Chicago Student Producing Short Film on Manzanar

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Shooting on location at Manzanar.

Kazuko Golden, a Columbia College of Chicago graduate student in film and video, is traveling to Manzanar to begin production of a short film about her grandmother, Sachie Yoshimura, a Kibei who was incarcerated in the camp for nearly three years in the 1940s.

Golden says that her film, “The Song,” based on a short story written by her mother, Yoshimi Yoshimura Golden, has “historical, cultural, and philosophical value.” The story intertwines the “duality of the World War II Japanese American internment” and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and how those events affected two sisters — Sachie and her younger sister Hiroko, who was living in Hiroshima during this time.

“I have emotional sentiments about this story,” says Golden, “because I have vivid memories of my grandmother Sachie.” Golden is working to make her short film a culturally rich story to be shared with a larger audience. She is going to produce it with the help of graduate student and director Zachary Mehrbach, who also teaches classes in film at Columbia College.

Kazuko Golden

The film uses a song from Sachie’s and Hiroko’s childhood to depict their connection to each other, their shared history growing up in Hiroshima, and the sorrows and their undefined futures in countries separated by war and the vast Pacific Ocean. Golden says that movies “from the perspective of Japanese American and Japanese women raising children post-World War II are rare. Movies about the Japanese American internment camps have been produced, but the protagonist is typically a male with women in the supporting roles.”

Golden and Mehrbach are joining the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, which takes place Saturday, April 27. The one-day event at the Manzanar National Historic Site will enable Golden, who is producing the film, and Mehrbach to see newly reconstructed barracks, a guard tower, the cemetery, and the surrounding desert and towering Sierra Nevada mountain range, all of which her grandparents, Sachie and Yoshizo Yoshimura, experienced. Yoshimi Golden will also be joining them, returning to Manzanar for the first time since her release in 1945. The filmmakers will take interview footage of the author’s impressions of her return.

Golden’s uncle, Scott Nagatani, a well-known music producer who lives in Los Angeles and works with numerous music organizations in the U.S. and Japan, will also be involved in the production. In addition, local actresses and actors, including a few children, will be sought.

“My mother was actually born in Manzanar,” said Golden, “and I feel it would be an honor to document this piece of American heritage.”

In February, Golden received an Albert P. Weisman Award from the Portfolio Center at Columbia College, which is given to help graduate students complete “a substantial media-based project that is already under way.” As a condition of the grant award, a student is required to create a budget, to seek additional funding, and to present a final product.

Golden and Mehrbach are using Kickstarter, a website where individuals or groups can make a donation to support their film project. A video of Golden and Mehrbach explaining their vision of the film can be viewed at www.kazukogolden.com.

Golden’s background includes teaching English for four years in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, as an assistant language teacher. She received her B.A. in anthropology, sociology, and peace and global studies from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. Part of her undergraduate curriculum included a semester in Northern Ireland at Earlham’s Peace Center, and a semester in South Africa to study and observe “the dynamics of peace and reconciliation” efforts under that country’s leader, Nelson Mandela.

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