In a new film to be shown at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building over Memorial Day weekend, filmmaker Frank Chi attempts to help us learn from our darker moments in American history by juxtaposing them with the present.
The result is a heartbreaking resonance of past and present.
Chi filmed Muslim kids reading letters to Japanese-American survivors of the World War II internment camps. The letters were written by children in the internment camps, at a time when discrimination against Japanese Americans ran high. Many of the sentiments expressed in the letters sound eerily similar to the xenophobia that Muslim kids in America face today, more than 70 years later.
"We all know that there are people all over the world who hate certain races and they just can't help it," one of the letters in the film states, "but I’m sure when this war is over, there will be no racial discrimination, and we won’t have to doubt for a minute the great principles of democracy.”
Chi, the film's director, told ABC News, "The idea sort of came to me at the end of last year, right after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, and then when we had our very discouraging debate about Syrian refugees."
Rep. Mike Honda, D-California, "said to me many years ago that the Islamophobia he hears today reminds him of what he heard growing up as a Japanese American," Chi said. "This is something that a lot of survivors of these camps say."
"The idea is powerful when you think about putting those two moments in history together," Chi said, "I have been in a million film shoots before, and I've never cried on set before this."
"Hate can be like a fungus, it just spreads. There needs to be moments when you see hate coming back into our politics, when you need to really remind people that we are talking about human beings here," Chi told ABC News. "It's important to respond to hate with love, and that to me is what this film does."