Shortly after America entered WWII, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 giving the government the ability to declare areas of the country military zones and arresting any persons in those areas who were deemed a "threat." Although it did not specify any certain people, the Order was used primarily to round up and incarcerate persons of Japanese descent living in the western U.S. The detainees found themselves living in what amounted to concentration camps, often in isolated desert areas. During the war, three Japanese-American men (Gordon Hirabayashi, Monoru Yasui, & Fred Korematsu) filed lawsuits challenging the legality of Executive Order 9066; none were successful. However, after the war, public opinion began to shift and in the 1980s the three men re-opened their earlier lawsuits. "Unfinished Business" documents the stories of these three men and how their lawsuits affected the Japanese-American community.
"Unfinished Business" (1985) is a worthwhile documentary on an important topic - one of the low points in American history. The documentary is definitely a no-frills affair, with minimal narration, text, and recreations, which might bore audiences today used to flashier documentaries. At times, the documentary doesn't include enough detail and is poorly paced. For example, the narrator mentions that many of the men in the camps were later allowed to join the U.S. military, but they provide no details about how this change occurred. Instead, it focuses on brief interviews with some of the Japanese-Americans who were forced into the camps. Their stories are affecting and in no need of adornment. However, the finale concerning the lawsuits is told in an incredibly flat and technical manner with no suspense or elaboration; it almost seems like an afterthought. Despite these weaknesses, "Unfinished Business" is still informative. The film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards, losing to "Broken Rainbow" (another film documenting the "relocation" of an American minority group).