Geoffrey M. White is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i. He is the coeditor of
Memorial Film: Envisioning Race and Nation
The chapter, focusing on the visitor center’s use of documentary film as its primary mode of narrating the bombing attack, opens with a controversy in which the film was challenged by members of Honolulu’s Japanese American community for perpetuating inaccurate views of Japanese American loyalty during the war. The criticism focused on one particular image, of a local Japanese cane cutter looking up at a passing navy ship. The story of that image, dating back to a first documentary film made by a team supervised by John Ford during the war, serves as a reminder that history, especially memorial history, is never fixed in words or images. Listening to discussions of the film and arguments about reasons to change or retain the original footage exposes not only warring narratives, but warring historiographies and underlying assumptions about the moral work of film in the memorial context.