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Japanese Life in America Explored in Interactive Doc

Matthew Hashiguchi, filmmaker

Filmmaker Matthew Hashiguchi, MFA '11, has created an interactive documentary on the Japanese American experience.

Living as a Japanese American in the American Midwest is the topic of a transmedia documentary project created by Matthew Hashiguchi, MFA ’11.

Based on his family’s personal history: The project consists of two stories: his family’s story, told through the feature film Good Luck Soup, and the broader story of the Japanese American and Japanese Canadian experience before, during, and after World War II, told through the interactive website Good Luck Soup Interactive.

Hashiguchi is half-Japanese American and was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He started filming a traditional documentary about his Japanese American grandmother in order to explore how Japanese heritage has influenced his Japanese American family members. He also aimed to “broaden the Japanese American story.” As he explained, “When one discusses Japanese American history or identity, it always goes toward the internment camp experience. So, I wanted to update that history and show how it’s changed.”

During the filming, he became inspired to tell as many individual stories as possible. “While I was filming [my grandmother] and others in the Japanese American community in Cleveland, I kept coming across other post–World War II stories that didn’t fit into the single narrative of my grandmother but still needed to be told,” Hashiguchi said. He decided to give voice to these other stories by creating an interactive website.

Hashiguchi and his team compiled the content for the website from a number of Japanese American and Japanese Canadian people from various generations. The stories, told in seven chapters, touch on the themes of immigration, assimilation, discrimination, and evolution. Viewers are also invited to upload their own stories.

Individuals born in the 1930s remember being evacuated from California and sent to internment camps across the West after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, sometimes being separated from family members. Others recall the challenges of being in a mixed-race marriage in the Midwest or learning special recipes to keep traditions alive.

Hashiguchi’s team members on the project included Russell Goldenberg, MFA ’12, interactive developer and designer.

Hashiguchi, who is an assistant professor at Georgia Southern University, has received support for the project from a number of Japanese American and Asian American community organizations, including the Japanese American Citizens League. He is flattered to have received numerous invitations to present the work, saying, “If this can be used as a tool to educate, then our goal has been achieved.”

Good Luck soup promo

Filmmaker Hashiguchi features his own grandmother (pictured) in his new interactive documentary.

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