Political Film Review #659

PURSUIT OF FREEDOM DEMONSTRATES REFUGEE ANGST

Based on a true story, Pursuit of Freedom begins in 2007, when life of a Ukrainian family near the Russian border is depicted as precarious (though most filming is in a town in Texas). Razmig (Mike Markoff), the father, is trying to support his wife, three children, and a grandmother. He is unsuccessful, unlucky at gambling, and he endures brutal mistreatment. His gambling debt results in members of a Russian mafia trafficking the mother Anna (Jessica Koloian), who is shipped to Amsterdam and held as a prostitute until she is so ill that her captors dump her on the street, whereupon she is taken to a hospital and encouraged to get will by her nurse, Naomi (Sharonne Lanier). Meanwhile, grandma Anastasiya (Mimi Sagadin) drives their three children to Armenia where they can hide out with their aunt, Ovsanna (Anna Terry), who lives in poverty in a dilapidated housing unit of Spitak, which was almost destroyed by an earthquake in 1988. The children have no papers, and therefore are stateless. Three years pass. Anna, initially haunted by nightmares, recovers and wants to see her children. Meanwhile, a compassionate American Christian pastor, Bill (Robert Amaya), comes to the rescue when he hears about the separation of the mother from her children. The family is reconnected by cellphone, so the question becomes who will go where to achieve family reunification. Naomi presents her to Dutch authorities, who will not allow her to make a flight due to her poor health. Thanks to Bill’s friend, Bedros (Stelio Savante), the three children fly to Amsterdam, thanks to arrangements by a considerate member of the Armenian government. The film ends when the three greet their mother in the airport. Credits at the end indicate what happened to mother and children by 2020.

Directed and written by George Johnson, the film tells a story of extraordinary compassion. The angst suffered by almost everyone and the obstacles to freedom are many, not just bureaucratic. That Christians can practice their faith is perhaps the point of the film, which is far more gruesome than Flee, which dealt with how Afghan refugees pursued their freedom. The Political Film Society has nominated Pursuit of Freedom for an award as best film of 2022 on human rights. MH

NO NO GIRL DEALS WITH THE AFTERMATH OF JAPANESE INTERNMENT

In 1942, some 120,000 million Japanese, whether born in Japan or the United States, were told to leave their homes for internment camps until the war with Japan ended. They abandoned jobs, homes, and the property inside homes. One such family lived in Tustin, Orange County, California. The father of the family decided to dig a hole in the back yard to bury a chest filled with mementos on the eve of relocation.

Soon after No No Girl begins, the youngest member of the family, Mika Dyo (played by Sue Hasegawa), opens a box in a closet, consisting of love letters of mementos, and thereby learns about the buried treasure. The desire to obtain the buried chest then comes before the extended family, and the eldest member, Uncle Bob (Chris Tashima) says “No.” The house is now owned by someone else, and the daughter of the new owner wants to sell the house, so there is an opportunity to see where older members of the family once lived. When the White owner finds out about the buried treasure, the price goes up, but the owner will not allow the Japanese sons in the family to dig up the treasure. Several scenes then proceed without suspense as if making up film footage to become a full-length film rather than a short film. Nevertheless, the result is to demonstrate White disregard for Japanese culture until one day the treasure is brought home without no explanation how. The film also demonstrates the Japanese decision-making process, with everyone permitted to state their own views, with deference to the older ones, and consensus as a goal. Consensus appeared to be reached when younger persons did not contradict Uncle Bob, but then he had to deal with the fact that the issue remained open for discussion, indicating that no consensus existed after all.

During the film, directed and written by Paul Daisuke Goodman, a legal angle is presented but not given enough attention. For example, the house formerly occupied by the Japanese family presumably could have been reclaimed in 1945 and the chest might legally have been their property. Congress did grant reparations to the Japanese, but that issue was not raised either.  MH

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