My road to discovering the stories of the comfort women gave me a lot more than the historical background I was looking for. In my pursuit to learn as much as I can on the subject and to find people who would be willing to be filmed, I learned a great deal from a lot of different people in unexpected places. I had no idea a personal friend’s grandmother had been effected, and it was heartbreaking to hear how that experience still brings sadness to her grandmother even though it is completely taboo for the family to talk about it. I met a man at a high tech conference, who gave me a lot of great advice on the art of making a documentary on a shoestring budget. He and his friends had made one on $0 budget that eventually aired on PBS. (They depended greatly on airline miles and kindness of people). I’d talk to people at farmer’s market who happened to know a thing or two about a subject matter I just happened to need information on. What I discovered was that people are kind, and if they can, they will try to help. It’s a good feeling.
My research took me to the House of Sharing, located in Korea, where I had been corresponding with a volunteer there. Everything seemed like it was going smoothly. I was aligning resources for a small crew to help me film, the audio and video equipment needed, and a friend had volunteered to help me build a website where we’d be able to share the videos of the stories. As I was making final arrangements on the filming schedule, I received the bad news. I had been denied access to filming the halmonies living in the House of Sharing. I was told that their health is failing and due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, they will not be granting permissions to individuals. Around this time, there was also a conservative Japanese punk band (I know that sounds like an oxymoron) that had released a defamatory music video threatening the Korean comfort women, so I can completely sympathize with the people who are in charge of caring for the halmonies. Had I been Oprah, I’m sure it would’ve been a completely different story. ;-)
I was disappointed, to say the least, but I didn’t want this to stop be from moving forward. From my research I had discovered that a documentary has been made on the subject, so I decided to get the word out about that. The wonderful women of GoMighty have also kindly agreed to donate the grant for this project to the House of Sharing to help with the cost of the halmonies’ care-taking. They rely on the fundraising from Buddhist organizations and donations.
Through this project I also decided to move forward with the project using the personal narrative as a platform to learn about history. I will continue to look for more comfort women, but in the meanwhile, I am launching a new project, starting with other inspirational women you may not have heard of before. I am now in pursuit of the only Native American female pilot from WW2 to capture her story. It’s strange and amazing what one tiny seed can grow to be.