This week’s guest contributor is Kazuko Golden, a native from Springfield, Illinois, now living in Los Angeles, California as a filmmaker. She is a driven, imaginative Film Producer and Director, who leverages vision, passion, and a robust network to create and acquire compelling, authentic stories with unique, box-office value that drives social justice and change.
A Song For Manzanar by Kazuko Golden
This short narrative drama film by Kazuko Golden is based on a true story about her grandmother and the relocation of the Japanese Americans to American Concentration Camps during WWII. A Song for Manzanar was Golden’s graduate film for her Creative Producing master’s degree at Columbia College Chicago and the recipient of the Weisman Award, receiving a generous grant from the Weisman family.
The film is based on one chapter of a novel written by her mom, author, and educator Yosh Golden. Set in the 1945 Manzanar Japanese American Internment Camp, the film tells the story of a young mother, Sachie, who is driven to instill hope in her son while communicating with her beloved sister Hiroko who still lives in Hiroshima. Although not physically together, the sisters write letters to each other, and through the Japanese childhood folk song, ‘The Crow,’ they maintain hope that they will be reunited. The film’s main characters include actresses portraying her mother Yosh, born in Manzanar, and her grandmother Sachie, the main protagonist in the film.
Directing a Period Film
Golden co-directed the film with Phil Emerson (the pen name for a scriptwriter in Hollywood.) She produced it by herself with the guidance of her instructors, advisors, and classmates at Columbia College of Chicago. Her former classmates Josh Garvin and Zach Mehrbach co-wrote the script. The period piece costumes and kimonos were designed by Costumer Laura Wong. The film was shot in Manzanar, California. For most of the cast and crew, including the Japanese Americans, it was their first time visiting and learning about the concentration camps.
Screenings to Spark Social Change
Golden hopes the film’s legacy will be an avenue for a discussion to educate about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. She felt passionate about going to school and producing it in Chicago because this is where her family and many Japanese Americans were relocated to after the camps. Her grandfather lost everything he once owned in Los Angeles. With the mere $25 check he received as he was walking out from the barbed wire gate, he continued his life as a factory worker in the paper mills in Chicago and most importantly, as proud father to eleven children.
Between 2017-2019 the film was not screened very regularly. Lately, however it has been requested to be screened at several panels to discuss Asian hate crimes. Golden is available to talk with people in a zoom Q&A to any groups that are interested in learning more or hearing about the conversations that we have been having about Asian Racism and Misogyny in America. The sad part of all the recent media attention of the violence against Asians is that this is not a new phenomenon– and that is evident from A Song for Manzanar.
Golden created a special promotion page on her website for our ChiTown Screenwriting readers to rent A Song for Manzanar
for $1. It will be up for 30 days and the rental period, once the reader pays, is 72 hours. The page is http://www.kazukogolden.com/promotion