The Manzanar Fishing Club
A charming if tone-deaf pro-am doc edited on someone's Mac, Cory Shiozaki's film slices out yet another unexplored layer of bizarre World War II history: the lives of Japanese Americans imprisoned in the first and largest of West Coast internment camps, a camp blessed by superior trout fishing. The hastily built camp at Manzanar stood at the heart of eastern Sierra fishing country, and so the tales proliferate, via grizzled talking heads, of Japanese men and youths risking a hail of bullets and sneaking beyond the barbed wire to catch rainbows and cutthroats and goldens with improvised hooks and rods. Shiozaki is not immune to the gentle irony at play, given the social contexts, and the movie aggregates into a bemused portrait of a subculture defying wholesale injustice by retaining their essential Japanese-American-ness—fishing as political defiance but also as cultural salvation. Stylistically, the film is not far from Outdoor Channel TV docs, with their deep sporting-guy narration, but the historical road less traveled—shot in re-enactments that are obviously familiar with the terrain—is beguiling enough.
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