The recent premiere of “Go for Broke” on Oahu went as well as Aaron Yamamoto hoped.
Perhaps even better.
“It was just awesome,” he said in a phone interview with The Garden Island.
There were several hundred people “laughing and crying in all the right places,” and at the end, a standing ovation that went on for minutes.
“That’s why we do it, to get that kind of reaction,” Yamamoto said.
“It was the most gratifying experience when you have an entire audience watching your film and they’re reacting to it,” he said.
Born and raised on Kauai and a graduate of Kapaa High School, Yamamoto was the film’s editor and post-production supervisor.
The Hawaii-based, non-commercial educational film tells the untold true story of the origins of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team formed during the early days of World War II.
The narrative film, about 95 minutes, follows a group of Japanese American students as they navigate racism and discrimination in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and their decision to fight for their country as their families are interned in concentration camps.
The cast includes Ban Daisuke (Kikaida), Peter Shinkoda (Netflix’s Daredevil), Cole Horibe and Oscar winner Chris Tashima (“Under The Blood Red Sun”).
The feature film will be the opening-night film for the Kauai portion of the 37th Hawaii International Film Festival. It will screen at the historic Waimea Theatre at 7 p.m. Thursday. It is the festival’s sixth year at the theater.
Puni Patrick of the Waimea Theatre said opening night usually sells out. Many officials are expected to be there for the festive affair that, for $40, includes the movie and pupus. Capt. Vincent Johnson, commander of the Pacific Missile Range Facility, is set to give a presentation.
“We expect a lot of people for ‘Go For Broke,’” she said.
The Festival runs through Sunday, with a variety of films each day, capped on the final night with the showing of “Kuleana.”
Producer Stacey Hayashi wrote the script for “Go For Broke,” which was directed by Alexander Bocchieri, who will be at the theater Thursday, introduce the film and take questions afterward.
A special limited edition pin will be given to veterans in attendance.
Anna Page, co-director of programming for HIFF, will be visiting Chiefess Kamakahelei on Thursday with a film director.
“Go For Broke” follows the stories of four men, including future US Sen. Daniel Inouye, who was 17 and a high school senior at the time.
Yamamoto’s duties included editing of sound and music. The Oahu resident came on board about six months ago.
Yamamoto grew up on Kauai, the son of George and Lily Yamamoto. His father was an engineer for the county, and his mom was a postmaster in Anahola. They are retired today and expected to be at Thursday’s premiere. Their son, busy working on details of the film this week, won’t make it.
Like most kids growing up on Kauai, he enjoyed hanging out at the beach.
But even then, he loved working on scripts and filming. He shot Super 8mm homemade movies that included his siblings who were cast in roles he created for them — and he didn’t let them refuse.
“They had to do it,” he said, laughing.
Yamamoto left Kauai to attend the University of Hawaii Manoa, and then transferred to the USC film school.
He considers “Go For Broke” a “fantastic project” and a career highlight.
“We’re really proud of this. It’s a Hawaii story, produced and made by 100 percent Hawaii people,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the cast is from Hawaii.”
Yamamoto has long been fascinated by the 442nd and wrote a script about it.
“They were the most decorated combat unit in US military history,” he said.
When he was in high school, Yamamoto won an essay contest on disabilities. One of the prizes was a trip to Washington, D.C., where he met Inouye for the first time.
“I couldn’t stop staring at his arm,” Yamamoto said. “He saw me staring at the arm and he told me his story of how he lost the arm as a member of the 442nd.”
The project, Yamamoto said, has come full circle since that encounter.
“I didn’t know a lot about World War II and the 442nd,” he said. “History books completely glossed over the importance of the 442nd.”
Yamamoto hopes people pack the theater Thursday and come away with a new understanding of Hawaii history.
The film is not the battle part of the 442nd, he said. It is the original story of how it was formed.
After Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, “anybody who looked Japanese was totally ostracized.”About 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps.
For Inouye and others to serve in the 442nd, “a lot of people worked behind the scenes to get them back into the Army so they could serve their country , which is what they wanted to do.”
Jeannie Thompson, pastor at Kapaa United Church of Christ, is leading a group of about 25 that will be traveling by bus to the premiere of “Go For Broke.”
She said she is anxious to see how the story of the 442nd’s formation is handled and added that Aaron’s mom attends Kapaa United Church of Christ.
“We want to go out and make sure the film has a nice full audience for the opening,” she said.
Tickets for “Go For Broke” can be purchased in advance by calling 651-5744. Tickets for the movie only are $10 and available at the door.