Chronicle the previously untold stories of Japanese Americans who self-evacuated from the West Coast in the wake of forced incarceration and internment during World War II.
About the Film from the Film’s website
Before They Take Us Away is an award-winning feature documentary that captures the previously untold stories of Japanese Americans whose families self-evacuated from California upon the issuance of Executive Order 9066 during World War II. The option of “voluntary” relocation was available for only a very brief period from early February to late March, 1942. In early February, the US Western Defense Command (WDC) indicated that it intended to remove all men, women and children of Japanese descent from a restricted zone consisting of all of California, Western Oregon, Western Washington and Southern Arizona. In March, the newly established War Relocation Authority (WRA) urged those affected to move voluntarily rather than being subject to forced removal and incarceration in concentration camps. However, the overwhelming majority of Japanese Americans lacked the resources or connections necessary to move anywhere outside the restricted zone. Compounding the situation, officials in many states outside the restricted zone quickly declared that Japanese Americans were not welcome.
Despite the daunting circumstances and the short window of time available, approximately 5,000 Japanese American men, women and children managed to leave the restricted zone on their own before voluntary relocation was halted by the WDC in late March 1942. As this film will show, the experiences of self-evacuees varied greatly. Some fared well, while others encountered serious hardships including hunger, hostility, violence and forced religious conversion. All endured a hurried and difficult uprooting from their homes and communities, and were forced to fend for themselves without even the most rudimentary support from the US government. The self-evacuees experienced a unique kind of double-displacement, both from their homes and from the shared experience of the larger Japanese American community. Woven together, these personal stories powerfully capture a community in the midst of a forced migration, and the courage and tremendous hard labor it took to regain their footing.
Learn More: Film Website