collins working to regain citizenship for more than 5,000 people segregated at the Tule Lake Segregation Center. 

According to Yamato, Collins worked with members of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California as well as detainees at Tule Lake to fight against challenges posed by the National American Civil Liberties Union and national Japanese American Citizens League. 

“I have focused my work on this dark chapter partially because I am a descendant who knew little about it from my parents and family,” said Yamato in an email interview with AsAmNews. “Fortunately, many stories have come forward since I started working in this field more than 10 years ago. My goal has always been to tell new and different stories about camp that have not yet been told.”

Yamato first became interested in the subject after hearing Collins’s son speak about his father. She said she hoped to capture the “eye-opening and hugely dramatic story” of this “courageous attorney.”

She also hopes to spread awareness of the nature of the incarceration camps in the U.S., noting that the Japanese community was mandated to take a “loyalty questionnaire” that required them to swear loyalty to and fight on behalf of the U.S. 

Camp detainees, Yamato said, would often be held without due process and without a way to contact family members. 

“In addition to recognizing the tremendous work of the unsung hero, Wayne Collins, I wanted to show the chaotic conditions at the Tule Lake Segregation Center, considered the ‘worst’ of the 10 concentration camps for complex and untold reasons and whose turmoil inevitably led to the mass renunciations,” said Yamato in the email. 

She noted production began shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and resumed in 2022 after face-to-face interviews could be captured following public health guidelines. 

Yamato said her screening is a part of a two-day annual event sponsored by the Bay Area’s Nichi Bei Foundation which works to feature films exclusively dealing with the mass incarceration of Japanese during World War II. 

Having shown three of her films in past years, she emphasized the importance of spotlighting filmmakers who dedicate their work to telling the stories about this time in U.S. history. 

“Because the goal of Films of Remembrance is to showcase films and filmmakers who continue to strive to tell these important incarceration stories that might not otherwise be shown in more mainstream film festivals, it’s wonderful to tell camp stories to both the Asian American community already interested in our history and hopefully to a mainstream audience who wants to learn more,” said Yamato in the email. “I hope it encourages other filmmakers of color to continue to tell their unique stories.”

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


  1. It would have been better if the film centered on Tetsujiro “Tex” Nakamura, the Japanese civil rights leader who was imprisoned during the WWII. Tex led the Tule Lake Defense Committee who worked with Wayne Collins to fight the US government’s forced renunciation and deportation program. But as usual, the white person is the hero of the story and gets showcased as the savior.


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