— By Lara Hughes, UH Hilo Stories
Patsy Iwasaki—a lecturer in communication and English at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and both a UH Hilo and UH Mānoa alum—is bringing to life the legacy of Japanese immigrant Katsu Goto. Iwasaki, a media advocate using filmmaking to “heal, impact and inspire diverse audiences to promote peace and equity,” is executive producer of the documentary film, Honoka‘a Hero: The Story of Katsu Goto, and she has big ambitions for the project.
“I want to take this to the next level, get national interest,” she says.
The story of Katsu Goto has its roots beginning in 1885, when, at the age of 23, he traveled to Hawai‘i to be a laborer on a sugar plantation in Hāmākua, Hawai‘i Island. When his contract was completed, he forged a path to become a local businessman and leader in a small Japanese community in the town of Honoka‘a, where he opened his own retail store while also fighting for the rights of his fellow community members working as plantation laborers.
But his business success and selfless service ultimately led to a tragic end—on October 29, 1889, Goto was found hanging from a telephone pole, lynched in Honoka‘a town.
Today, 127 years later, the story is being brought back to life with the help of modern technology and the vision of Iwasaki.
Included in the film's cast are UH Hilo alumni Kimo Apaka and Hoapili Mossman.