Day of Independence

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Day of Independence
poster design: Dennis Mukai
Directed byChris Tashima
Produced byLisa Onodera
Written byChris Tashima
Tim Toyama
Based onIndependence Day
by Tim Toyama
StarringDerek Mio
Marcus Toji
Alan Muraoka
Keiko Kawashima
Gina Hiraizumi
Chris Tashima
Music byScott Nagatani
Release date
  • September 26, 2003 (2003-09-26)
Running time
27 minutes
CountryUnited States

Day of Independence is a 2003 short film, broadcast in 2005 as a half-hour PBS television special. It is a drama, set during the Japanese American internment of World War II, produced by Cedar Grove Productions with Visual Communications as fiscal sponsor.


The story of the film is based on playwright and executive producer Tim Toyama's own father's World War II experience. During the war, Toyama's father, whose nickname was Zip, was sent along with his entire family to a U.S. internment camp for Japanese Americans. Zip's Issei (Japanese immigrant) father fell ill and elected to return to Japan, along with Zip's mother, on a prisoner exchange ship, called the Gripsholm.[1] However, the parents told Zip that as an American, he should remain in the U.S.


Toyama wrote a play based on his family history, entitled "Independence Day." He and director Chris Tashima then adapted the play into a short film, which was produced by Lisa Onodera. The film was shot in 6 days, in Stockton, California and in Los Angeles.[2] It was completed in 2003 and played in over 70 film and video festivals and competitions, winning 25 awards. Following its broadcast premiere on KHET/PBS Hawai'i on May 12, 2005,[3] the film received a Regional Emmy nomination, from the NATAS San Francisco/Northern California Chapter (which includes Hawaii), in the category of Historical/Cultural – Program/Special.[4]


A young baseball player faces the tragic circumstances of the internment of 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Set in a relocation camp in 1943, Day of Independence chronicles a family torn apart by a forced, unjust incarceration, a father's decision that challenges his son, and ultimately his son's triumph through courage, sacrifice and the All-American game of baseball.


(In order of appearance)

  • Dean Komure as Spectator
  • Lisa Joe as Frances ("National Anthem" singer)
  • Diana Toshiko as Betty
  • Sarah Chang as Sadie
  • Julie Tofukuji as Mimi
  • Ulysses Lee as Tad
  • Jonathan Okui as Satch
  • Gina Hiraizumi as Rose


(partial list)

  • Emmy Nomination - 35th Northern California Emmy Awards
  • CINE Golden Eagle[5]
  • Platinum Best of Show - Aurora Awards
  • Accolade Award of Excellence, Short Film[6]
  • Best Short - Stony Brook Film Festival[7]
  • Best Narrative Short - Tambay Film & Video Festival[8]
  • "Slate" Award, Best Short - California Independent Film Festival[9]
  • Best Short Film - Houston Multicultural Independent Film Festival
  • Gold / 1st Prize - Crested Butte Reel Fest[10]
  • Audience Award, Best Drama - Marco Island Film Festival


  • Performance artist Dan Kwong, who is also a baseball player, coached lead actor Derek Mio in old-style pitching form.
  • Lisa Joe's character, "Frances" (who sings the National Anthem at the ballgame and later conducts a choir rehearsal), was named in honor of Joe's mother, Frances Sue Okabe, a well known Nisei singer and music teacher. Okabe was interned at the Minidoka internment camp as a teenager, where she was known for her singing. Joe provided the singing voice on the soundtrack as well, which was recorded on Mother's Day just after her mother died from cancer.
  • During one of the montage sequences of "camp life," there is a painter standing by an easel, who is portrayed by playwright Tim Toyama, who stepped in at the last moment when the person cast to play the part didn't show up for filming.
  • The scene depicting the choir rehearsal has un-credited cameo appearances by noted actors Tamlyn Tomita, Emily Kuroda, Sab Shimono and Greg Watanabe who are friends of the director.[11]


  1. ^ [ Archived 2008-06-10 at the Wayback Machine [AMA-e-News] Asian Media Access, E-Newsletter, 4/19]
  2. ^ ""A Day of Independence" - World War II Forums". Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
  3. ^ enews Archived 2008-08-28 at the Wayback Machine for Hawaii International Film Festival
  4. ^ list of 35th NorCal Emmy noms; p. 9 Archived April 22, 2007, at the Wayback Machine (pdf)
  5. ^ "2004 CINE winner list" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-04-23. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
  6. ^ 2003 Awards of Excellence / Film Archived 2008-03-28 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Stony Brook Film Festival 2004 winners Archived October 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine on IndieWire
  8. ^ 4th Tambay Film Fest Winners on Nolan's Pop Culture Review online
  9. ^ California Independent Film Festival winner history
  10. ^ 2004 Winners on Crested Butte Reel Fest online[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ San Diego Asian Film Festival asks Tashima, "... quite an impressive crew & cast (Greg Watanabe, Tamlyn Tomita, Sab Shimono ). How did you get everyone ...? Archived 2007-12-27 at the Wayback Machine on SDAFF website

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