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By Phil Hall | July 15, 2004

“With Honors Denied” is a bittersweet documentary short about the belated correction of a grievous wrong. In 1942, Yukiko Kubo Shiogi was an 18-year-old high school senior in Washington State who was her class vice-president and was set to delivery a speech at the school’s graduation ceremony. However, President Roosevelt’s racist Executive Order #9066 forced the evacuation of all Japanese-Americans from the West Coast to internment camps. Although the young girl eventually received her diploma at the camp where she was imprisoned, she was denied the right to attend her own graduation. In 2002, her old high school recognized her and five other Japanese-American students of the Class of 1942 by offering them the graduation ceremony they were denied due to wartime hysteria.

At 15 minutes, “With Honors Denied” feels much too short. Yukiko’s wartime story is barely hinted at, which is surprising given that four years of her life were robbed from her with the atrocious imprisonment of Japanese-Americans. The film is also a bit casual in showing how the terrible events of that era are barely acknowledged today (one of the internment centers where Yukiko was held is now a shopping mall with no plaque or marker for its previous incarnation). It also doesn’t help that George Takei narrates the film with a grandiose pomposity which seems at odds with the touching story being told.

Yet this story is told, with sincerity and a remarkable absence of malice. The small victory of gaining what was stolen six decades earlier is truly moving and it is easy to shed a tear at the belated victory which is presented here.

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