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Days of Waiting by Steven Okazaki
About the Filmmaker:

Steven OkazakiSteven Okazaki's diverse filmography includes children's films, documentaries and independent features. Segments from his films have been featured on "The CBS Evening News," "The NBC Nightly News," ABC News' "Nightline," CNN and "Oprah."

His first feature documentary, Survivors, about Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, was broadcast on PBS in 1982. In 1985, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Unfinished Business, the story of three Japanese Americans who challenged the incarceration of their people. With a fellowship from the American Film Institute, he moved in a different direction with Living on Tokyo Time, a no-budget comedy that premiered at Sundance in 1987.

In 1991, Okazaki won an Academy Award and a Peabody for Days of Waiting. His next films were Troubled Paradise, which looks at native Hawaiian activism and aired on PBS, Hunting Tigers, a comic look at Tokyo pop culture and American Sons, a look at Asian-American men and racism.

Okazaki's latest work is Rehab, broadcast on HBO, and he recently completed The Mushroom Club, about a group of hibakusha—survivors—of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

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Days of Waiting by Steven Okazaki

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Download Press Materials:
Press Release: PDF | DOC
When Estelle Peck Ishigo followed her Japanese-American husband into an internment camp during World War II—one of the few Caucasians to do so—she created a legacy of works that live on as a painful reminder of one of America's darkest periods, and as a testament to an extraordinary woman who refused to give in to prejudice and injustice.

Through vivid use of Ishigo's own memoirs, photos, and paintings, as well as historic film footage of the Japanese-American internment, Steven Okazaki's Days of Waiting, winner of both an Academy Award" and Peabody Award, recreates the shattering experience of relocation from an "outsider's" perspective. The film is co-presented by The Center for Asian American Media, and will air on public television stations in 2006 as part True Lives, a series bringing classic documentaries to public television stations, from the producers of PBS's POV series.

Estelle married Arthur Ishigo despite the fact that interracial marriages were illegal in California. Thirteen years later, in 1941, the Ishigos and some 110,000 Japanese-Americans, most U.S. citizens, were placed under "protective arrest." Estelle and Arthur spent more than three years living in two relocation camps, the first in Pomona, Calif., the second at Heart Mountain, Wyo.

Throughout their ordeal, Estelle Ishigo documented life in the camps—the cheap barracks, the barbed-wire fences, guard towers, and machine guns—on hoarded scraps of paper. Her evocative drawings of shabbily dressed workers, mothers with their children, food lines, and the ice of Heart Mountain give the sense of an everyday existence devoid of hope. They were, she writes, "thousands of people with nothing to do but wait ... watch the sunset ... and wait for the next day to begin."

When the war ended, Heart Mountain was closed, but the Ishigos, with no money and no place to go, lived in poverty for years afterwards. After Arthur died, Estelle continued to live in poverty, and her work was given its first public showing in 1972 at an exhibition of internment camp artists held by the California Historical Society.

When he was introduced to Estelle's works, Steven Okazaki, a filmmaker committed to reclaiming Asian American history, learned that she was ailing in a convalescent hospital. Unwilling to accept the hospital director's claim that she was insane, Okazaki persevered, and as he suspected, found her heavily medicated but able to comprehend what he wanted. "I've been waiting for someone to tell my story to," she said. "Then I can die."

With the help of other camp internees, Okazaki was able to piece together Estelle's story. He was eager to show her his film, but Estelle passed away in March 1990 before the screening could be arranged.

Related Links:
Days of Waiting - Farallon Films
Days of Waiting is co-presented by NAATA, the National Asian American Telecommunications Association.

(1990, 28 min.)


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Artist Estelle Ishigo

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Filmmaker Steven Okazaki
Peggy Orenstein


True Lives is presented by American Documentary, Inc. and National Educational Telecommunications Association.

National Educational Telecommunications Association

Download the 2006 True Lives Press Release: PDF | DOC
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