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Another Yesterday feature film

by R Heil last modified Feb 26, 2021 05:30 PM

Crew shooting Billy

On set with a scene featuring Billy Chengary as Scott Dahse

To visit the official Another Yesterday website and view our trailer, click here.

Another Yesterday is an independent feature film written, directed, & edited by Steven Heil, produced by Doug Heil & Diane Vlajcic Heil, and co-produced by Rubin Whitmore II, Naoyuki Ikeda, and Iris Jacobson.  Nathaniel Haban & Derek Schmitt did the cinematography; Eve Funnell was production designer and wardrobe supervisor; Mark Winter was the production manager; Asuka Ito wrote the score; Beth Hubbard created the sound design, Alden Hoot was the colorist; Ryan Zum Mallen created the special effects.  For the complete crew credits, as well as more crew photos, click here.

Another Yesterday has won over 50 awards, including Best Film of the Festival at the Manhattan Rep's STORIES Film Festival, Best Feature at The Network Film Festival, the Award of Outstanding Excellence at the CineMagic Film Fest, Best Cultural Impact Movie at the SoCal Film Awards, and the Best Cross-Culture Award at the Japan Film Festival Los Angeles.


Kento Matsunami & Lucia RodriguezThe Story

Akira, a Japanese-American high school senior, must begin his last year at a new school.  He’s discovered he has a gift for art, but his father Takashi sees no future in it and is determined to stomp it out.  Thankfully, his mother Hiroko draws upon good-natured patience and humor to keep the peace.  Meanwhile at school, Akira intervenes when bullies brutalize a gay student.  The incident wins Akira two new friends:  the victim Scott and Elizabeth.  The latter has everything Akira is looking for in a girl, so he’s surprised when he learns she is a social outcast.  The problem, Scott warns, is that Elizabeth may have a few loose marbles.  How else can one explain the macabre pictures she draws, her habit of talking out loud to nobody, and her sudden flights from a room?  . . . Is there a secret she is hiding?  Scott has his own problem: it’s long past time to let his parents know who he is.  One thing is perfectly clear:  each friend desperately needs the support of the other two as problems are met head-on.

Elizabeth aids Akira

Why We Made This FilmAkira & Takashi at odds

Another Yesterday tells the story of four different characters who have closed themselves off in different ways.  Akira has rejected his parents’ traditional values, Takashi is blind to his son’s unique gifts, Scott has hidden his sexuality from his parents, and Elizabeth has suppressed a deeply tragic experience.  These specific problems are interlaced with several broader layers of conflict:  1) traditional Japanese culture and spiritualism versus contemporary American values, 2) generational conflict, 3) the past versus the present, and 4) pragmatism versus idealism.  Ultimately, this narrative makes several arguments we feel are life-affirming:

      Compassion and kindness must govern our relationships.

      Different cultures don’t have to clash; one can learn and draw from multiple cultures.

      Different generations don’t have to clash; mutual respect can move mountains.

      It’s never too late to repair a relationship.

Through the narrative, viewers will ultimately gain a greater appreciation for Japanese values and spiritualism.  The narrative advocates the Mahayana Buddhist concept of metta, which extends benevolence toward all beings without discrimination, and karuna, which entails an active sympathy willing to help bear the pain of others. It also draws upon the Shinto concept of kami, in which both animate and inanimate objects are invested with a life-affirming spirit.

Heroes & villains

Left to right:  Billy Chengary, Lucia Rodriguez, Vic Velazquez, Kento Matsunami, Robert Caez, Brandon Clark 


Principal CharactersAkira in field

Akira Oniwa, 17 (played by Kento Matsunami).  He’s not terribly happy about having to switch schools during his senior year, and his relationship with his father has hit a rough patch:  when Takashi rejects his interest in art, Akira retaliates by pushing away his father’s heritage.  Ironically, that heritage — from spiritualism to the martial arts — has always served him well, but Akira can be stubborn (which also gets him into trouble at school).  One of his best traits is an ability to recognize qualities in a person that others miss; this draws him to Elizabeth and Scott.  As for peer pressure, it just bounces harmlessly off him without ever making a dent.



Elizabeth late sun 

Elizabeth Ayers, 17 (played by Lucia Rodriguez).  Under normal circumstances, she would be a high school hit:  she’s attractive, intelligent, and creative.  Instead, she’s a pariah:  her ghoulish drawings creep people out, she repeatedly sings the same song to herself, and her habit of panic-talking to the thin air before hysterically fleeing a room is beyond bizarre.  It's hard to know whether her problems are internal or external.

Scott Dahse & crosses 


Scott Dahse, 17 (played by Billy Chengary).  He is graced with intelligence and a deliciously off-kilter sense of humor.  His disaster of a car looks like it survived WWIII, and the way he drives it, it certainly won’t last much longer.  His classmates have flushed out the fact that he is gay, and they won’t forgive him for that fact.  His religious parents, however, still don’t know, and that’s where the problem lies.  The moment Scott most dreads is telling them the truth.




Takashi bereavedTakashi Oniwa, c. 50, is a Japanese immigrant (played by Naoyuki Ikeda).  Traditional Japanese culture permeates his essence and he is blessed to have married the great love of his life.  (Losing her would be like having the Sun expelled from the solar system.)  He also loves his son, but ironically, that love has led to conflict:  the core problem is that Takashi doesn’t want Akira to waste his time pursuing something that may not pan out — such as art. 


 Hiroko CU

Hiroko Oniwa, c. 50, is Takashi’s Japanese wife and Akira’s mother (played by Akiko Shima). She may be a terrible cook, but she has a great sense of humor, and she functions as the glue in the family; through her efforts alone, she is able to keep the peace between Akira and Takashi.  Her favorite saying functions as family philosophy:  “Kindness is always the answer.”



For more cast photos and the complete cast list, click here.

The set image at the top and the Scott Dahse still were photographed by Heidi De La Teja; the still of Elizabeth aiding Akira and the six-person cast photo were taken by Jeff Mankini; the remaining photographs were shot by Vic Velazquez.

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by R Heil last modified Feb 26, 2021 05:30 PM