Another day with Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking! Only the second session of Making Media that Matters and already the heartfelt thoughts and talking about subjects that affect us deeply almost seems like the norm. This Friday, Vera, Laurie, and Katie initiated the meeting with “Paper Airplane,” an introduction game to break the ice because new members have arrived this week. The game consists of writing two questions down on a sheet of paper, folding it into the shape of a paper airplane, and throwing it into the middle of the room. Then, everyone picks an airplane, scrambles to find its owner, and ask the questions to one another.
There was a commotion of scuffling feet, crunching papers, and excited prattling, while cute, quirky, and interesting personal facts were exchanged, to the point where hugs and words of affirmation were given. After the early re-introductions, the mentors guided our attention to the large projected screen ahead and asked the participants to share videos, poems, songs, etc. Their chosen media content was supposed to be something that they found profound in meaning, perhaps inspiring what they wish to portray for their films. (They were asked the previous week to bring in media that inspired them.)
A few films in particular really left me speechless.
One of the clips was from the film, The Greatest Showman, and the video featured the unique characters singing in an ensemble, performing the song “This Is Me.” The song is about the characters of the film embracing their unusual features or talents despite the greater community being against them. The presenter of the video, though young in age, seemed wise beyond her years. She explained that she related to the music video because she is learning to accept herself the way she is. She described her ongoing bouts of depression and how it affected her, yet slowly she has fought back with determination and resilience. Her acknowledgement of these feelings caught me off guard. Most of the times these types of conversations are held with therapists, close family members, or sadly, never spoken at all. Her vulnerability was inspiring, and I believe that by speaking so openly, she was paving the way for more of these conversations to arise.
After the music video, one of the members decided to show one of her favorite short films, a Norwegian mini-television series. The portion we were shown was a Muslim girl debating a boy about the purpose of religion. Their conversation eventually became a dispute on the lack of evolutionary benefits of being gay. The film, accompanied by subtitles, ends with the two coming to a civil understanding and curiosity for each other's differences. The participant remarked on the importance of admitting to being wrong, and how it can open people up to greater conversation and understanding. While to society, the idea of admitting one is wrong is a sign of maturity and self composure, many never fully accept or properly apply this narrative to their lives, myself included, which made it an even more potent reminder.
The next music video involved a little more attention from the audience, as there were neither subtitles nor English spoken. The piece was an eye-catching, melodic, K-pop video with scenes on a train, laundromat, an enormous pile of clothing, and other bizarre sections. After the film played out, the participant that had shared the video interpreted the message. It was about people close to your heart committing suicide, how it shapes your life and emotions, and how they will be missed. The video also contained scenes that were meant to be a tribute to the victims of a 2014 ferry disaster that took the lives of 304 passengers, predominantly consisting of high school students. Everyone in the room agreed that the music video was an artistic masterpiece and a magnificent way of storytelling.
After a short break from seeing the moving works of art, everybody regrouped for the second segment of the evening. Serena and Noa, our poets, guided the participants in a writing workshop. We had to construct a character by giving them a name, age, sexual orientation, gender, drive, what they would post on social media. Then, we were instructed to write a poem about them. With only eight minutes to create a plausible character with depth and emotion, the group was nothing short of astounding. The characters were women with diverse ages, races, sexual preferences, and vastly different stories. They had strength and determination as they sought to seek self-improvement
Today was a great step forward from the first session of Making Media That Matters. Much like the characters created during this session, the members of Hawaʻi Women in Filmmaking have many of the incredible qualities they chose to portray in today’s assignment. The emotions, experiences, wishes, and desires are not only becoming more intense as time goes on, but the girls and young women themselves are becoming more comfortable talking about these hardships with this group. While everyone may have different struggles they are battling, the participants seem to be bonding quickly and empathizing with each other.