SAN FRANCISCO — The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, 1840 Sutter St. in San Francisco Japantown, is excited to offer two screenings of Stacey Hayashi’s “Go for Broke: An Origins Story,” featuring a star-studded, all-Japanese American cast mostly from Hawaii, and a local crew telling the tale of the start of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team of World War II — the most decorated unit in the history of the U.S. military for its size and time in combat.
The screenings will be held on Saturday, June 23, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 24, at 1 p.m. The cost is $15 for JCCCNC members, $20 for the general public. For more information, contact Matt Okada, director of programs, at (415) 567-5505.
The 442nd was made up of more than 14,000 Japanese American men who served with valor in the European Theater and received 21 Congressional Medals of Honor, eight Presidential Unit Citations, 9,500 Purple Hearts and 5,200 Bronze Star Medals. Among their ranks was Medal of Honor recipient Daniel K. Inouye, who would go on to become the first Japanese American elected to Congress, and later a powerful and respected U.S. senator. The motto of the battalion was “Go For Broke.”
Hayashi’s film, which was 16 years in the making and shot entirely in Hawaii at the actual locations where the historical events occurred, chronicles the remarkable story from its earliest beginnings. On the eve of Dec. 7, 1941, over 4,000 Japanese Americans are already in the military service and defending Hawaii from the Japanese attack. Afterwards, 169 AJA (Americans of Japanese ancestry, as they called themselves) college boys petition the military governor to let them show their loyalty with menial labor to help with the war effort, despite having been kicked out of the Hawaii Territorial Guard for looking like the enemy.
They are horrified when the government classifies them as 4C, or “enemy aliens” forbidden to serve, but eventually they are accepted and are honored at an “aloha ceremony” at Iolani Palace before heading to basic training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, then to deployment in Europe.
The cast includes Oscar winner Chris Tashima (“Visas and Virtue”), Peter Shinkoda (“Daredevil”), Cole Horibe (“So You Think You Can Dance”), and Ban Daisuke (“Kikaida”), and features a soundtrack by ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, who also appears in the film.
Many of the authentic details arise from the involvement of the real-life people Hayashi brought to the film, including the first Japanese American killed in action on Dec. 7, 1941, Torao Migita; members of his family portray themselves. Among countless other real veterans’ descendants, the grandson of Hawaii’s future governor John A. Burns has a cameo role, as well as real life Hawaii Territorial Guard/Varsity Victory Volunteers/442 veterans Ted Tsukiyama and Bishop Yoshiaki “Sharkey” Fujitani; 442/Military Intelligence Service veteran Herbert K. Yanamura, who saved the lives of 1,500 people in the Battle of Okinawa; and former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, himself a World War II veteran.
The film is also rich in historical detail. In a scene featuring future Olympic coach Soichi Sakamoto, who founded the Three-Year Swim Club, he is portrayed by his real-life last protege, Reid Yamamoto. Even the film’s costuming reflects Hayashi’s commitment to history: Luka Masuda, the actor who portrays 442 veteran Eddie Yamasaki, wears Yamasaki’s original garrison cap.
The 92-minute film was written and produced by Hayashi and directed by Alex Bocchieri, with cinematography by Jeremy Snell and Anthony Sanderson-Vallejo. Shot on an Arri Alexa operated by Abraham Williams. For more information on the film, go to: https://www.goforbrokemovie.com/