A Canadian Heritage Minute about Vancouver’s Asahi baseball team will be filming in Sunshine Valley and Hope Oct. 10, and the production team is looking for extras of Japanese backgrounds to take part.
The Heritage Minute will be filmed in Sunshine Valley and Hope Oct. 10 and in Vancouver Oct. 13: the production team is looking for 50 Japanese extras for the first day, and 25 extras of all backgrounds for the Vancouver scenes. The sixty second-long film will focus on the Vancouver Asahi baseball team, champions of the west in the 1940s before the start of World War II and the forced relocation of all Japanese residing within 140 kilometres of the B.C. coast to inland camps.
First aired in 1991, Heritage Minutes are sixty-second films released by Historica Canada depicting pivotal events, people and stories in Canadian history. Most recently, a Heritage Minute on one of Canada’s first gay activists Jim Egan’s struggle for LGBTQ rights and protections made headlines across the country.
Producer Madeleine Davis said the story of the Asahi and the racism they faced, despite being well-respected for their baseball prowess, is a good way in to tell the broader story of Japanese internment.
“With the Japanese-Canadians facing daily racism off the field, the Asahi were celebrated on the field, bridging cultural barriers through sport, no matter the ethnicity,” the call out for extras read.
The Asahi were a club, based in Vancouver, in existence from 1914 to 1942 when it was disbanded as Japanese and Japanese-Canadians were rounded up and sent to camps inland as their possessions were expropriated by the Canadian government. The ‘Japanese internment’ as the forced relocation is referred to in Canadian history, was justified by the Canadian government’s War Measures Act. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, all Japanese and Japanese Canadians were labeled ‘enemy aliens’ and removed from coastal areas.
Before 1942 the Asahi were a dominant team in the Vancouver baseball scene, winning the 1919 Vancouver International League, four Terminal League titles and the Pacific Northwest Japanese Baseball Championship five years in a row from 1937 to 1941. The team name means ‘morning sun’ according to the Canadian Encyclopedia, and is similar to the translation of Nihon “origin of the sun” which is the Japanese term for Japan.
Despite their success, Asahi players were frequently exposed to racism both on and off the baseball diamond.
“On the field, the Asahi were not treated with respect by their competitors. Managers from opposing teams would frequently use racial slurs on the diamond and during games in an effort to demean the Asahi,” according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. “Off the field, the two major newspapers, the Vancouver Sun and the Daily Province, frequently published articles with racialized language, such as “Japs,” “Nips” and “Little Brown Men”.”
The team has since been inducted into the Canadian and B.C. baseball halls of fame, in 2003 and 2005 respectively.
The production chose to film in Sunshine Valley as it is the site of the Tashme interment camp, which housed over 2,600 Japanese Canadians forced from their homes along the coast. The plan for Oct. 10 is to re-create some of the feeling of the camp as it existed in the early 1940s, and for the audience to get a sense of what life was like there.
Davis said the team is looking for extras of Japanese background: children, some who have some experience playing baseball, for a scene involving a pick-up game, as well as extras of all ages.
Those interested in taking part can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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