Oct 21 2006

Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima

Published by at 2:45 am under WorldView

There’s an optimism that comes from living in Vancouver on Canada’s west coast. From the beach, the mist that typically shrouds the horizon hints at a limitless sea beyond. The great ocean is at once an inpenetrable barrier and a passageway to unimaginably distant and exotic lands.

A long time ago, being Canada’s gateway to the Pacific might have been considered a liability. During the fight against Imperial Japan in the Second World War, Vancouver was effectively on the front lines. American and Allied ships may have dominated our part of the pond, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Phillipines and Hong Kong, few at that time would have thought a Japanese attack on our city beyond the pale. Wartime hysteria led to the well-documented and tragic internship of Japanese Canadians living on the coast.

Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, the pair of films put out by Clint Eastwood about the battle of Iwo Jima, is surely a first in film history: simultaneous production of two movies depicting a crucial battle – as seen from either side. The films are an interesting look at a time when relations on either side of the ocean were at their worst – produced during possibly the greatest period of cooperation and friendliness that Japan has ever had for our southern neighbor.

In the course of teaching international students over several years, I’ve developed many friendships with Japanese nationals and a a real respect and admiration for Japanese traditional culture. It’s hard to imagine a time when Canada and Japan would have been at war.

I’m looking forward to seeing Eastwood’s films. I’m just glad we can view them in an era where the events they depict are clearly consigned to the record of history.

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