Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking presents
REEL WĀHINE OF HAWAI‘I 4
World premiere of six new films featuring Hawai‘i women filmmakers
October 15th at 43rd Hawaiʻi International Film Festival
Honolulu, HI — September 15, 2023 — Activism, creative expression, capturing history, community building: this in part is what drives six “Reel Wāhine” to dedicate their lives to making independent films in Hawai‘i. The Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i series is back for a fourth season, showcasing stories of trailblazing as well as emerging women filmmakers.
The films will have their world premiere at the 43rd Hawaiʻi International Film Festival on October 15, 2023 at noon at Consolidated Theaters Kahala.
What sets the Reel Wāhine film series apart is that the films are produced and created by all women directors, camera and sound crews, writers and editors. The goal of the series, according to series co-producer Vera Zambonelli, is to redress gender inequity in the film industry while documenting the untold stories of Hawai‘i’s women filmmakers.
“Even in a Barbie-dominated year with a woman director helming the world’s top grossing movie, filmmaking remains an overwhelmingly male dominated industry,” says series co-producer Shirley Thompson. Indeed, the 2021-22 Celluloid Ceiling Report by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen reveals stark gender inequities in the screen industries, with fewer female protagonists on screen than men and even fewer women creatives behind the camera. Zambonelli adds, “Our film series ensures that the stories of women filmmakers in Hawai‘i will be told by women, in films that employ women.”
Those featured in the film series include:
Ann Marie Kirk, (Happy Birthday Tūtū Ruth), a native Hawaiian activist and filmmaker, whose documentaries inquire into Hawai‘i’s past and history’s impact on how we live today.
Jana Kealokaokeakua Park, (My Partner, E Mālama Pono Willy Boy) a Moloka‘i born producer/director whose narrative films bridge the diverse communities which make up Hawai‘i.
Stephanie J. Castillo (An Uncommon Kindness: The Father Damien Story), a Kaua‘i-based Emmy award-winning writer and director whose documentaries explored the lives of people driven by devotion to others.
Sancia Miala Shiba Nash, (Ka moʻopuna i ke alo, The grandchild in the presence) an emerging voice in independent filmmaking from Kihei, Maui. Her films are rooted in oral histories, archives and acts of translation.
Leanne K. Ferrer, a groundbreaking executive producer who, before her untimely death in 2021, had a profound impact on the Hawai‘i independent film industry through visionary funding and support of local film by the organization she led, Pacific Islanders in Communications.
Shaneika Aguilar (Mama’s Wish), an Emmy Award winning cinematographer and editor whose rich, textured images transport the audience into the world of the protagonist. Aguilar also lensed three of the six films.
“Filmmakers create culture,” underscores Zambonelli. “What does it mean for society if the stories we see on the screen are missing the female point of view? Reel Wāhine documents the stories of these women creatives and ensures that their contributions to the Hawai‘i film industry will never be overlooked or forgotten.”
The films were led by six women directors, including Zambonelli and Thompson, as well as Amber McClure (director, Finding Dohi), Fé María Vásquez (script & continuity, The Wind and the Reckoning) and Marlene Booth (director, Kū Kanaka: Stand Tall). In addition to producing and directing the films, each director mentored an aspiring young filmmaker through the process of making a film. Six students ranging in age from 16 to 23, were selected for the Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i internship program. They received training in camera and sound, set etiquette and editing, and worked as production assistants on the films, gaining valuable real world filmmaking experience as well as a film credit. Vásquez mentored Natasha Kosevych, a film student at Hawai‘i Pacific University. “I wanted her to be an active participant in the process rather than follow instructions.” Vásquez explained, “Natasha had the green light to participate, comment and collaborate.”
“Grateful,” adds McClure,“to have been able to participate in this multigenerational exchange with these amazing women. Ann Marie Kirk, is someone I consider to be a mentor, and she and I simultaneously provided training and mentorship to our intern Lee-Won Fulbright.”
“The production of RWH creates a powerful intergenerational conversation between the veteran filmmakers we profile, the working directors and crew who make the films, and our young aspiring filmmakers who work as interns on the films and are mentored through the creative process,” says Zambonelli. “Since we produced the first episode of RWH in 2018, we have seen our community of wāhine filmmakers grow into a close-knit team of collaborators in ever greater numbers and with more success.”
Veteran award-winning filmmaker Marlene Booth has been directing documentaries for over forty years, but she was moved and challenged by the making of her documentary about Stephanie J. Castillo, who was in hospice when she agreed to do one final interview with Booth and her crew. “Being with her and her family was one of the most tender experiences of my long filmmaking career,” recalled Booth, “I am so grateful that the Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi series connected me to filmmaker Stephanie Castillo and her family. Who knew how moving and deepening the whole experience would be? Amazing what happens when you say, "yes, Iʻll do that."
Season 3 of Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i was honored in June with a regional Emmy award. There are now 24 films in the series, and they can be viewed via YouTube or on PBS Hawai‘i. The team has six more films currently in development and are busy seeking funding, sponsors and allies.
In crafting these stories, the producers also began this project to cultivate a passion and eagerness for cinema among young women.
“We are here to create a brave and safe space for women and girls to connect, collaborate and support each other in telling stories and making sure that we pay attention not only to the stories, but also who's telling those stories,” said Zambonelli, who is also the founder and executive director of Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking.
The organization is celebrating its 12th year in 2023, and continues to inspire young women to pursue film, giving them the tools and opportunities they need to succeed in the industry. Since the organization was created, it has served over 800 young women through filmmaking programs, including Reel Camps for Girls and Making Media That Matters.
The Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi Season 4 films are made with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and Kamehameha Schools, and is a production of Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking.
The 43rd Hawaiʻi International Film Festival features new and emerging talent from filmmakers and artists across the globe, recognizing the unique stories within the Asia-Pacific region.
Tickets are available at hiff.org.
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About Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking
Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking advocates for women and girls (cis/trans), femmes, non-binary, gender-fluid and gender-queer to tell their stories through film with an intersectional lens. For more visit: hawaiiwomeninfilmmaking.org.
Social Media Accounts and Hashtags:
Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking, Vera Zambonelli, series co-producer
On Instagram: @hiwomeninfilmmaking
Shirley Thompson, series co-producer
@shirleythompsoneditor @shaneikaaguilar @alisonweek @up_is_down @kehaulani_n @vera.urban.encounters @meleannaameyer @hiffhawaii @ava.nakagawa @jaxolotl._.21 @1leewon @cuedup @malialuna @martha.marje @natshka.kosevich @theoriginalwaywarddaughter @sanciamiala @trees.give.air @femvasquez @janaparkproducer @ambermam