A Professor’s Journey to Connect With His Past
Professor Matthew Hashiguchi has a complicated relationship with his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Yet he treasures growing up as a multiracial Asian-American in a neighborhood of Irish Catholics and Italian-Americans. “I live in Georgia but Cleveland will always be my home,” he said. “I am grateful that I had the experiences that I had. I don’t think that I would be who I am without those struggles or that experience of being a minority.”
A Personal Look at Being Multicultural
Hashiguchi, the son of a Japanese-American father and Italian- American mother, is a documentary filmmaker and assistant professor in Georgia Southern University’s multimedia film and production department. He has produced multiple short films and one feature length. In the highly regarded documentary, “Good Luck Soup,” he explored how his parents and other family members grappled with their multiracial and multicultural identities in a neighborhood where they were reminded that they were different. “Good Luck Soup” is also the story of Hashiguchi’s grandmother and her World War II experience. At age 16, she was among the many Japanese Americans in the United States who were forced from their homes and relocated to internment camps. The film examined the challenges she faced in
rebuilding her life and the personal struggles of her family members to assimilate in Cleveland while preserving their Japanese heritage.
“I think people watching the film were able to experience my grandmother in the way that I experienced her,” the filmmaker said. “It’s really surprising and kind of great to have people say, ‘I love your grandmother,’ and to see who she is. It’s great to have people appreciate her in the way that I also appreciate her.”
“Good Luck Soup,” self-funded in part, took six years for Hashiguchi to complete. He secured additional funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Japanese American Citizens League and the Center for Asian American Media. His film has been featured at several film festivals and it premiered nationwide on PBS World Channel’s “America ReFramed” television series.
“That is a huge feat for any filmmaker,” Hashiguchi said. “When I start something, I don’t know where it’s going to end up. You make these films because you have something to say, because something is important to you and you never expect people to say, ‘wow we want other people to hear about this.’”
Balancing Filmmaking and Teaching
The professor studied journalism before he became a filmmaker. Calling himself a quiet introvert, he sought an occupation that would help him overcome his fears and anxieties. He became a photojournalist.
“I wanted a job that forced me to go to strangers and ask questions,” he said. “I had an internship at the Washington Post when I made the decision that I wanted to tell stories that I wanted to tell, so I became an independent filmmaker.”
Hashiguchi has been a faculty member at Georgia Southern since 2015. Teaching young storytellers, he said, is incredibly rewarding.
“Teaching film is much like being a journalist or a filmmaker,” he noted. “You’re learning about students, their stories and what they
want to do with their lives, and hopefully, I can help them accomplish what they set out to do and who they want to become.”
One common piece of advice that he passes on to students is the importance of versatility in filmmaking.
“They need to be able to do many things,” he said. “Specializing is not going to get them in the door. It’s being able to shoot, it’s being able to do audio, it’s being able to edit and it’s being able to produce. That will give them a great deal of self- reliance. Film is a profession that requires a great amount of personal ambition, entrepreneurial spirit and gumption. Those who make it in film don’t wait to be offered a job in film, they just make films.”
Hashiguchi said the film industry is blossoming especially in the Savannah area. “There is this untapped market here in Georgia that our students have access to that many people in New York and Los Angeles are not even considering,” he said.
“So, for students at Georgia Southern there are opportunities they should take advantage of because the industry is right here in our backyard.”
The professor and filmmaker just finished a short documentary on undocumented college students and is in the early stages of developing a documentary about mental health and parenthood.
— Sandra Bennett
A New Year’s Good Luck Dish The inspiration for the name of Professor Matthew Hashiguchi’s documentary came from one of his family’s traditions. “Good Luck Soup” is a traditional Japanese dish filled with mochi or rice cakes, broth, vegetables and a variety of other ingredients. It is served in Japanese homes on New Year’s Day to ensure good fortune.