Tom Takesue is a spry and idiosyncratic Japanese-American, raised in Hawai’i, who reignites his creative aspirations at the age of ninety when he becomes invested in “re-writing” a screenplay that his granddaughter is developing. Shot over six years in Honolulu, this intimate film is a unique and poignant meditation on love, loss, creativity, and the possibilities of intergenerational connection.
Utilizing the home movie aesthetic, Takesue captures the cadence of daily life for Grandpa Tom and amidst these home routines we glimpse his rich inner life. With Takesue's encouragement, Grandpa Tom contributes ideas to her stalled film project, revealing his creativity, humor, and imagination.
95 AND 6 TO GO contrasts Grandpa Tom’s now insular life as a widower with the expansive natural wonders of Hawai’i; despite his age and isolation, he remains curious, active, and forward-thinking. Initially resistant to her filming, Grandpa Tom becomes a creative collaborator to this piece, as a new bond is forged between them and as he considers his mortality and legacy.
While growing up in Hawai’i, I never knew my Japanese-American grandfather, Tom Takesue, harbored creative interests. Throughout my life, I never saw him read a novel or talk about art. For me, he existed on the fringes, literally and emotionally; he was a pragmatic, hard-working, authoritarian grandfather who consistently reinforced the importance of family obligation and a steady job.
Unlike my grandfather who had limited educational and career opportunities, I was able to pursue artistic and filmmaking ambitions. When I was at the peak of development on my first feature film project, a cross-cultural love story, I was shocked when my grandfather became intrigued with the screenplay. While slurping noodles or munching on toast, he offered suggestions about a catchy title and happy ending.
In 2007, after the death of my grandmother, I returned to Hawai’i from New York City to provide support and assistance. He was far from sentimental about her death, already keen to find a new companion. The optimism surrounding my feature film project had faded as I waited for the producers to secure financing. My grandfather expressed his deepest fear of dying alone.
We were both in periods of transition and emotional loss. During this time, we finally came to know one another; I offered him company and he offered advice on my film project. His frank critiques sub-consciously reflected his own concerns about love, aging, and the recent death of his wife. He also shared personal stories of a life filled with loss and regret, in stark contrast to the romantic and idealized ideas he generated for my screenplay. When his imagination was unleashed, through the film project, he became animated and filled with vitality.
Although his imagination was piqued by the screenplay he shared increasing skepticism about my feature film coming to fruition, warning me to move on with my life: “If you wait for this film, you will wait forever.”
Life and artistic paths are never straight and clear-digressions and setbacks sometimes lead to great discoveries. 95 AND 6 TO GO explores personal and creative loss and how that is countered with perseverance. It is a film about unrealized ambitions and the ways we find solutions to disappointments. The film also explores how my grandfather moves from resistance, to involvement, and even encouragement to make a film about him.
95 AND 6 TO GO is a film about an unlikely artistic collaboration between a granddaughter and grandfather and how an inter-generational bond is deepened through art.
CULTURAL AND SOCIAL IMPACT:
95 AND 6 TO GO contributes to an essential body of documentary filmmaking by presenting the lives and experiences of a distinct, but under-represented generation of Japanese Americans in Hawaii.
One cannot underestimate the social impact of having complex Asian American experiences represented on screen. To this day, we have very few non-stereotypical depictions of our families and personal relationships.
95 AND 6 TO GO presents multi-dimensional Japanese Americans but also speaks to universal issues around family, aging, creativity, and loss.
In addition, very few films have been made that explore the lives of contemporary Japanese Americans. The films that have been produced tend to concentrate on important historical events in relation to World War II and the internment. It is essential that the everyday lives and concerns of Japanese Americans are also represented on screen.
95 AND 6 TO GO has strong social and educational value and will be a great catalyst for discussions around aging, Japanese-American identity in Hawai’i, Asian-American history, personal documentary filmmaking, and inter-generational connection.