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Laramie Movie Scope:
To be Takei

Lots of stuff you probably didn't know about George Takei

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 2, 2015 -- I finally got around to seeing this 2014 documentary about Star Trek actor George Takei last night, and he turns out to be a more multifaceted and interesting character than I knew. I've been a Star Trek fan since watching the original series when it first aired 50 years ago, so I've seen a number of documentaries about the actors in that series, and of course watched all the movies and TV spinoffs, but Takei stands alone, unique in the Star Trek universe.

In turns out that George was held prisoner in one of the internment camps along with some 110,000 other Japanese Americans and Japanese-born residents living in this country during World War II. In the camp, “I went to school and began every school-day morning with the pledge of allegiance of the flag,” Takei said. “I could see the barbed wire fence and the sentry tower right outside my schoolhouse window as I recited the words ‘With liberty and justice for all.’ The stinging irony meant nothing to me -- I was a child.”

Takei is well-known as a gay rights activist, perhaps not so well known as an advocate for the rights of Japanese Americans who were denied their basic rights during World War II. Not only were they held prisoner under armed guard, but their bank accounts were frozen and their property was often stolen from them as well. They also encountered outright hostility and hatred from ordinary Americans.

This documentary has quite a bit about Takei's experience during World War II. He and his family were held in the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas, as well as the Tule Lake War Relocation Center, California. He wasn't the only famous actor there, either. Pat Morita, best known for his role in the “Karate Kid” films was also held at Tule Lake. A number of the photos and videos about the camps shown in this film, however, depict neither the Rohwer camp nor the Tule Lake camp. Instead, they show the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming, which I easily recognized because I've been there.

George and his husband, Brad Takei (formerly Brad Altman) talk openly about their 25-year relationship in the film. They are an interesting pair. George is very gregarious and jocular, while Brad is insular, nervous and neurotic. Brad acts as George's manager, handling the details of his speaking engagements, public appearances, acting jobs and other appointments. He describes himself as “detail oriented.”

One of the things that George takes great pride in is the musical stage production of “Allegiance” which he stars in. Scenes from the play, which deals with Japanese Americans in World War II relocation camps, are shown in the film. It is obvious that Takei identifies on a deep emotional level to this production. He recounts a remorseful conversation he had with his father about their experiences in the camps that seems to be reflected in the play.

The 2012 premiere of the play at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego is shown in the film, and in the DVD extras as well. The crowd-funded play was very successful in California and is scheduled to open on Broadway in New York City on November 8, 2015. The film recounts a number of Takei's accomplishments and honors, including the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, from Japan in recognition of his contributions to U.S.-Japanese relations.

Before watching this film I thought of Takei as being just another celebrity, but this film makes it clear that Takei is a guy who has done something with his life. He has made his life count for something. He has stood up for what he believes and has made real contributions to society. He's a fascinating character. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)