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Good Luck Soup (film)

DVD cover. Courtesy of the Center for Asian American Media
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Autobiographical documentary film by Matthew Hashiguchi that explores his and his family's experience growing up as mixed-race Japanese Americans in Cleveland, Ohio. Hashiguchi draws inspiration from his Nisei grandmother and family matriarch Eva Hashiguchi, who settled in Cleveland after leaving the Jerome , Arkansas, concentration camp during World War II and chose to remain there. In addition to the feature length film, the Good Luck Soup project also includes an interactive website that serves as an "participatory storytelling" platform.

Hashiguchi narrates the film in the first person beginning by noting his discomfort with growing up Japanese American in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood in Cleveland and the bigotry he and his family members faced. He introduces and interviews various family members starting with his grandmother, who is shown speaking to a local women's club about her wartime experiences, cooking and gardening, and preparing for her 88th birthday party. As he interviews other family members—his parents and siblings, his cousins and aunts and uncles—he introduces other issues. In addition to the issue of being Japanese American in the black/white universe of the Midwest, there is also the issue of being mixed race, as Hashiguchi and all of his cousins are, since each of Eva's three children married non-Japanese Americans. Additionally, there is the matter of religion, particular in his own immediate family, as his Italian American Catholic mother insisted that he and his siblings be raised Catholic. Hashiguchi also introduces the close knit Japanese American community in Cleveland that serves as a home and refuge for the family. Rejecting his Japanese American heritage as a kid, he comes to embrace it as an adult, inspired by his grandmother's confidence and comfort with who she is. The film ends with her New Year's spread, as various family members come to eat her "good luck soup" and with her 88th birthday party. Hashiguchi uses both historical footage and archival images as well as many family photographs and home movies to augment the interviews and first person musings.

Hashiguchi, an assistant professor in multimedia film & production at Georgia Southern University, and made two prior short documentaries, including Lower 9: A Story of Home (2012) on four residents of New Orleans' Lower 9 Ward displaced by Hurricane Katrina and People Aren't All Bad (2013), on a Japanese American incarceree recalling a kindness during his World War II imprisonment. He started the Good Luck Soup project in 2013 and raised initial funding of $15,000 from a Kickstarter campaign in 2014. The interactive website launched on October 6, 2015. The film had its world premiere on March 31, 2016 at the Cleveland International Film Festival. After several other film festival and community screenings, a 56 minute version of Good Luck Soup was shown on PBS in May 2017 as part of the American ReFramed series.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm (2015); Invisible Citizen (1983); Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration (2016)

Media Details
Release Date 2016
Runtime 70/56 minutes
Director Matthew Hashiguchi
Producer Matthew Hashiguchi
Editing Matthew Hashiguchi
Distributor Center for Asian American Media