Many have heard of Manzanar, California as a space where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. As we visit the town today, Manzanar continues to be home to indigenous communities who have serious concerns about the water on their land. Ann Kaneko’s poetic documentary explores the erased history of Manzanar, before the U.S. government claimed it for incarceration camps, and depleted its natural resources to feed the growing megalopolis of Los Angeles hundreds of miles north.
Beginning in Payahuunadü (“the land of flowing water”), also known as Owens Valley, Kaneko lights the colonial legacy of injustice shared at the site of Manzanar. This documentary is a contentious memorial to the internment of Japanese Americans and the little known grounds where indigenous communities have fought for their rights to the lands and water that sustain them. Poetically weaving memories of Native Americans, Japanese American WWII incarcerees, and environmentalists, the film unites an intergenerational community of women, fighting for their land and their rights.