Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Come See the Paradise (1990) >>

Print Resources

Baltake, Joe. "A New Breed of Hero: Costner, Williams, Quaid Redefine Masculinity On Screen." Sacramento Bee 20 January 1991.
"Kevin Costner is one. Definitely. But Sylvester Stallone isn't. Robin Williams is one. But forget about Mel Gibson. Arnold Schwarzenegger, amazingly, is one. But little Macauley Culkin isn't. No way. One what? Well, to be honest, I haven't quite figured out the best expression for it. Costner, Williams and Schwarzenegger fall into the new, select group of screen heroes who surmount great odds and survive, at least in their current films, not because of strong fists or superior cunning, but because of their patient, nurturing ways. In ‘Dances With Wolves,' ‘Awakenings' and ‘Kindergarten Cop,' respectively, they all eschew the traditional, patriarchal, he-man movie images of masculinity. And, come to think of it, so does Dennis Quaid in ‘Come See the Paradise.'"
Chappell, Virginia A. "'But Isn't This the Land of the Free?': Resistance and Discovery in Student Responses to Farewell to Manzanar. Ed. Carol Severino, et al. Writing in Multicultural Settings. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1997. 172-88.
"First, I want to tell you about the processes of resistance and discovery I have observed during the three semesters at Marquette [University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin] when I have asked students to research the internment and read Farewell to Manzanar. . . . Second, and more abstractly, through my reflections upon this experience, I want to suggest some theoretical underpinnings for the larger project of using multicultural course materials in a predominantly white educational setting."
Chen, Fu-jen and Su-lin Yu. "Reclaiming the Southwest: A Traumatic Space in the Japanese American Internment Narrative." Journal of the Southwest 47.4 (2005): 551-70.
"Though constantly invented, reinvented, and open to negotiation, the Southwest [narrative] has a core barely remarked -- it was once a site for internment camps. . . . Tourists often reduce the landscape of the Southwest to something sublime, spiritual, or theraputic, all founded on [narrative] images of sun, desert, blue skies, dramatic canyon lands and mesas, cacti and coyotes, adobe architecture, living Indians, and other symbols of a different ethnicity. . . . The landscape of the Southwest should also remind tourists and others of that traumatic "Thing," the internment."
Davis, Rocío G. "National and Ethnic Affiliation in Internment Autobiographies of Childhood by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and George Takei." Amerikastudien/American Studies 51.3 (2006): 355-68.
"This essay examines the artistic project of two Japanese American writers -- Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's Farewell to Manzanar (1973), George Takei's To The Stars (1994) -- who deploy narratives of their childhood years in internment camps to represent their individual processes of self-identification and negotiation of cultural and/or national affiliation, offering important insights into this disruptive historical and cultural experience. . . . The manner in which writers like Houston and Takei negotiate their positions as Japanese Americans during and after the Second World War obliges the reader to attend to crucial questions of self-representation, national affiliation, and citizenship."
Drummond, William. "‘Come See the Paradise' About WWII Japanese Camps." National Public Radio Morning Edition 21 January 1991.
"Last year the United States government started mailing out $20,000 checks to compensate Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II. This weekend the first movie to depict the internment experience was released nationwide. "Come See the Paradise" is the creation of writer-director Alan Parker, who directed the films ‘Midnight Express' and ‘Mississippi Burning.' On the West Coast where the movie already has been playing for several weeks, Japanese-American leaders are not entirely pleased with Parker's latest effort."
Feng, Peter. Screening Asian Americans. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2002.
"The perception of Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners in the United States indicates a crisis in the definition of Americanness. . . . All of the essays in this collection articulate the terms by which Asian Americans are either accepted as citizens or defined as foreigners. . . . This volume serves to constitute Asian American cinematic representation as a coherent object of inquiry, which means that its essays do not merely discuss the process of screening, but themselves serve to screen Asian American Cinema."
Frankel, Sara. "American Lesson, British Eyes: 'Paradise' Director Alan Parker Attacks U.S. Social Problems Through Love Story." San Francisco Examiner 23 December 1990.
Interview with Parker: "‘I set out to do an interracial love story . . . And that just happens to be the most significant thing that happened to that particular ethnic group, the fact that they were interned and they had their civil rights taken away from them. So I couldn't just ignore it.' It's not his problem, he says, that no American filmmaker has tackled the subject."
Guthmann, Edward. "Parker's on History Trail: Director Re-creates World War II Tragedy of Internment Camps." San Francisco Chronicle 20 December 1990.
Guthmann interviews Parker about discovering the truth behind the internment, his decision to change focus from a Caucasian perspective to the minority, and the scrutiny he expects because the film is being released during the delivery of the first checks to surviving internees as redress for the actions of America during World War II.
Haberstroh, Joe. "Japanese-Americans Want ‘Paradise' Seen; Flawed Film Affirms Internment, Many Say." San Diego Union 27 January 1991.
Haberstroh examines the perspective of Japanese-Americans who saw the film. The people he spoke to felt that the story didn't "begin for them until the Kawamura family received their orders to relocate." The presence of a big-name Caucasian actor was explained as "a trade-off . . . for the attention a big budget film can bring to the internment issue." Parker's attention to detail was described as "disturbing and real." The article discusses some of what the film left out, such as what fueled the racism that caused the internment, as well as what happened after World War II ended.
Horn, John. "‘Paradise' Found." (Long Beach CA) Press-Telegram 4 January 1991.
"Former internees have praised [‘Come See the Paradise'] for its brutal and honest portrayal of life in concentration camps, although some took exception to the emphasis on the interracial love story and disruptions caused by the ‘No-No Boys,' Japanese youth who refused to sign a loyalty oath." Quotes from interview of director Parker as well.
Houston, John and Jeanne Wakatsuki. "No More Farewells: An Interview with Jeanne and John Houston." By Anthony Friedson. Biography 7.1 (1984): 50-73.
One day, Houston's nephew asked her to talk about life in Manzanar; he was learning about it in school, knew he'd been born there, but his parents wouldn't talk about their experiences. Houston recounted bits of things like playing baseball and what they ate there, but then her nephew asked, "But how did you feel about that?" Houston realized, as she began to cry, that she needed to finally face what she'd experienced. As she spoke to her husband about it, he realized that there was a book to be written; not just to help Houston heal, but to share a story that had never yet been written. At the time, only forty or so books existed on the internment, all of these being scholarly works written by Caucasians. Friedson leads the Houstons to talk about the experience of writing an autobiographical novel, how the two divvied up the research and the writing, and how the writing of the book helped Houston come to terms with her past as a Japanese American internee.
Hyun-Yi Kang, Laura. "The Desiring of Female Bodies: Interracial Romance and Cinematic Subjection." Screening Asian Americans. Ed. Peter X. Feng. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2002. 71-98.
Kang discusses three films that contain interracial sexual relationships: The Year of The Dragon, Come See the Paradise, and A Thousand Pieces of Gold. In each film, an Asian woman has a relationship with a white man. She examines "how these films portray the Asian woman through the interaction of her sexuality with her ethnic identity and white masculinity, ultimately reaffirming the primacy of the white male over both the Asian woman and the Asian males of her community."
Kang, Laura Hyun-Yi. "The Desiring of Asian Female Bodies: Interracial Romance and Cinematic Subjection." Screening Asian Americans. Ed. Peter X. Feng. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2002. 71-98.
Kang discusses three films that contain interracial sexual relationships: The Year of The Dragon, Come See the Paradise, and A Thousand Pieces of Gold. In each film, an Asian woman has a relationship with a white man. She examines "how these films portray the Asian woman through the interaction of her sexuality with her ethnic identity and white masculinity, ultimately reaffirming the primacy of the white male over both the Asian woman and the Asian males of her community."
Okada, John. No-No Boy. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1977.
A fictional tale of Ichiro Yamada, a man who answered, "no, no" on the Application for Leave Clearance questions 27 and 28. The novel begins with Yamada's return to Seattle after two years in the camps and two years in prison. The tale is raw with anger and disillusionment about what it is to be Japanese, or American, or anything at all.
Okamura, Raymond. "Farewell to Manzanar: A Case of Subliminal Racism." Amerasia Journal 3.2 (1976): 143-48. Reprinted: Counterpoint: Perspectives on Asian America. Ed. Emma Gee. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1976. 280-83.
"A number of serious charges may be filed against [the television drama] Farewell [To Manzanar]: (1) it uses the unique story of one atypical family to distort the common experience and history of Japanese Americans; (2) it denies the role of white racism and absolves white Americans of accountability; (3) it destroys Japanese Americans as a people by robbing them of humanity, pride, language, and names; (4) it stifles legitimate protest and generates submissive behavior by minorities; and (5) it protects the American egalitarian myth and thereby promotes white supremacy. A review of the screenplay will provide the evidence to support these indictments."
Ono, Kent A. "The Biracial Subject as Passive Receptacle for Japanese American Memory in Come See the Paradise." Mixed Race Hollywood. Eds. Mary Beltrán and Camilla Fojas. New York: New York UP, 2008. 136-54.
The character of Minai, or Mini, in Come See the Paradise is the primary topic of discussion in Ono's article. Ono posits that "Mini both literally and figuratively embodies the film's perspective on the future of race relations in the United States." She has no racist leanings like the whites, nor does she have the loss of identity suffered by the Japanese Americans. She is the untainted object around which Jack and Lily can reform their relationship after the war.
Otsuka, Julie. When the Emperor was Divine: A Novel. New York: Anchor Books, 2003.
A fictional internment story told from five different perspectives. Otsuka writes in easy, comfortable tones, pulling in the reader as she describes horrible experiences faced by the people in the novel: having to kill the family dog rather than giving it away or setting it loose to starve; packing mementos that mean so much, but have absolutely no value; attending the funeral of a man who was shot because he wanted to pick a flower that was on the other side of the barbed wire. Otsuka writes a powerfully sad drama with eloquence and a strict attention to detail.
Paris, Michael. "'What Happened Was Wrong': Come See the Paradise and the Japanese-American Experience in the Second World War." Repicturing the Second World War: Representations on Film and Television. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 105-18.
Paris's essay is a discussion about the historical accuracy of Come See the Paradise and an examination into a few other films that touch on the subject of the Japanese-American internment during World War II. The essay reads a bit like a history lesson while applying specific scenes from the film to demonstrate the historic moment.
Parker, Alan. Interview by William Drummond. "‘Come See the Paradise' About WWII Japanese Camps." National Public Radio Morning Edition 21 January 1991.
"I didn't make their film; I made my film. I started with a love story, and a love story is what I wanted to tell. . . . I didn't set out to do a definitive story of the internment of Japanese Americans. . . . A hundred and ten thousand people were interned, and there were 110,000 different stories. This is just one."
Payne, Robert. "Come See the Paradise: The Color of Paradise." Jump Cut 37 (July 1992): 51-55. http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC37folder/ComeSeeParadise.html
While seeming to be an in-depth review of Come See the Paradise, Payne's article looks past the film into the question of what is to be learned by this film. On the surface, Payne feels that the film is a "meticulously researched" version of historical events; looking further, Payne analyzes the reality that "the film serves as little more than a parable against political activism." Even Parker admitted that "his primary interest in making the film wasn't to give a history lesson, but to tell a specifically interracial love story." Payne's article is a concise discussion of where Parker could have created a powerfully historic film, but failed.
Robinson, Greg. "What I Did in Camp: Interpreting Japanese American Internment Narratives of Isamu Noguchi, Miné Okubo, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, and John Tateishi." Amerasia Journal 30.2 (2004): 49-
"Apart from any other artistic or financial interests, the authors' testimonies through these writings appear to have been twofold. On one level, they were meant to help the authors themselves and other internees understand what had been done to them and to work through their feelings of shame, stigma, frustration or anger about the experience. On a different level, they were consciously designed to permit the internees to tell other 'truths' about the internment. Because these narratives were first-person accounts, they made a special claim to truth and authenticity. The narratives were thereby able to reshape the general public perception of the wartime events away from the 'official truth' which was constructed by army and government officials during the war and spread by West Coast media and other forces hostile to Japanese Americans."
Sakurai, Patricia A. "The Politics of Possession: Negotiating Identities in American in Disguise, Homebase, and Farewell to Manzanar." Hitting Critical Mass: A Journal of Asian American Cultural Criticism 1.1 (1953): 39-56. Reprinted: Privileging Positions: The Sites of Asian American Studies. Ed. Gary Y. Okihiro et al. Pullman: Washington State UP, 1995. 157-70.
Sakurai uses three novels to demonstrate her theory of "the discursive use of heterosexual relationships described through race and/or class categories to both represent and negotiate race/class identities." American in Disguise examines the Asian protagonist's views of Caucasian women as status symbols. Homebase changes this perception to one of reverse racism. Farewell to Manzanar touches on Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's realization that it wasn't just racism that held her back from feeling "American," it was also her exotic, Japanese femininity.
Seidenberg, Robert. "‘Paradise' All Too Real For Tomita." (Long Beach, CA) Press-Telegram 27 January 1991.
Seidenberg interviews Tamlyn Tomita about her role in "Come See the Paradise" and how her family's history surrounding the internment years made it both easier and more difficult to prepare for her role: easier, because she saw what the internment had done emotionally to her father; harder, because her character didn't know what was coming next, though Tomita did. The interview is an interesting perspective into the actor's perception of their role in a film that hits very close to home.
Tajima, Renée, ed. The Anthology of Asian Pacific American Film and Video. New York: Film News Now Foundation, 1985.
An informative catalogue of shorts and documentaries about the internment and other Asian American subjects: "Around a dozen years ago a clarion call sounded for a new creative movement in the Asian pacific American community. Textbooks had been blind to our history for too long, and we had seen one too many Fu Manchu derivatives. . . . Artists responded to the call in different ways. Some took up the camera, and set about to do something more than simply produce films. They forged a movement out of this new creative energy and from it grew the body of work the Anthology of Asian Pacific Film and Video was drawn from. . . . These filmmakers are intensely aware of our dual existence as Asians in America, and within the scope of multicultural relations they evoke the many dimensions of Asian life from the Mississippi delta to New York City's Lower East Side."
Takeuchi, Floyd K. "Two-Edged Sword for Asian Actors." USA Today 13 June 1991.
"Asian-Americans are demanding more roles in mainstream movies and on Broadway, but when they get them, they simply end up perpetuating ethnic stereotypes."
Tawa, Renee. "Quest for Perfection in ‘Paradise' -- ‘Mississippi' Left Parker Burning for Authenticity." Daily News of Los Angeles 26 December 1990.
An interview with Alan Parker about his concerns that "Come See the Paradise" was as historically accurate as possible, and about his wish that people and critics understand his intentions were to make a period film about an interracial love story, not a film specifically about the internment years.
Wiseman, Andreas. "US Senators criticise 'grossly inaccurate' Zero Dark Thirty." Screen Daily 20 December 2012. http://www.screendaily.com/news/production/us-senators-criticise-grossly-inaccurate-zero-dark-thirty/5050174.article
"'We are fans of many of your movies, and we understand the special role that movies play in our lives, but the fundamental problem is that people who see Zero Dark Thirty will believe that the events it portrays are facts,' the three senators wrote. 'The film therefore has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner.'" The words of Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin, and John McCain are about one movie but describe a very real concern when read with regard to historic films in general.
Wong, Sau-ling Cynthia, and Stephen H. Sumida. A Resource Guide to Asian American Literature. New York: Modern Language Association of America; 2001.
"This volume is made up of twenty-one units on different book-length works of literature. . . . In selecting works to discuss for this volume, we decided to feature book-length prose narrative most heavily, since they provide the most ready access to the literature of Asian Americans and their varied experiences."
Yollin, Patricia. "Photos illustrate effects of WWII internment camps." SFGate 12 May 2012. http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/Photos-illustrate-effects-of-WWII-internment-camps-3552117.php#photo-2868242
Parker says in the press notes that he was inspired to make "Come See the Paradise" by a Dorothea Lange photograph showing a Japanese man sitting with his two grandchildren in San Francisco in 1941, awaiting deportation and internment. "As with all great photographs," Parker says, "the story behind the stares demands to be told." Here's the photo.

See Also

Guterson, David. Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel. New York: Vintage, 1995.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Sone, Monica. Nisei Daughter. 1953. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1979.

Yamamoto, Hisaye. Seventeen Syllables. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1994.

Video/Audio Resources

Allegiance at the Old Globe Theatre http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=DfSqpOpkw58&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DDfSqpOpkw58
Trailer-like introduction to the new theater production on the internment: "Allegiance ---- A New American Musical."

Online Resources

Akhmatova, Anna. "I hear the oriole's always-grieving voice." http://allpoetry.com/poem/8507159-I_Hear_The_Orioles_Always-Griev_wbr_ing_Voice-by-Anna_Akhmatova
This poem by Akhmatova (1889-1966) contains the line "But come, come and see this paradise" that inspired Parker's title.
"Allegiance ---- A New American Musical" http://www.nctimes.com/entertainment/arts-and-theatre/theatre/theater-review-allegiance-is-moving-thought-provoking-story-of-patriotism/article_0ae3837f-ed7a-558c-ae56-216a119f339e.html
"'Allegiance' is the story of the Kimuras, a Japanese-American family who have been farming artichokes in Salinas for 20 years when Pearl Harbor is bombed in December 1941. Son Sammy (who Telly Leung plays as a teen and Takei plays as an old man) is a patriotic young American who dreams of a future in politics. Sammy's older, 30ish sister Kei (Salonga) is a maternal figure, filling the void left by their mother's death. Their Japanese immigrant father Tatsuo (a noble Paul Nakauchi) is stoic and tradition-bound. And their grandfather Ojii-San (Takei, as well) is warm, loving and funny. The action moves quickly, with the family forced to sell their farm for a fraction of its value and subjected to racist taunts before they're whisked off by train to Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Wyoming."
Claiborn, Lindsay. "Sen. McCain lashes out at Zero Dark Thirty." Reuters USA 21 December 2012. http://www.reuters.com/video/2012/12/21/sen-mccain-lashes-out-at-zero-dark-thirt?videoId=240081965
Senator John McCain explains why films depicting historic events should not be taken at face value. This interview is specific to the film Zero Dark Thirty, yet the words could be applied to any historically based movie. While some directors try to hold true to the facts, many take liberties with the truth that leaves a skewed version of history that takes away from the educational value such films could provide.
Falk, Quentin. "Alan Parker." Film Reference. http://www.filmreference.com/Directors-Mi-Pe/Parker-Alan.html
Facts and brief overview analysis of Parker's career.
George Takei -- Legendary Actor and Political Activist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_v0MXhx6564&feature=youtu.be
George Takei is known for his groundbreaking role at Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek: The Original Series. He tells Ana Kasparian [of The Young Turks online news network] about his childhood in a Japanese internment camp, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for civil rights, being gay in Hollywood, and how his unique experiences helped form his career as a political activist. What was the breaking point that emboldened George to come out of the closet? What did the marginalization of Japanese Americans teach him about the plight of all Americans? George Takei explains all this and more in this special interview.