the great raid
summary: recounting of what writers say is the most successsful american operation in the history of the u.s. military, the rescue of more than 500 american soldiers, all survivors of the bataan death march, from a cabanatuan prison camp run by the japanese. a little-known event in the second world war.
aesthetically, i liked the muted colors. they filmed in australia, and i liked the near-authentic white sands along the coasts and the gray sands inland. i liked their stage of what looked like intramuros, chinatown, the streets of manila. i especially liked one shot of mina, blocked from crossing the street by marching japanese soldiers just as she got off the cable car in the middle of the street - she could be filipinas, prevented from moving forward because of war. loved how they tried to be as authentic as world war 2 manila as possible with the cable cars, spanish-tinged houses, cathedrals and dress. the accents were nicely done.
and yes, it was told from the point of view of an american, stanford graduate captain prince, married and who says he just wants to do his duty and go home. he can be echoing any young person set on serving his or her country after seeing sept. 11 unfold on CNN.
completed in 2002, i can only guess that "the great raid" was written in the first place to remind people of the u.s.' impact on using a country to forward their own goals. what's the difference between an iraq of the 1990s under the arm of strongman saddam hussein, with the philippines of the 1940s, under the boot of japan?
nevermind screening schedule - the war in iraq had already been started by the time the screenwriters started molding a story. for whatever purpose the film served it - to encourage mothers who've already lost the first sons to afghanistan, to recruits with second thoughts, to troops holding posts in a foreign, arid land, to honor world war 2 veterans still alive.
there is one scene where captain juan pajota (cesar montano) asserts to lt. colonel mucci that "this is our war also," but i'm not sure what he's actually asking for. he might be asking for more play in the rescue, instead of the ancillary role of making sure that japanese reinforcements don't make it to the camp. i found it disturbing that mucci didn't indulge pajota any more than saying that their positions on the sidelines will be more than enough help to the mission already, but then again, what else can mucci say?
to the americans, this is a mere rescue, not that much of a contribution to the war effort. to the filipinos, it's a crucial arm in their war against the japanese. in that case, with their positions battling the japanese directly, they were best put in their current roles.
i have to check out the book "ghost stories" first, but according the to the san francisco chronicle, in "ghost stories," one of two books which "the great raid" is based, pajota actually planned the rescue, not captain prince. in the movie, the impressive maneuver to bring in a bomber to distract japanese officials from the ground while american troops advanced on their bellies and to remind prisoners they aren't forgotten is shown to be suggested by pajota. it's still a shabby trade compared to pajota actually planning the raid, still a reinforcement to the suggestion that filipino troops played a secondary role, despite pajota's insistence their soldiers are seasoned. is pajota is still alive? i wonder what he would say.
many u.s. politicians and writers hope that this film will shed light on how filipinos and americans worked side by side during world war 2. i think the movie suggested that pajota's contingent was part of the philippine insurrection army, and not at all part of any american unit. i hope it will remind politicians handling the filipino veterans equity act that there were filipino-american military contributions to the second world war, some not even participating in the pacific theater. i hope it will also remind politicians the effect of current wars on the countries they're staged.
the other interesting bit that the film concerns an obscure concern of mine, but from past conversations with friends, i know i'm not the only one mulling this issue over.
the film seemed to gloss over the relationship between the philippines and the japanese. it looks like no one ever talks about this here in the u.s., or at least, when conversations like this happen, i'm never around, ahaha.
the mother of a friend of mine recently visited the philippines for a tourist tour she was never able to take while still living there. among the stops was a site in memory of the japanese invasion of the philippines. my friend didn't specify where, because i don't think her mother knew where as well. but he said she returned with much avarice against the japanese for 1) invading the philippines and, in exaggeration, 2) for brutally ransaking everything in sight. my friend said his mother's behavior surprised him so, but what topped it was that she went as far as calling the japanese the three- and four-letter J word - a label considered on a par with the N word here for blacks.
i was shocked, but i wasn't sure if the J word was derogatory, and my friend, born and raised here, making him a full-fledged jerzee boy migrant to chicago, confirmed that the J word is highly derogatory. "here," he emphasized, meaning the u.s. it's the same as "asiatic" and "oriental" when you use those words to describe a person.
asians here in the u.s. realize they're all lumped in the same boat, and there's already enough racial baggage around here as it is. groups have to choose which issue to tackle first. and within the groups, baggage brought in from the homeland by the newly-arrived is considered laughable if you fail to see how it relates to your current life.
and, it matters to me, because i have to write an article about another WW2 movie, dammit, and soon
already. and i think i have my solution now. but before i can tackle my article, have to exorcise demons from my childhood.
all i know about the japanese agenda during world war 2 is that they raided asia because they wanted an "asia for asians," but they neglected to remember that to the nations they invaded, it would be an asia for the japanese. also i know that because of the two atomic bombs dropped on them, they no longer engage in military tactics with any country, even as they maintain weapons and an army.
almost every person my age has heard a version of the story of japanese soldiers descending on a woman with her baby while they shopped quietly, washed clothes on a riverbank, or stayed quietly in their house. the soldiers took the baby, tossed it around like a ball, and then bayonetted it to shut up the woman. or, in some cases, it was a pregnant woman, her baby taken from her, the baby bayonetted, and her stomach bayonetted to make her silent. it makes me wonder whether that story with many versions is made up and passed along as propaganda against the japanese.
i read another story when i was in grade school about a girl, trying to be enterprising during the war, hiding her family's stash of cash in their new beds - hospital beds with metal springs and hollow posts, acquired by her father. she heard the japanese raiding her village again, and she tried to think of a safe place to put her family's cash. she thought of the bed posts and acted quickly. the japanese came and took her house's best pieces: their new hospital beds. the leader gave her a note, saying, "the empire of japan thanks your family for your generous donation." for weeks after i read that story, i cooked up plans in my head so i can tell the girl how to heroically rescue her family's money from the japanese. she has to bring back the money because they have to eat. in the meantime, they would sleep on mats and blankets on the cold floor.
later, while a sophomore in college, my history prof would lecture to a bored, stupor-laden class that had the incumbent american president not dropped the two atomic bombs on japan, the pacific war would have continued indefinitely, killing more american soldiers who were trying to island-hop to japan. australia and the philippines were stepping isles. right now i can't remember which president that was, and yes, shame on me. i learned then that the war in the pacific mattered little to them because the culture is vastly removed. it looks the same with the recent bombings in london and a resort in egypt - 200 killed in egypt, 52 in london. london was reported more because perception and culture are more similar between the u.k. than egypt with the u.s. it seems the same as well, when the indian ocean tsunamis happened - many u.s. papers criticized puny western aid, ahaha. maybe because the west didn't really understand extent of damage.
although, as a member of the media, i know people around here tried.
and that is the best that anyone can do.
"the great raid" and "ghost stories" are written by american writers, for american readers. they portrayed the japanese in the stereotypical heartless way, in that when you make a mistake, you and ten others will pay for it. it might remind audiences of why japanese-americans, along with americans of german, italian and others of european descent, were rounded up in concentration camps while the japanese in asia attacked nations there. many of them protested and cried injustice - just because people are of the same lineage doesn't mean they are of the same ideology.
as for me, i'm assigned to write about a japanese-american's tribute to the japanese-americans who served in world war 2. it is a film recognizing their efforts, a retake of an old film. there is the black unit who served in the civil war immortalized in the film "glory." there is "we were soldiers" for mel gibson's vietnam; he told of a fictional vietnamese-speaking american soldier querying a downed vietnamese soldier. there is "the great raid" for filipinos. there is also a movie for the japanese in the u.s. now, i'm concerned because i'm going to have to write the story without seeing the film. ...