History and Memory: For Akiko and Takashige

A film by Rea Tajiri

1991 | 32 minutes | Color/BW | DVD | Order No. 99286


Groundbreaking and haunting, this film is a poetic composition of recorded history and non-recorded memory. Filmmaker Rea Tajiri’s family was among the 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans who were imprisoned in internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor. And like so many who were in the camps, Tajiri’s family wrapped their memories of that experience in a shroud of silence and forgetting.

Ruminating on the difficult nature of representing the past – especially a past that exists outside traditional historic accounts – Tajiri blends interviews, memorabilia, a pilgrimage to the camp where her mother was interned, and the story of her father, who had been drafted pre-Pearl Harbor and returned to find his family’s house removed from its site.
Throughout, she surveys the impact of images (real images, desired images made real, and unrealized dream images). The film draws from a variety of sources: Hollywood spectacle, government propaganda, newsreels, memories of the living, and sprits of the dead, as well as Tajiri’s own intuitions of a place she has never visited, but of which she has a memory. More than simply calling attention to the gaps in the story of the Japanese American internment, this important film raises questions about collective history – questions that prompt Tajiri to daringly re-imagine and re-create what has been stolen and what has been lost.


“Tajiri approaches her subject like a poet. She weaves together images and allows them to enrich one another in skewed and subtle ways as their resonances slowly emerge.”

Caryn James New York Times

“A dense work of found and reconstructed images, a cathartic reworking again and again of history.”

Marita Sturken Video History Project

“Tajiri's film ultimately becomes a visual memorial of internment that refuses to consolidate cultural trauma into a coherent historical narrative but that instead bears witness to the trauma of exclusive citizenship and national identity.”

Theresa A. Kulbaga The Ohio State University

“Argues powerfully for no less than new ways of knowing and remembering.”

Marina Heung New Directions for Women

“Much documentary work has concentrated on getting the story straight…HISTORY AND MEMORY attempts to see how distortion and story combine to share our recollections.”

Kathleen Hulser American Historical Review

“A beautiful and moving autobiographical film…HISTORY AND MEMORY leads to rich discussions about just that, history and memory.”

Asian Educational Media Service

“One of the highest artistic achievements in any medium ever made by an Asian American.”

Brian Hu AsiaPacific Arts


  • Flaherty Film Seminar
  • New York Asian American Int'l FF
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, Biennial
  • Yamagata Festival, Japan


Rea Tajiri

Rea Tajiri is a New York based filmmaker and educator who has written and directed an eclectic body of dramatic, experimental and documentary films currently in commercial and educational distribution. As of Fall 2008, Tajiri will be teaching as an Associate Professor at Temple University in the Film Media Arts Department.

Tajiri was born in Chicago, Illinois where her parents resettled after her father served in the 442nd regiment during WWII. She earned her BFA and MFA degree from the California Institute of the Arts where she studied studio art. Upon graduation, Tajiri began working in video art, having two early works included in the Whitney Biennials of 1989 and 1991. One of these early works, History and Memory went on to receive the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Documentary Association and a Special Jury Award from the San Francisco International Film Festival. This documentary short has screened in over 250 venues around the world. After completing this film, Tajiri, developed an interest in the history of social movements and was approached by civil rights organizer Pat Saunders to co-produce a film on the life of Harlem human rights activist Yuri Kochiyama. They received a production grant from the PBS series “P.O.V.” to complete the film entitled: Passion for Justice. After completion of this documentary, Tajiri directed her debut dramatic feature film Strawberry Fields, produced by Open City Films and ITVS. Strawberry Fields received its European premiere at the Venice International Film Festival and won the Grand Prix at the Fukuoka Asian Film Festival. The film received theatrical release through Phaedra Cinema and is currently available on DVD on Netflix through Vanguard Cinema. Tajiri has received fellowships for her work from the Rockefeller Foundation, NEA Visual Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2004, she received a two-month residency at the MacDowell Colony. Since 1989, Tajiri has had an ongoing collaboration with choreographer Kate Foley designing video set projections for her dance concerts. Foley choreographed dance set pieces for Tajiri’s short films Aloha and Little Murders and appears in Tajiri’s video Hitchcock Trilogy.

Tajiri has been a visiting filmmaker at numerous universities and colleges across the country including Hampshire College, University of Colorado Boulder, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of California Santa Barbara, Georgetown University, Smith College, Brown University and was a Visiting Professor at Temple University and School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Currently, she is in development on a new dramatic fiction project entitled Venus’ Celestial Beauty and completing post-production on an experimental short entitled; Bridge. (8/14)

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