Mitch Miyagawa film explores government apologies in ‘A Sorry Sate’


Mitch Miyagawa’s family has probably been on the receiving end of the most government apologies on record.
So he decided to explore the issues ralating to  the apologies by making a documentary, “A Sorry State,” which will be screened at the Galt Museum, at 7 p.m., Nov. 14. He will also be speaking at the University of Lethbridge  on Friday at noon for their Art Now program.

2013 marks the 25th Anniversary of Japanese-Canadian Redress: in 1988, Mitch Miyagawa’s Japanese-Canadian family received an apology from Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for the internment of Japanese CanadiaMitch Miyagawa screens his film “A Sorry State”  at the Galt Museum tonight. Photo by Cathie Archbouldns during the Second World War. Miyagawa’s stepmother Etheline was a young victim of residential schools for Aboriginal children. His stepfather, Harvey, is the son of Chinese immigrants who were burdened with a racist head tax. Both also received official apologies from the Canadian government.

“It’s about my family’s experience with government apologies,” he summarized from Vancouver on his way out east. The film has screened on CTV 2 as well as TVO.

“It hasn’t done very well at festivals, probably because it has been on TV. But I’m doing a lot of community screenings like this one,” he said.

 It took about four years to complete the film from the original idea to it’s completion. A lot of that time was spent getting funding for it.
“It took about a year to edit and my dad died during the completion of the film,” he said adding  the story of his dad being detained in an Japanese internment camp during the Second World War,”  and receiving an official apology from Brian Mulroney in 1988 sparked his interest in the issues.

“He remarried an aboriginal woman who raised in a residential school and she got an apology from Stephen Harper. And she remarried a Chinese man, who was subjected to the Chinese Head tax. So there are a lot of apologies,” he said.
 So he decided to explore some of these sites and research the history of these events.
“I wanted to find out what does it all mean,” he said.

 He noted some apologies are merely lip service. Others have a more symbolic value
“I think it really does depend on the apology.  There are bad and good apologies,” he said.
The best ones are a really unique way to tell the story of these events,” he continued.
Then there are the others.

“A memo was just released  that the B.C. government blatantly said  their apology was just politicking,” he continued.
While a lot of the apologies come with  cash, he said that isn’t the most important part of them.
“Apologies with monetary settlements  can be very symbolic,” he said.

“ But there has to be action,” he emphasized adding the government’s measures only go so far.  A lot of the value comes from within as people make changes in their own lives and attitudes.

“ That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? What kind of action. Maybe it’s just about education. Making sure what happened in the past is taught in schools to children. And not just to children,”  he continued.

 The film is part travelogue as he visited some of these historical site with his mom.
“I did travel a lot for this film and a traveled a lot before it. But what’s nice about this film is visiting a lot of these places,” he said.
 He is excited about  bringing it to Lethbridge.

“My father settled here and a lot of his family is still here. So it is a bit of a homecoming for me too,” he said.
He is pleased with the film.

“ It has become really meaningful for me. It’s been a very long process. But I feel like it is going to move people,” he said.
“I hope this film has a note of hope,” he said.
 The screening begin at 7 p.m. tonight at the Galt Museum viewing gallery with a question and answer period to follow.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor