American Pastime (film)
Cover art for DVD release of American Pastime
|Directed by||Desmond Nakano|
|Produced by||Tom Gorai
Kerry Yo Nakagawa
|Written by||Desmond Nakano
|Music by||Joseph Conlan|
|Edited by||Mark Yoshikawa|
While the film is a dramatic narrative, it is based on true events and depicts life inside the internment camps, where baseball was one of the major diversions from the reality of the internees' lives. Location scenes were filmed in bleak, desolate land, not far from the site of the actual internment camp.
The first scene shows the life of the Nomura family, a typical American family of Japanese descent in 1941, composed of Japanese-born parents and American-born children (in this case, two sons, Lane and Lyle).
They are forced to leave their home in Los Angeles following the infamous Executive Order 9066, signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Order 9066 permitted the "exclusion" of Japanese Americans from the West Coast of the United States, and actual historic footage shows the rounding up of these families, most of whom were (like the Nomura sons) born as American citizens.
The Nomuras find themselves in a dusty, windblown desert camp. The viewer sees some actual footage of Topaz War Relocation Center, shot by Dave Tatsuno, using a camera which had been smuggled into the camp.
The elder Nomura had been a professional baseball player, and he rapidly forms an in-camp league. One of the guards, Billy Burrell (Gary Cole) is a minor-league baseball player, bitter about having been passed over by a recruiter from the New York Yankees. Many of the major leagues' top players were off to war, perhaps giving Burrell another opportunity with the Yankees.
Lane Nomura, the oldest son enlists in the Army, as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the famed "Purple Heart Battalion." One guard, originally condemning the very idea of letting Japanese Americans into "our Army," changes his mind as he sees a list of men from Topaz who had been killed while rescuing a Texas battalion.
Lyle, the younger son, originally angry and rebellious over the internment, eventually finds motivation to succeed when the Topaz team challenges Burrell and the local minor league team, several of whose members are openly bigoted and hateful against the internees.