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"From Barbed Wire to Barbed Hooks"...fishing stories from Manzanar

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Published on Feb 17, 2009

This video is a documentary film trailer that is a work in progress.

Fishing is one of the oldest pursuits of Mankind. It started for survival, but it couldnt have been too long before that first someone discovered what still attracts us today--that there is so much more to fishing than catching a fish.

From Barbed Wire to Barbed Hooks is an historical examination of this very same quality of fishing in a dark time. It was 1942, just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, and 10,000 Japanese and their American children were packed into the Manzanar Relocation Center--what historians have on occasion called a concentration camp. For some of the internees, it was a spirit-killing experience, locked away for merely looking like the enemy. For a handful, there was fishing.

This is a story that must be preserved. It is a unique perspective on freedom, where internees found relief from the daily grind of incarceration by matching wits with the trout in the surrounding waters of the famed Eastern Sierra fishing grounds. In the early days, some of the hardiest even braved the searchlights and machine guns of the guard towers to sneak out under the barbed wire.

From Barbed Wire to Barbed Hooks is projected to be an hour-long documentary telling the stories of Manzanar internees who found everything from recreation and distraction to dignity, spiritual insight and freedom while fishing during their incarceration. An abbreviated 10-minute version of the documentary will be presented to the Manzanar Historic Site Interpretive Center to accompany the permanent exhibit that Barbed Wire producer and Interpretive Center docent Cory Shiozaki is establishing there.

This is about maintaining spirit and freedom under adverse circumstances. Mr. Shiozaki explains. The internees understood that Manzanar was unjust, if not illegal, but they also knew that escaping from the camp would only hurt their cause in the long run. There were larger issues at stake on the nature of Americanism that would have to be trusted to the legal system. The internees would serve their cause best by enduring the detention with dignity. Shigata ga nai.

But that was small consolation when looking out from the barbed wire every day, Mr. Shiozaki adds. Fishing provided a way to do something normal while breathing the free air outside of the fences and towers. Fishing helped them make it through the detention.

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