Alum Atsuko Hirayanagi's Experience Learning English Inspires 'Oh Lucy!'

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- Hirayanagi grew up in Chiba, Japan, moved to Los Angeles for high school and studied acting at San Francisco State University before deciding to get behind the camera. She has lived in Noe Valley since 2014 with her husband, daughter, 10, and son, 5.

During a conversation at the San Francisco Public Library branch on Jersey Street, just blocks from Hirayanagi’s home, where she wrote drafts of her script, she recalled how, in Japan, she “answered the questions in class,” was a “tomboy who played soccer with the boys” and even had a rebellious streak. Yet cultural dislocation as a teenager intensified her natural shyness — an experience she has wanted to explore as a storyteller ever since.

Hirayanagi first probed the idea in her master’s thesis film, a 22-minute character sketch (also titled Oh Lucy!) about a midlife Tokyo loner, Setsuko, whose days are spent shuffling between her monotonous office job and tiny, cluttered apartment, and whose only close bond is with her free-spirited niece. Only when Setsuko enrolls in an English-language class with a charismatic American instructor, who insists she wear a blond wig and take on an American alter-ego, Lucy, does she begins to emerge from her shell.