15 May Intersections | Matthew Hashiguchi
Directed by Matthew Mashiguchi, Good Luck Soup is a feature-length documentary film revealing the post-WWII experience of being Japanese American in the American Midwest. Told through Matthrew Hashiguchi’s own Japanese American family in Cleveland Ohio, as he uncovers the experiences from the time they left the internment camps until present day.
“Our story will go beyond the experience of life inside the Japanese American Internment Camps to reveal what life was like after the camps closed. We want to update the Japanese American story by revealing what has happened since the camps closed nearly 70 years ago.”
EH: Please start off by introducing yourself
MH: I’m a documentary filmmaker originally from Cleveland, Ohio. I now live in Boston, Massachusetts, where I’m an Adjunct Professor of visual & Media Art at Emerson College. I have a background in photojournalism and previously worked as a photojournalist for some newspapers and documentary video intern for The Washington Post before becoming an independent documentary filmmaker.
EH: What is your background?
MH: I’m half Japanese and half Italian. I grew up in an Irish American neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. My Japanese American grandmother was really my only grandparent growing up so I gravitated towards the Japanese American side of my family.
EH: What films were among your favorites growing up and why?
MH: I loved gangster movies. I’m sure it had a little to do with my Italian heritage, but I also loved the truth that it attempted to portray. Many of the gangster movies are based upon real people or groups and I was fascinated that this existed. I also loved that it was an American story. These were people that were still (somewhat) connected to their heritage through mafia and tradition, and I really appreciated the preservation of tradition that those stories represented.
EH: When did you first start getting into filmmaking?
MH: I used to make animated films as a small kid. There was one about a tennis ball that went one some journey throughout my house. But, it was after I graduated from Ohio State University that I went into filmmaking. I was a photojournalist and the demand for web-video had become prevalent within the news industry, so I had a natural progression from photo to video. It was after my documentary video internship with The Washington Post in 2009 that I decided to become an independent documentary filmmaker. I still view what I do as journalism, I’m just not employed by a news agency.
GOOD LUCK SOUP
EH: What is the film about?
MH: So this entire Good Luck Soup project is a transmedia project. It’s being told through a documentary film (Good Luck Soup) and an interactive website (Good Luck Soup Interactive). The documentary film reveals the post-World War II experience of being Japanese American through my own family. It’s very personal. I had a hard time growing up as a Japanese American in the American Midwest and wanted to reveal that experience. I also wanted to discover the experiences of my own family members, from the time my grandmother left the internment camps until the present. It’s a unique experience that I think it pretty regional and limited to the Midwest.
Good Luck Soup Interactive is an interactive documentary that will compliment the film. It will continue to tell the story of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians after World War II, and these stories will be told through uploaded stories and photographs from the Japanese American and Japanese Canadian community. We want this to be a location where everyone can share an experience or story of life after the internment camps and we want the younger generations of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians to be part of this project.
EH: How did Good Luck Soup come to be?
MH: My grandmother has always told the story of her life in the internment camps. And, I think that helped her overcome the pain associated with that experience. Growing up as a multiracial, Japanese American in a predominantly white neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, was hard. A lot of racism. And, I also know that my siblings, aunt, uncle, father and grandparents experienced racism in Cleveland, too. So, I wanted to reveal that experience. And, perhaps it’s my way of overcoming the pain associated with my childhood experiences of racism.
EH: How did you come up with the title?
MH: Soup is something my family, and many Japanese American families, enjoy together every New Years Day morning. It’s a sign of good fortune, positivity and is always experienced together. This entire Good Luck Soup project is about community and a communal experience. I wanted the name of the project to reflect that theme of group and community.
EH: What research was required for the film?
MH:Not much… I tend to learn by experience. This project isn’t about listing facts, it’s about listening to the stories of individuals that can’t be found in books. So, I suppose my research was accomplished by talking with people and listening to what they had to say. It’s ongoing because I’m always gathering the personal stories from camp victims or their family members. The internment camp experience isn’t really something that I learned in school. It’s not an academic lesson, it’s a personal lesson that I learned by listening to my grandmother and relatives discuss. It’s a family story.
EH: How did it feel turning the camera on yourself and family for a change and revealing a very personal experience?
MH: That was pretty hard. I changed from a grandson, sibling, or son into a filmmaker. It was also hard to ask questions about being discriminated against. No one wants to hear those types of stories from your sister or father. Eventually, I overcame any fears, but I think my family members were always a bit uncomfortable answering them.
I also had two family members pass away during the filming. They were both incarcerated during World War II. It was hard to film that experience, especially while with my grandmother. But, their passing really represented something larger. The Greatest Generation isn’t going to be around forever, so it’s important that we document as many stories as we can, right now.
EH: Were there any moments that really stood out to you making the film?
MH: Many of the interviews that I conducted were fascinating. It was amazing to hear the different stories from different generations of my family. Like, what was it like the Japanese American during Civil Rights? My aunt was bussed, along with African American children, into white neighborhoods. My grandmother was told to sit in the middle of the bus, not the back and not the front. My sister was called a Jap by 9 year old kids in the 90s! Every experience was really unique. It was also amazing to follow my grandmother around and film her. She’s still active within the Cleveland Japanese American community and seeing her along with all of the other Japanese Americans was a lot of fun.
EH: Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making the film?
MH: Also, what was the most pleasurable moment? Filming the passing of my great aunt and uncle was really hard. Those were moments where I wasn’t sure if I should film. I kept a distance but continued to film, because they were important parts of my life and my family members.
The interviews were incredibly fun. Just being able to sit and share stories with my family members was great. It really wasn’t an interview, it was a conversation that was really dynamic.
EH: What did you learn about yourself during this process?
MH: That I love being Japanese American.
EH: What do you want people to get out of the film?
MH: I want people to realize that being Japanese American is still somewhat of an awkward experience, especially for those living in the Midwest and Eastern parts of the US. There’s still a lot of racism and Japanese Americans, or Asians in general, are still viewed as foreign. I love baseball and hot dogs just as much as any other American.
EH: When can we expect to view the final film?
MH: The website and film will both be complete by mid 2015.
EH: How has your filmmaking evolved since your first film?
MH: I think I’ve removed any formalities associated with filmmaking. Journalism has a lot of formalities and expectations engrained within it and I kind of threw those out the door. I want an informal, personal and gritty storytelling experience in my films.
EH: What are some of the major steps to overcome in regards to growth?
MH: Something that I needed to overcome was the ability to discuss the struggles that I’ve experienced. I needed to acknowledge it and talk about it. I think the ability to let things out and talk about them is crucial for growth.
EH: What do you love most about film and the filmmaking business?
MH: I love the ability to discover lives and perspectives other than my own. Every person has a unique vision and set of experiences and I want to know those. Filmmaking allows me to enter other people’s lives and be part of their experience.
EH: If you weren’t making films, what other line of work would you feel you be interested in?
MH: I’ve often thought of living in a cabin in the woods, but then I remember I don’t like the woods or cabins. I’m really not sure what else I’d do… I’m really active, so it’d have to be something where I’m constantly moving, thinking or interacting. That’s a question I have no answer for.
EH: Do you have any advice for beginning filmmakers?
MH: Just make work.
EH: How can we contact you or find out more about Good Luck Soup?
MH: Right now, our Kickstarter campaign is in full force. My contact info is on that page, as are links to my work. So, that’s where people can really learn more about the project and what our goal is. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/matthewhashiguchi/good-luck-soup-interactive-a-transmedia-documentar