Christopher Makoto Yogi’s second feature “I Was a Simple Man” was one of the best films to world-premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The film stars Constance Wu opposite a cast ensemble of Asian American and Native Hawaiian actors, including Iwamoto, Wu, Kanoa Goo, Tim Chiou, and Chanel Akiko Hirai.
The official synopsis for “I Was a Simple Man” reads: “A lyrical ghost story set in the lush Hawaiian countryside, the film follows Masao (Steve Iwamoto) whose life is slowly fading away because of a terminal illness. As his estranged family members struggle to care for him, Masao is visited by his deceased wife Grace (Constance Wu), and is forced to confront the decisions of his past.”
IndieWire Chief Film Critic David Ehrlich named “I Was a Simple Man” an official Critic’s Pick out of the Sundance Film Festival, writing, “Layering the spectral hush of ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’ over the elegiac domesticity of a late Ozu film like ‘An Autumn Afternoon,’ the Honolulu-born filmmaker’s singularly Hawaiian and masterful second feature is haunted and haunting in equal measure — a reckoning pitched at the volume of a whisper. Just because people don’t stay behind doesn’t mean they ever leave.”
Yogi’s journey to Sundance with “I Was a Simple Man” had been a long time coming. He finished the script for the Hawaiian family drama in 2014 and by the next year, he was attending the Sundance screenwriting lab to develop the project further. Yogi is well aware the film is debuting at a time when the industry is more receptive to his personal story.
“A film with an entire Asian American Pacific Islander cast, centered on an older Asian American character, it’s not the sexiest sell,” Yogi told IndieWire at Sundance. “Especially at the time in 2015 or 2016, folks would straight up tell me that nobody wants to watch this. They were blunt about it, saying nobody wants to watch a full Asian American Pacific Islander cast. It was funny how that quickly changed a couple years back. Now those same people were telling me they want to diversify their slate. It’s pretty cynical and eye-opening.”
“I Was a Simple Man” will have its theatrical premiere in New York City at Metrograph and its hometown premiere in Hawaii on November 19, following its centerpiece presentation at the upcoming Hawaii International Film Festival. The film will open nationwide afterward. Watch the official trailer below.