I Was a Simple Man

Ghosts of the past haunt the Hawaiian countryside...

Project type: Narrative Feature
Project status: Pre-production
Director: Christopher Yogi
Producers: Sarah Kim, Ryan Zacarias
Cinematographer: Eun Soo Cho
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Like marionettes on a toy stage, the ghosts of Masao’s past haunt the countryside in this tale of a Hawai‘i family facing the imminent death of their eldest.


The ghosts of the past haunt the Hawaiian countryside in this film about Masao Matsuyoshi, a Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) man at the end of his life.

One by one, Masao’s family members make a pilgrimage to the North Shore of O‘ahu to care for the old man in his plantation home. As each family member arrives, they conjure memories of Masao’s past: Masao as an absent father, a failed husband, a once innocent teen with dreams of leaving the country. As Masao’s health breaks down, these visions and memories overwhelm his home as time becomes both suspended and malleable. As the ghosts of his past escort Masao into the afterlife, will he be able to contend with life he has lived and face up to the husband and father he was?

Incorporating Asian-Hawaiian mythology, dream logic, and horror, I Was a Simple Man tells the story of one man, taking us from the high-rises of contemporary Honolulu to the pre-WWII sugar plantations of O‘ahu and, finally, into the beyond.

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Meet the Filmmakers

Christopher Yogi — Writer/Director

Christopher Makoto Yogi was born in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. With a background in creative writing and poetry, he crafts personal fiction and nonfiction tales inspired by the mystical details of his home. He is a Sundance Institute/Time Warner Fellow and a Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab Fellow. Yogi’s most recent film, Makoto: or, Honesty, is a short documentary on the death of his father. His previous film, Obake (Ghosts), screened worldwide with screenings at the Palm Springs International ShortsFest, Raindance Film Festival, the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, and numerous other festivals. His 2009 film, Layover, on the Shore was awarded Best Hawaiian Short at the Big Island Film Festival. Yogi also has extensive experience editing documentaries for film and television. His work has been screened theatrically worldwide and broadcast on PBS, MTV, and Discovery. He is a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA program and participated in Visual Communications’ Armed with a Camera fellowship. In addition, he was a fellow at the Kyoto Filmmakers Lab, sponsored by Toei and Shochiku Studios and the Museum of Kyoto.

Sarah Kim — Producer

Sarah S. Kim was born in Busan, South Korea, and currently lives in New York. She has produced a couple features, including The Other Side of the Mountain, a US-DPRK co-production period shot in North Korea. Previously, she worked as a screener in the programming committee for AFI (American Film Institute) Fest, the Sundance NHK award and Sundance Documentary Fund, and worked as program coordinator for the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and the Korean American Film Festival New York. She received her BA at UCLA School of Theater, Film & TV for production and MFA from the City College of New York, where she studied under Chantal Akerman. She also has many years of experience working as an assistant director and an editor for Mnet TV and Yahoo. She’s a recipient of multiple Motion Pictures of America Association Awards, Peter Stark Memorial Award, Visual Communication’s Armed With a Camera Fellowship, and the New York Women in Film & Television scholarship award.

Ryan Zacarias — Producer

Ryan Zacarias’ films include Michael Tully’s Septien and Ping Pong Summer, Matt Boyd’s documentary A Rubberband Is An Unlikely Instrument, Matt Porterfield’s I Used To Be Darker, Rick Alverson’s Entertainment, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film festival and Mediterranea, by Jonas Carpignano, which premiered in the 2015 Semaine de la Critique at the Cannes Film Festival. He recently executive produced Tim Sutton’s Dark Night, which premiered in the NEXT Section at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. He wrapped production on Jonas Carpignano’s forthcoming feature, A Ciambra and Matt Porterfield’s Sollers Point in the summer of 2016. Zacarias’ films have played festivals such as Sundance, Cannes, Rotterdam, Venice, Locarno, New Directors/New Films, the Berlinale, SXSW, and Hot Docs and have been supported by Cinereach, San Francisco Film Society, Doha Film Institute, Cinemart, and the Berlinale Co-Production Market. His films have been distributed by IFC Films, Magnolia, Haut et Court (France), Paramount UK, Strand Releasing, Gravitas Ventures, and Factory 25. Zacarias also produced Harmony Korine’s short films Umshini Wam, starring South African rap sensation Die Antwoord, and Snowballs.

Eunsoo Cho — Cinematographer

Eunsoo Cho is an award-winning cinematographer born and raised in Seoul, Korea. She attended the MFA film and television program at University of Southern California and now calls Los Angeles her home. From documentary to narrative and experimental, Eunsoo has worked on numerous projects across the globe. Eunsoo Cho is a fellow of the Talent Campus at Berlinale and Project Involve at Film Independent. Eunsoo Cho is learning Spanish now and her goal is to be able to hold short conversations with her neighbors by end of this year.Support I Was a Simple Man and make a donation today.

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