Storyboard / Twin Cities PBS’ Minnesota Experience series premieres 'Armed with Language' and 'Return to Skid Row' in May

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Twin Cities PBS’ Minnesota Experience series premieres 'Armed with Language' and 'Return to Skid Row' in May

TPT Announces Two Documentaries for 'Minnesota Experience' Series

April 13, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn. (April 13, 2021) – Twin Cities PBS (TPT) announces the release of two documentaries as a part of the Minnesota Experience series. A new documentary, Armed with Language, premieres May 17, 2021, and Return to Skid Row, an update to the original film, premieres May 10, 2021. Armed with Language will shed light on and honor the contributions of Japanese Americans and their significant role during World War II and its connection to Minnesota. Return to Skid Row reveals Minnesota’s history of housing insecurity, Native peoples and the loss of community and historic spaces.

Armed with Language shares the story of a little-known military intelligence school in Minnesota during World War II that trained over 6,000 Japanese Americans to be translators, interrogators and Japanese military specialists. Shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States Military saw the need to recruit and train servicemen and women in Japanese language and culture. The military reached out to Nisei, the children of Japanese immigrants in America, for this crucial task. After Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s executive order to remove all people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, the Nisei language school was forced to relocate, settling in Minnesota. Primarily recruited from internment camps, now also referred to as concentration camps, on the West Coast, these men and women served while many of their families remained imprisoned. For their efforts, it is said that they “shortened the Pacific War by two years and saved possibly a million American lives.” After decades of being classified, the story of their courage, sacrifice and patriotism is finally being told.

“During World War II, nearly 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent were incarcerated in desolate areas of the West in ten camps, each ringed by barbed wire fences and rifle towers with machine guns. My parents’ families were among those imprisoned,” said David Mura, acclaimed author, content advisor and writer of the film. “As the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes makes clear, this racist refusal to distinguish between the countries of Asia and Americans of Asian descent continues to the present. This documentary about the MIS Nisei and the history of Japanese Americans is so necessary, particularly at this time.”

A press kit including photos and the trailer for the documentary can be found here. 

Return to Skid Row walks along the pavement of bygone downtown Minneapolis, preserved in rare footage, memory and 21st Century reflection.  A unique 16mm film brings back to life Minneapolis’ seedy Gateway district offering historic context for current day concerns like housing insecurity, oppression of Native peoples and addiction. Guided by the first-person account from the ‘King of Skid Row,’ the film is an unnerving and illuminating gaze on midcentury poverty.

“A few years ago, we determined that standards and expectations had changed and some of the graphic and troubling footage didn’t seem appropriate to air in prime time without some additional context,” said Executive Producer Daniel Bergin in regard to the 1998 series on TPT titled Down on Skid Row. “This new piece, Return to Skid Row reframes the original footage to provide some of that necessary context to share new insights into both the current and historical problem of homelessness.”

A press kit for the documentary can be found here.

To learn more about TPT’s Minnesota Experience series and the upcoming documentaries,  .

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About Twin Cities PBS

Twin Cities PBS (TPT)’s mission is to enrich lives and strengthen our community through the power of media. Established 64 years ago, TPT now operates as a public service media organization that harnesses a range of media tools to serve citizens in new ways — with multiple broadcast channels, online teaching resources, educational outreach and community engagement activities reaching more than 2 million people each month. Over its history, TPT has been recognized for its innovation and creativity with numerous awards, including Peabody awards and national and regional Emmy® Awards.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2021. All rights reserved.


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