From a WWII internment camp to Oscar nomination
Published 26/02/2010 | 05:00
Jimmy Murakami was eight and living in California when his Japanese-American family was interned.
The Oscar-nominated animator, who lives in Dalkey, Co Dublin, was one of 120,000 people of Japanese descent living in America who were placed in internment camps during World War II.
Their imprisonment came about as a result of wartime legislation in the US following the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour -- and now a new documentary has shed some light on the artist's experience.
"This was something which didn't feature in American history books when I was a kid growing up," said Mr Murakami.
The American government feared Americans of Japanese descent might begin spying for the enemy after the Pearl Harbour attack on December 7, 1941.
However, more than two-thirds of those interned were American citizens and half of them were children.
In the documentary, 'Jimmy Murakami, Non Alien' -- which was screened this week as part of the Dublin Film Festival, and which will be shown throughout the country in the near future -- the artist tells how he and his family were moved to the largest and most notorious internment camp in America -- Tule Lake in California. "At first we ever wondered if we would ever get out of there," he said.
His family later suffered an even worse tragedy when Jimmy's younger sister Sumiko died of leukaemia while in the camp.
"Later in the war the families were asked to undergo a loyalty test to renounce Japan. Because my parents hoped to return to Japan one day, they refused so they remained in the camp for the duration of the war," said Jimmy, who has lived in Ireland for 40 years.
After his release, Jimmy won a scholarship to art college, and later set up his own studio, Murakami Wolf Films, in Los Angeles.
He received an Oscar nomination in 1969 for 'The Magic Pear Tree' and worked with David Bowie in the 1986 animation 'When The Wind Blows'.