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Conscience and the Constitution
The Film
The Filmmakers
Production Staff
Frank Abe
Lillian Benson
Phil Sturholm
Shannon Gee
Alan Koshiyama
Lawson Fusao Inada
Jim Wilson

The Voices
George Takei
  Jim French
Stephen Sumida

Production Staff

Producer, Director and Writer FRANK ABE, a third-generation Japanese American, grew up being told that his parents' generation had passively submitted to the wholesale denial of their rights during World War II in order to prove their loyalty.

The early question of his generation, "Why didn't you resist?" was usually answered by a pat on the head and an admonition against applying the values of today to events of the past.

Later as a journalist, Abe was astonished to learn that the area where he grew up, the Santa Clara Valley in Northern California, was once the home of many who later resisted the draft at Heart Mountain. Any mention of an organized resistance had been left out of the books he had read by the unofficial keepers of Japanese American history.

Feeling he had been misled, Abe sought out stories of the resisters and felt compelled to share them. He wrote an article for a community paper reclaiming the resistance as part of his heritage. Thus began the ten-year journey to the film "Conscience and the Constitution."

After interviewing as many of the survivors of the resistance at Heart Mountain as he could, and investigating their stories, Abe feels the question for Japanese Americans is not "Why didn't you resist," but "Why did you turn your backs on those who resisted?"

Abe, a former reporter for KIRO News in Seattle, Washington, won numerous awards during his reporting career and served as a National Vice-President of the Asian American Journalists Association. Currently Abe serves as a media producer and spokesman for the King County Transportation Department in Seattle. From 1994 to 1996, Abe was Communications Director and spokesman for former King County Executive Gary Locke, now Governor of Washington.

For the campaign to redress the wrongs of the camps, Abe helped create and produce the first DAYS OF REMEMBRANCE in Seattle and Portland in 1978 and 1979. To continue the campaign he was instrumental in formation of the National Council for Japanese American Redress in Seattle in 1979, which lobbied for a redress bill and later sued the government for reparations.

With the American Friends Service Committee he helped direct a series of symposiums, "Japanese America: Contemporary Perspectives on the Internment." The efforts of Abe and others built the momentum that led ten years later to the passage of the federal Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

With a B.A. in theater directing from the University of California at Santa Cruz and training from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Abe (with Frank Chin) was a founding member of the Asian American Theater Workshop (now Theater Company) in San Francisco. He was featured as an internment camp leader in John Korty's 1976 NBC-TV movie "Farewell to Manzanar."

Abe's own father was incarcerated at Heart Mountain. Only after starting this project did his father reveal that he had donated $2 to the Fair Play Committee and subscribed to the Rocky Shimpo newspaper to read James Omura's editorials.

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Editor LILLIAN BENSON, A.C.E. was nominated for an Emmy for her work on the landmark civil right series EYES ON THE PRIZE II. She now works at Paramount Studios editing the dramatic series SOUL FOOD for Showtime. She has edited numerous documentaries for HBO, CNN, The Learning Channel, The Discovery Channel, and PBS .Her feature film credits include ALMA'S RAINBOW, and TWISTED starring Christian Slater.

Ms. Benson is the first African American female member of American Cinema Editors, the honorary society of film editors. She is a native of Brooklyn and earned her B.F.A. at Pratt Institute.

Director of Photography PHIL STURHOLM is a 35-year veteran of television production, winning 32 regional Emmy Awards, a Peabody, and a duPont Award for his news photography and filmmaking. He graduated from Oregon State University and began a career in television news that took him to KING-TV and KIRO-TV in Seattle, and PM Magazine. He teaches broadcast writing and production at Seattle Community Colleges and Seattle University. He has been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Seattle chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

For ITVS, Sturholm co-produced, shot and edited Kontum Diary (1994), which follows an American Vietnam Vet in his emotional journey back to Vietnam to return a diary to a former North Vietnamese soldier he once fought, and a sequel, Kontum Diary: The Journey Home. Sturholm was director of photography for the national Emmy-nominated Two Decades and a Wakeup (1991). He won a National Press Photographers Award for Reflections of China (1979), as one of the first American TV photographers to enter the People's Republic of China.

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Co-Producer SHANNON GEE wrote and produced FINDING A HOME IN CHINATOWN: THE KONG YICK BUILDINGS for the Wing Luke Asian Museum, which aired on Seattle's KCTS Television in 1998. She was associate producer of the PBS "American Masters" special, VAUDEVILLE, named one of the best television shows of 1997 by People Magazine. Ms. Gee also worked on documentaries for The Discovery Channel and the PBS series The American Experience, as well as independent film projects, web broadcasts, industrials and commercials in Seattle and New York.

Ms. Gee is also a film journalist whose reviews and articles have appeared in The Seattle Weekly, The Rocket, The International Examiner, Stereophile Magazine and on the Internet at A native of Seattle, she received her MA in Cinema Studies from New York University and her BA in English from Boston University.

Music Composer ALAN KOSHIYAMA won the Emerald City Award in Seattle for his original music score for CONSCIENCE AND THE CONSTITUTION. He created the original score for the feature film, "Dead Dogs," which won the "Best American Independent Award" at the 1999 Seattle International Film Festival. Variety Magazine called Koshiyama's work, "...evocative." Millions have heard Koshiyama's music in "Teenage Confidential," an ABC-TV original movie, "Alaska's Bush Pilots" for Turner Original Productions, and numerous commercials, movie trailers, video games, short films, and even a theme park attraction on Catalina.

Alan was classically trained on piano and clarinet at a very early age; it wasn't until he "fell in love and later became obsessed" with the art of jazz when he began to branch out into other forms of commercial music. His talent has taken him to such venues as the Pacific Basin International Music Festival in Hawaii, the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Ireland, to sought after jazz performances at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival. Yet the orchestra, what he calls a "canvas for emotion," remains his prominent choice of colors. Koshiyama studied piano, composition, and orchestration at California State University Sacramento and film scoring at UCLA extension. He is an affiliate of BMI.

We found Alan after a nationwide search. Only then did we discover that he is the nephew of Heart Mountain resister Mits Koshiyama, a key character in our show.

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Narrator LAWSON FUSAO INADA is regarded by many as the poet laureate of Japanese America. His BEFORE THE WAR (1971) was the first volume of poetry by an Asian American to be published by a major firm. In his second collection, LEGENDS FROM CAMP (1992), Inada acts the part of the Poet-Statesman in giving readers access to the Japanese American camp experience. The title work of his most recent volume, DRAWING THE LINE (Coffee House Press, 1997) was inspired while watching the location shooting for this film. Inada is editor of the newly-released ONLY WHAT WE COULD CARRY: THE JAPANESE AMERICAN INTERNMENT EXPERIENCE (Heyday Books and the California Historical Society, 2000).

Inada is co-editor with Frank Chin, Jeffrey Paul Chan and Shawn Wong of the groundbreaking literary anthologies AIIIEEEEE! and THE BIG AIIIEEEEE! Inada has been Professor of English at Southern Oregon State College since 1966. He has read at the White House and speaks on multicultural curriculum for the Modern Language Association. He is the subject of the 1974 documentary film, I TOLD YOU SO.

Sound designer JIM WILSON won a Daytime Emmy Award for Best Sound Editing on the Disney/PBS series "Disney presents: Bill Nye the Science Guy," and the Emerald City Achievement Award for Sound for Dan Monaghan's "The Quest for the Noble Desert Poodle." He has just completed mixing the MP-3 tour-audio for Seattle's latest claim to fame, the Experience Music Project.

Born and raised in Seattle, Jim has worked in audio production and sound-design in as many forms of media as have been developed during his career, currently working out of the studios of Pure Audio. For radio he worked at KIRO Newsradio and on the NPR radio-series, "Sixteen Stories of Anton Chekhov." His work in Interactive Media has included "Material World," the Bill Nye CD-ROM Game, "Stop the Rock!," for Microsoft, "Explorapedia," "3-D Movie Maker," "Creative Writer," and "Close Combat." Jim designed and produced audio for the first streaming media comedy-game-show for the web, "15 Seconds of Fame" for MSN. Recent work has included the PBS pilot "Adventure Divas," the program "Inside the Box: The Human Face of Medicine," and short films for Tim Blake Nelson, Adrienne Shelly, and Wendy Jo Carlton.

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The Voices

GEORGE TAKEI (voice of James Omura and "Fair Play Committee bulletin") is known worldwide as "Mr. Sulu" of the STAR TREK movies and classic TV series. He appeared on PBS' Exxon "Theater in America" series as a bitter Chinatown tour guide in Frank Chin's YEAR OF THE DRAGON. Among Takei's other films are HELL TO ETERNITY, THE GREEN BERETS, and PRISONERS OF THE SUN. Takei currently chairs the Board of Trustees for the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, and is author of the autobiography, TO THE STARS.

MAKO (singer of the Japanese "Song of Cheyenne" in the Wyoming jail) was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in Robert Wise's 1966 film, THE SAND PEBBLES, and played the Narrator in Steven Sondheim's 1974 Broadway musical, PACIFIC OVERTURES. Mako founded East/West Players of Los Angeles, the nation's first professional Asian American theater company.

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JIM FRENCH (voice of government loyalty oath) is a Seattle broadcasting legend, the longtime host of "The Jim French Show" on KIRO Newsradio. Winner of the Silver Mike Award, with his wife Pat he has written and produced nearly 500 radio dramas, including THE ADVENTURES OF HARRY NILE, KINCAID THE STRANGESEEKER, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, and IMAGINATION THEATER.

STEPHEN SUMIDA (voice of "Statement of Japs on Trial") is Professor and Chair of the Department of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington. He is a former president of the Association for Asian American Studies, and was an actor with the Asian Exclusion Act in Seattle and the Performance Network in Ann Arbor.

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