On Location With The Cast And Crew Of Stand Up For Justice!

By John Esaki Director, Stand Up for Justice Director of the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center and former staff member of Visual Communications A Film Production by Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress and Visual Communications June 2003.

The cast and crew at Manzanar (click here to enlarge the photo)

It is a breathtakingly clear, crisp December morning at Manzanar, California, four and a half hours from Los Angeles, in the Eastern Sierras. Our hardy band of actors, crew, and volunteers — swaddled in down, thermals, mufflers and mittens — are arrayed around the historic white obelisk with the stark black Nagasa that is familiar to all who have seen photographs of this historic site. The wind is slight, but still biting cold.

Director John Esaki with actor Brittany Ishibashi
The camera rolls, and Alexis Cruz voices these actual words of the teenager Ralph Lazo: “Who can say that I haven’t got Japanese blood in my veins?”

We are transported. Through the remarkable skills of an actor and the talents of wardrobe designers, set builders, prop specialists and hairstylists, we are alive in a moment more than sixty years before. We magically inhabit the time in the 1940s when the monument was raised and the camp held its 10,000 Japanese American prisoners — and, incredibly, one idealistic Mexican American youth who chose not to abandon his Nisei friends in a time of crisis.

A charge of excitement and deep emotion runs through us all; that we are witness to such a stirring reenactment, and also that we, as part of this production, are uniquely blessed with the responsibility to carry this story to the world at large.

In the five years that we have worked on Stand Up For Justice, we have had the great privilege to meet so many people who personally knew Ralph Lazo and who spoke so affectionately and admiringly of this extraordinary individual. It has been our mission to insure that Ralph Lazo, who passed away in 1992 (at the age of 67) is brought alive for audiences in particular, students of the 21st Century. suka
Ralph reads headline story daily news
The teachers on our committee havecautioned us about the immense difficulty of our task, the toughness of our tar- get audience. A great many students today feel powerless to act against the injustices and wrongs that permeate their lives. We on the committee have invested a good part of our lives in the past five years because we believe that the story of Ralph Lazo will intrigue and inspire those who view it.

In filmmaking, there are few opportunities to do work of which we can feel profoundly proud. Ralph Lazo’s coura- geous words and actions have resonated in a very spe- cial way with our cast, crew and volunteers, and we eagerly continue to work towards the day that we can share his experiences with you through this film.

Related articles:
Historic Lazo Docu-Drama Begins Filming
Who was Ralph Lazo

A clip from the movie - football spectators

Train scene clip

Shooting of the train station scene at Fillmore California