Days of Waiting (film)

Title Days of Waiting: The Life and Art of Estelle Ishigo
Date 1990
Director Steven Okazaki
Producer Steven Okazaki; Zand Gee; Marc Weiss; Cheryl Yoshioka
Writer Steven Okazaki
Narrator Dorothy Stroup
Starring Estelle Peck Ishigo; Lynn O'Donnell; Dorothy Stroup
Cinematography Steven Okazaki
Editing Steven Okazaki
Studio Farallon Films
Distributor Center for Asian American Media
Runtime 28 minutes
IMDB Days of Waiting: The Life and Art of Estelle Ishigo

An award-winning 1990 documentary film by Steven Okazaki about the life and work of artist Estelle Peck Ishigo , a Caucasian woman who voluntarily entered the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming during World War II with her Japanese American husband. The film won an Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 1991 and The George Foster Peabody Award.

The film was inspired by Ishigo's book of artwork and memoir entitled Lone Heart Mountain , which documented life in the American concentration camps through her personal collection of photos, paintings, drawings and personal papers. Over the three years that Estelle and Arthur Ishigo spent living in two concentration camps (the first in Pomona , California, and the second at Heart Mountain) she drew and painted the barbed-wire fences, guard towers, mothers caring for their babies, children at play, mess halls and the squalid conditions of the barracks in her notebook and on scraps of paper.

When the war ended, Heart Mountain was closed, and the Ishigos moved back to the West Coast, living for a time in a trailer park set up for returning Japanese Americans. Estelle lived in poverty in the postwar years and after Arthur's death. Her artwork was first recognized in a 1972 exhibition of artwork produced in the American concentration camps of World War II titled Months of Waiting, 1942–1945 organized by the California Historical Society in San Francisco, California.

Filmmaker Steven Okazaki first met Ishigo at a convalescent hospital, destitute, ill and under heavy medication. She told him, "I've been waiting for someone to tell my story to," she said. "Then I can die." [1] With the help of other camp inmates, Okazaki gathered the pieces of Ishigo's story and her remarkable body of artwork. Tragically, Ishigo died in March 1990 before he was able to arrange for her to see the completed film. [2]

Authored by Patricia Wakida

Might also like Harsh Canvas: The Art and Life of Henry Sugimoto (2001); Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn (2010); Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray (2001)

This page is complete and will be published to the production Encyclopedia.

For More Information

Official website.

Kanopy Streaming link.

Creef, Elena Tajima. "The Gendering of Historical Trauma in Internment-Camp Documentary: The Case of Steven Okazaki's Days of Waiting." In Countervisions: Asian American Film Criticism . Edited by Darrell Y. Hamamoto and Sandra Liu. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000. 163–74.

Ishigo, Estelle. Lone Heart Mountain . UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, Estelle Ishigo Papers.

Renow, Michael. "Warring Images: Stereotype and American Representations of the Japanese, 1941–1991." In The Japan/America Film Wars: World War II Propaganda and Its Cultural Contexts . Edited by Markus Nornes and Yukio Fukushima. (Philadelphia: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1994): 95–118. Reprinted in Michael Renow, The Subject of Documentary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004): 43–68.

Xing, Jun. Asian America Through the Lens: History, Representation, and Identities . Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 1998.


  1. Public Broadcasting System POV film description, accessed on April 15, 2014.
  2. Public Broadcasting System POV film description, accessed on April 15, 2014.

Last updated Dec. 19, 2023, 5:52 p.m..