Private Project


Nico Santucci's feature film "Sarogeto" is a story revealing the complicated and emotional struggle that Japanese American Grace / Minami Stanton faces and the controversial decision she makes on this unorthodox journey of a woman's search to find peace for her family and spiritual enlightenment. It's a film filled with relevant and thought provoking subjects including spirituality, mental illness, and depression. Sarogeto stars Ikumi Yoshimatsu, Eric Roberts, Winsor Harmon, Ruby Park, Koji Niiya, Aki Aleong, Angelica Bridges, Tyler Ghyzel, Derek Warburton, Pol Atteu and Nikki Nikita. The Sarogeto soundtrack was created by Jakob Balogh, Martin Tillman and Keaton Simons. Sarogeto is the first to be allowed to film in the Aokigahara Forest (Suicide Forest) in Japan and additional locations include Tokyo, Laguna Beach, Marina del Rey and Newport Beach. This film is partially subtitled in Japanese, with the majority in English.

  • Nico Santucci
  • Nico Santucci
  • T.M. Hayes
  • Nico Santucci
    Bar Rescue, Social, Supergroup, Mystery Diners
  • Ikumi Yoshimatsu
    Key Cast
    "Grace / Minami Stanton"
  • Eric Roberts
    Key Cast
    "Dr. Ross Langely"
    Gypsy Kings, The Pope Of Greenwich Village
  • Winsor Harmon III
    Key Cast
    "Michael Stanton"
    Cult Cartel, The Bold and the Beautiful
  • Ruby Park
    Key Cast
    "Miki Endo"
  • Angelica Bridges
    Key Cast
    "Cindy Warburton"
  • Koji Niiya
    Key Cast
    "Hiro Yuki"
  • Tyler Ghyzel
    Key Cast
    "Augie Stanton"
    American Princess
  • Miho Ando
    Key Cast
    "Grace's Inner Voice"
    Repent, Neon Daze
  • Derek Warbuton
    Key Cast
    "Daniel Bridges"
  • Mella Noir
    Key Cast
    American Sicario, Mystery Diners, Wine & Whimsy
  • Dusty Dukatz
    Key Cast
    Steal Wheels
  • Jackie Lewis
    Key Cast
    The Bay, Wine & Whimsy
  • Aki Aleong
    Key Cast
    "Dr. Yuki Tano"
    To Hell and Back, The Chinaman's Journey
  • Sueko Oshimoto
    Key Cast
    The Wolverine, The Lost Samurai
  • Michael V. Chambers
    Key Cast
    Bygone, Easy Street
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
    Feature, Other
  • Genres:
    Suspense, Drama, Spiritual, Sensitive Topics, Thriller, Experimental, Melodrama, Mystery, Feature, IndieFilm, Art
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 32 minutes 39 seconds
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Japan, United States
  • Language:
    English, Japanese
  • Shooting Format:
    Arri Alexa
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Nico Santucci

Seeing the future through his own lens directing cinematic feature
“Sarogeto”... Filmmaker Nico Santucci began conceiving an idea for a screenplay in 2017 by choosing 2 Asian female protagonists, depression, spirituality and mental illness in particular as themes. All are highlighted in his feature film, “Sarogeto” and currently across many headlines worldwide. As an Italian Chicagoan from the back of a mobster speakeasy - who would imagine that he would have an eerie clairvoyance that not only compelled him to write, but direct this debut project?

Santucci artfully shares his story revealing a complicated and emotional struggle that Japanese American Grace / Mimi Stanton faces. Such ambitious prowess would prove tricky for any filmmaker, but in his hands it blends provocative and powerful subject matter with an eager new set of eyes. We were curious and asked him to reveal deeper…

Q: What compelled you to these particular topics?

NS: Part of the wonders of the world include experiencing other cultures, including their traditions, values and beliefs. They are often vastly different from our own and I wanted to fully explore those possibilities being internationally understood and accepted.

Q: Ikumi Yoshimatsu certainly had some intense emotions on display in her performance. What motivated you to make a film predominantly about the troubled life of a Japanese woman?

NS: I always felt curiosity blended with deep admiration and respect for the Japanese culture in particular...” he said. “ Their history of ancient, artful tradition paired with refined, elegant grace. It can be fascinating and powerful when revealed in a soulful way. I wanted to translate Grace as a traditional Japanese mother and wife and Miki Endo (played by Ruby Park) as a modern millennial who understands Grace’s mindset.

Q: Tell us about your style of filmmaking - how would you characterize it?

Well...although this story is slightly nouveau, it’s quite timeless and classic in composition. This film is always moving and evolving visually and emotionally, so I was adamant about the camera and lens package. Opening very wide...but, as emotions build the 80mm became the lens of choice with many scenes larger than life in scale and impact. Lenses can become addicting when telling your story and in life and I can’t see doing anything other than directing in my next chapter.

Q: Sarogeto has been described as “controversial. Explain.

NS: Well, at the time I had no idea this would be a trending, controversial topic around the world. It’s not something I’m happy about, but at the same time - what was in my mind’s eye led to a journey of discovering one's self (Grace, in this case). She felt her actions would define her character in the end and the audience is able to see the variables of what the cost of our actions are in this life and forever after… and we are left with questions of good vs. evil and we’re definitely left questioning our religious or spiritual beliefs..

Q: What does “Sarogeto” mean and why did you choose it as your title?

It’s Japanese for surrogate, which is quite misunderstood as is her story in the film.

Q: Sarogeto is dedicated to Eva Tillman. Who is she and why?

NS: Eva was Martin Tillman’s muse and partner in life for many happy years...when she was diagnosed with a terminal disease - I understood and respected where her motivations were coming from. She had a wonderful life filled with music, laughter and love. She was the happiest person as anyone who had the pleasure of knowing her light would attest, when she decided that her life was not worth living in pain, we honoured her then for making that journey and now with this film.

From 2017 when issues like religion, spirituality and terminal illness were whispered about and kept behind closed doors - fast forward to 2021, and these concerning themes that Nico omnisciently dreamed, wrote, and filmed years ago are front page news today.

SAROGETO STARS: Ikumi Yoshimatsu, Eric Roberts, Winsor Harmon, Ruby Park, Koji Niiya, Aki Aleong, Angelica Bridges, Derek Warburton and Nikki Nikita, with original scores and music created by world renowned composer Martin Tillman, Jakob Balogh and Keaton Simons. Dedicated to Ewa Tillman, who was euthanized by her choice in Switzerland during the making of Sarogeto.

“The Vulnerability of Young Japanese Women and Suicide

“Rising Suicide Figures Reflect Many Women’s Despair in a Pandemic”
“Japan’s Suicides Increase - Covid, Coronavirus, Mental Health” (3)
“Covid-19 Takes Particularly Heavy Toll On Japan’s Women” (4)
“Soaring Female Suicide Rate Amid COVID Crisis in Japan Could be a Warning to the World”(5)

Nico Santucci
Filmmaker: La Stratta Films
Twitter: @NicoSantucci
IG: @NicoSantucci

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Nico Santucci directed, wrote and produced "Sarogeto" and divides his time between Las Vegas, where he owns The Original Capo's Speakeasy and Newport Beach. "In 2017, I completed my first and only screenplay and in 2020, trepidatiously, I decided to produce and direct the film - (also a first!), which had been a dream most of my adult life. It was a labour of love in the palms of my hands for more than two years and was a difficult story to tell, but I feel it deserved to be told."