What do sushi and nachos have in common? Nothing, according to most people. But filmmaker and photographer Kei Matsumoto says those two delicious things can go together, just as Latino and Asian cultures have blended in her life. Matsumoto, a fourth-year film student at University of Texas at Austin, was born in Eagle Pass, a small town on the Rio Grande, to a Mexican mother and a Japanese father.
In 2021, Matsumoto was selected as one of five fellows selected for The Sauce fellowship, a collaboration between the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and the New Orleans Video Access Coalition (NOVAC) to develop emerging Asian American filmmakers from the American South. And now, the short documentary she produced during that time is now streaming on WORLD Channel’s YouTube. “It’s about the blend of two cultures: navigation of life through that lens, and the impact on me, my sisters, as well as my parents and their interracial marriage,” says Matsumoto.
The challenge in making the film was persuading her family to be interviewed. Matsumoto’s mother and father were game to talk about events in their lives, such as her father’s struggle to learn Spanish and her mother drawing attention for being in an interracial relationship.
Her two sisters — who are over ten years older than her and spent the first half of their childhoods in Mexico — took more convincing. One of the most interesting findings was that even though they share the same family cultures, their stories were not the same. “We had a little bit of different experiences, since we all look different. Then also the fact that we don’t speak Japanese, we only speak Spanish,” Matsumoto recalls. “I also learned about their history growing up with those struggles, and some things that I didn’t really know about, that happened to them.”
Watch a clip from ‘Sushi Nachos’
Sushi Nachos is not only about being mixed-race, but specifically about being Mexican and Japanese in rural Texas – a place often synonymous with cowboys and country music. And those touchstones play a big role for some of her relatives. “My tias, my aunts, they live a different type of lifestyle than us. They’re more country. They’re more rural, especially because we used to live in Marshall, which is East Texas,” the fourth-year Radio-Television-Film student explains. That gap between the rural and urban South is something Matsumoto also had to navigate. “The immigrant transition is not only from Mexico to Texas, but also to the south in general. There isn’t just one certain experience,” she says. “You can grow up in Eagle Pass and have that life, or you can grow up in Austin and it just kind of changes.”
Despite the stereotypes, Matsumoto says the South is actually quite a multicultural place. “It’s not well seen, and maybe that’s why you may not think of the South as diverse,” she reflects. Now, thanks to Sushi Nachos and four other films in The Sauce series, more audiences see the nuances of this region of the United States. The shorts premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival in November 2021 and will be released online over the next six months.
The Sauce Fellowship Program is made possible with support from the Ford Foundation and PBS.