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To Walk in the Footsteps of my Grandfather


By Josh Lee (Ebert Young Writers Participant)

95 and 6 To Go, a documentary directed by Kimi Takesue, tells the story of a hardworking and family-oriented grandfather in his last few years, as his granddaughter (the filmmaker herself) follows her passions for film-making. This story is centered around her graduate screenplay as her grandfather, Tom Takesue, becomes enthralled by the story and begins to offer suggestions that linked grandfather and daughter in the most obscure way.

This film is told in an experimental documentary style, and after speaking with Takesue directly after the showing it became apparent that 95 and 6 To Go was originally for her own records and it was not until her grandfather’s last days that he gave permission for the film to be created. This is powerful: as filmmakers, we always like to tell stories of our lives, of our heritage and how we became who we are today. 95 and 6 To Go is a prime example of creative storytelling but also telling a story that envelops an audience and takes people of all ages on a journey through so many different emotional points in one’s life.

I found myself enthralled and consumed by the brutal honesty and innocence in this story. I connected with it on a personal level, as my grandparents are very similar. The film reminds each of us of why our elders’ stories are so very important. Mr. Takesue throughout the film shows resilience, dedication, and intuition while still maintaining a sense of humor. At many points, I found myself laughing at his sarcasm and nuances. Even after the loss of his wife he maintained an optimism that embodies to me the American Dream. Early in the film it was discussed of how he got to America. Due to difficult times, after his mother tragically died, he found himself living alone with a hard-working father as an assistant chef. This was another key point that hit so hard: Mr. Takesue’s dedication to family must have been derived in some way from the loss of his mother and minimal family interaction at a young age. To me that was the main idea: that through everything family and intimate relationships with those around you lead to internal happiness.

From a storytelling point of view, this film follows like an experimental documentary. I am unsure of what it was shot on, but to me it looked mostly hand-held home movie, like a camcorder. There was not specific attention paid to film technique, but, as I said earlier, this film wasn’t intended for the big screen in the beginning. That being said, the hand-held element adds to the beauty of the piece as it almost shakes the audience and keeps them involved.

In the discussion after the film, someone asked why there were some shots clearly on sticks or tripods and why the chapters of Mr. Takesue’s life were separated by scenes of Hawaii. Kimi Takesue went on to say that these points are a natural break. They add moments of reflection. The thing that stuck with me the most was how she said that her grandfather was very much like an island, slowly moving but also self-sufficient. Her analogy of her grandfather being like an island reminds me of how fragile Hawaii can be, but also how strong the aina(Hawaiian for land) can be.

95 and 6 To Go is a storytelling masterpiece. It tells the story of how stories, both written and oral, can be the foundation of our society. Despite being the youngest person in the theater, I found this film thought-provoking and captivating. If you are looking to see a film that will open your eyes to another side, walk in the shoes of Mr. Takesue, you will surely not be disappointed.

As a part of our Ebert Young Writers Program for the Arts, we will be publishing the participants reviews and interviews they produce for the workshop on the official HIFF blog.

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