Cancer survivor Paul Goodman’s ‘No No Girl’ premieres

‘No No Girl’ director and writer Paul Goodman. photo courtesy of Paul Goodman

Paul Goodman finished his film “No No Girl” in a matter of months despite battling leukemia.

Goodman was first diagnosed with cancer in 2016. After receiving chemotherapy, the young filmmaker went into remission for four years. Unfortunately, he relapsed in 2021.

“It was severe. The relapse showed that the chemotherapy did not work and in fact cancer had spread to my spine and brain, and it was extremely grim at that time,” the 31-year-old Goodman said.

This time he received intense treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. Though the experience was painful, Goodman still managed to finish his script for “No No Girl” and began the process of casting and filming.

Despite hesitation from loved ones, Goodman was on the set of “No No Girl” by November 2021.

“At that point, I knew my body and I knew what was possible, and I was still weak. You see the behind-the-scenes photos from ‘No No Girl,’ my hair is different. I look different. I was still kind of recovering, but strong enough to do a feature film,” Goodman said.

He admitted he felt internal pressure to finish the movie as a means of survival. It kept his mind off of the leukemia. This personal drive paid off, and “No No Girl” premiered at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo on Aug. 20. The sold-out event left the audience in awe. After laughter, tears and a standing ovation, Goodman and some of the cast and crew held a Q-and-A-format session. He said he was humbled and honored by the positive reaction to his movie.

The film follows a Yonsei woman trying to uncover family secrets from when her grandparents were incarcerated in U.S. concentration camps during World War II. The movie stars Mika Dyo, Scott Takeda and Oscar-winner Chris Tashima. Between bouts of pungent comedy, moments of solitary reminiscence and gorgeous cinematography of Southern California, “No No Girl” is a thoughtful work of art meant to remind viewers that the past will always inform and affect the present generation.

Goodman is Yonsei himself, and he feels “No No Girl” is now one of only a few pieces of existing art that represents his generation’s perspective.

“We’re still learning who we are. We’re still learning what happened to us and why we’re this way and why our parents are this way,” Goodman said, adding, “There are a bunch of secrets in our families.” He elaborated that former wartime inmates “don’t like talking about big traumas or, you know, things that are hard for them to communicate. And our character in ‘No No Girl’ has to go to extreme lengths to find out who she is.”

Goodman grew up in Southern California and attended Orange County Buddhist Church. He feels a deep connection to the Japanese American community he profiles in “No No Girl,” and for good reason. They supported him through his cancer journey, including his search for life-saving bone marrow. Goodman is multiracial. He’s of Japanese descent, as well as Ashkenazi Jewish. Finding a bone marrow match for non-white and multiracial people can be difficult.

When he initially couldn’t find a match, his loved ones came out in droves to support him, planning drives and getting as many people as possible to register for the global bone marrow registry through the nonprofit organization Be the Match. People all over the world, from the U.S. to Japan to Israel, swabbed their cheeks to see if they were a match for Goodman.

Though he never found a perfect match, he was a 50 percent match to his sister, which allowed him to receive the lifesaving marrow he needed from her. But Goodman believes anyone qualified to be a registered donor should get swabbed, especially multiracial people.

“Put your cheeks swab in the registry now. As more people are mixed race, more people of mixed race will be diagnosed with life-threatening [conditions] like leukemia,” Goodman said, pointing out that demand for donors will inevitably increase.

Thanks to his treatments and the bone marrow transplant, Goodman is currently in remission from leukemia. He is now looking toward the future and excited to see “No No Girl” hit the film festival circuit. The movie premiered to the public at the Laemmle Theater in Glendale, Calif. Sept. 9.

“Japanese Americans have a very unique history and they’re Americans, you know? They have a unique part of American history and it doesn’t really get told that much,” Goodman said. “I hope people watch this movie and understand that they should be supporting these stories to learn about [this] large group of Americans.”

To learn more about “No No Girl,” visit https://www.eighteastproductions.com.

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