Feeling freedom: Japanese and American wartime films on the liberation of the Philippines, 1943-1945
ABSTRACT This article juxtaposes the Japanese wartime film Dawn of Freedom and Hollywood films on the Philippines during WWII as a method to analyze the representational strategies by which the U.S. and Japanese empires tried, respectively and in opposition to the other, to nurture the feeling that the peoples of the Philippines and beyond would enjoy freedom under their stewardships. Under pressure from the twin crises of colonialism and capitalism, the two empires sought to establish hegemony in the Asia-Pacific by fashioning a new model of empire that disavowed imperialist intentions and territorial aggrandizement while promising freedoms that included but went beyond national self-determination. The article focuses on four overlapping freedoms that run through the Japanese and Hollywood films: namely, political self-determination/consumerist freedom, freedom of self-sacrifice or the freedom to die, freedom in romance, and freedom from racism. Despite their differences, the author argues that the two sides in the imperial film wars shared much more than what is commonly realized and that the new strategy that advanced and yet disavowed imperialist ambitions while promoting the feeling of freedom, has great relevance for understanding the militarized world today.
KEYWORDS: Philippines; cinema; film; colonialism; imperialism; Japan; United States; WWII; Bataan; militarism
Notes on contributor
Takashi Fujitani holds the Dr. David Chu Chair in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Toronto, where he is also Professor of History and Director of the Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies. His major works include: Splendid Monarchy (UC Press, 1996; Japanese version, NHK Books, 1994; Korean translation, Yeesan Press, 2003); Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans During WWII (UC Press, 2011; Japanese and Korean versions forthcoming from Iwanami Shoten and Purun Yoksa); and Perilous Memories: The Asia Pacific War(s) (co-edited, Duke University Press, 2001). He is also editor of the book series Asia Pacific Modern (UC Press). He has a long term and growing interest in film and has co-edited a special issue of Cross-Currents on “Transcolonial Film Co-productions in the Japanese Empire: Antinomies in the Colonial Archive” (December 2012). He is currently working on several books: Whose “Good War”?: a Postnationalist History of WWII in the Asia-Pacific; Sovereign Remains: the Emperor and Questions of Sovereignty in Twentieth Century Japan; and Cold War Clint: Asians, “Indians” and Others in the Imaginary World of an American Icon.