KAMAKURA, Kanagawa Prefecture--When Hiroyuki Matsumoto won a Best of Hawaii prize at the Honolulu Film Awards festival this spring, he felt a sense of disappointment.
"I should not have created the film all by myself," Matsumoto, 47, said he thought at the time.
Besides being the director of the award-winning documentary "Go for Broke! Memories of Hawai'ian Japanese 'Niseis,’" Matsumoto conducted the interviews, filmed the shots, translated, edited, produced subtitles and was in charge of public relations.
The film is about the lives of second-generation Japanese-Americans who suffered discrimination during World War II because of their Japanese background, even though they were U.S. citizens born in Hawaii.
The documentary describes their agonies and why some of them decided to volunteer to serve in the U.S. military.
Matsumoto filmed 34 people, aged between 87 and 97, whom he met through the offices of acquaintances. It took him three years to complete the documentary. He edited the film all alone at his home in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. The words of the interviewees helped him get through the solitude.
"The Japanese know nothing about us," one of them said. "Hurry up, please."
Matsumoto said he regrets that three of the interviewees died before the documentary won the Best of Hawaii prize.
Matsumoto once worked for an ad agency as a producer of commercials for foreign luxury cars. Although he was no stranger to creative imagery, producing a documentary film was a far cry from making promotional video clips.
"I wanted to do something to repay the kindness I owed," he said.
A friend who was a calligrapher died shortly before Matsumoto quit the ad agency in autumn 2008 amid the financial turmoil spawned by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.
Matsumoto held an exhibition of his friend's works in Hawaii, helping to fulfill the friend's long-cherished dream of pursuing his creative activity on the Pacific island.
The community of Japanese descendants helped Matsumoto realize the exhibition. Through them, he gained the idea for his film.
Matsumoto is now looking for a venue in Japan to show his film.
"I want to present a history of Japanese emigrants who share the same roots with us," he said. "That could deepen the viewpoints on Hawaii."
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