Sunday, May 14, 2017

Actress Tamlyn Tomita blasts 'Nihau' script and whitewashing

WWII hero Benehakaka “Ben” Kanahele, left, and actor Zach McGowan.

I DON'T KNOW actress Tamlyn Tomita personally, but my admiration for her has grown a few notches after she delivered her scathing assessment about Hollywood's latest act of whitewashing.

Tomita (The Karate Kid II, Joy Luck Club) responded by email that was originally sent to the producers of a movie project. It was shared by fellow Japanese American actress Keiko Agena (Gilmomre Girls). 

I'm not sure what spurred the producers of Ni'ihau to go ahead with this movie project that is atrocious in so many ways, as Tomita, who is half-Japanese and half-Filipino, so bluntly describes in her own words.
The story centers around a true incident in Hawaii right after the attack on Pearl Harbor -- in which two Japanese Americans did assist a downed Japanese pilot -- that apologists have sometimes used as the rationalization for incarcerating 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent.

In actuality, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover did not write up the report on the Ni'Ihau incident until two months after Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

To add insult to injury, white actor Zach McGowan has been cast as Hawaiian WWII hero Benehakaka “Ben” Kanahele in the upcoming film “Ni’ihau,” in yet another case of white actors playing roles that should go to Asian/Pacific Islanders. For his heroism, Kanahele was awarded a Medal of Merit and a Purple Heart.

The past two years, the issue of "whitewashing" has become a major point of contention between Hollywood studios and the AAPI community. Three high-profile roles that should have been cast with AAPI actors were cast with white actors: Emma Stone as a hapa in Aloha, Tillda Wtinton as "The Ancient One" in Dr. Strange, and Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoku Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell.

Whitewashing is not a new practice in casting. Cinema's history is rife with movies with examples, ie. John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conquerer, Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yonioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Tamlyn Tomita

Tomita's email in response to Agena - as written - follows:

KEIKO: "I grew up in Hawaii and I am Japanese American so the latest whitewashing in the film Ni'ihau hits especially close to home. When I saw Tamlyn Tomita's post today re: this script I had to share it. I adore Tamlyn. She is such an important member of the Asian American community here in Los Angeles. Thank you Tamlyn for your bluntness. 
In regards to the film, "Ni'ihau" - following is an email expressing my thoughts upon reading it in february - I cannot post the script, but the references to the story are important. This continued practice of 'white-washing' characters and fictionalizing history is not only total bullshit, but further perpetuates the idea that only white people can play the heroes. 
Tamlyn Tomita
Feb 7
to Rebecca, Nancy
heyllo rebecca
i appreciate you setting this up, but this script is a piece of shit and i am not mincing words...i appreciate you setting this up, but this script is a piece of shit and i am not mincing words...
my thoughts? 
- the writer/director has absolutely done no research whatsoever in writing about native hawaiians and japanese-americans in hawaii pre-1941 - has he ever been to hawaii? has he heard how hawaiians speak? 
the dialogue is atrocious in tone, setting, and authenticity - hey! 'eastenders' guy - write what you know and stick with it
- he has the gall to name 2 minor characters after 2 of the most cherished entertainers from hawaii - you know the hawaiian rendition of 'somewhere over the rainbow' accompanied by ukulele? that's izzy ka'ano'i, the other is named ke'ali'i reichel, you think no one who appreciates hawaiian music is going to notice that?
- the absolute WTF casting Benehakaka Kanahele with Zach Mcgowan - hey! brit-twit! ever hear of 'white-washing'? 
- a fictionalized account of a true incident and he has the audacity of tagging the film with the statement that it's often cited as the reason for bringing about the japanese-american internment camps - if he had dug a little deeper, the truth is, america's concentration camps came about because of "wartime hysteria, racial prejudice, and a failure of political leadership" - how dare he be a proponent of michelle malkin's sub-par research to lend his film a fart of credibility - what? he read the daily kos article and says, hey! what an idea for a movie!


- as to why yoshio harada and irene harada did what they did - this writer/director has no imagination as to the inner conflicts of dual heritages, identities, and allegiances and what the stakes are in making such a choice - "we're gonna be at war, so let's side with the people whom we look like!"
so, yeah, sorry, there is no way i am going in for this...
my apologies for venting, but it all just came tumbling out....


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