This past session of Making Media That Matters we embarked on a new adventure. While previous sessions had us brainstorming for ideas on subjects we would like to cover, now we are beginning the process of formulating our characters, plots, and messages.
We began the session by making a large circle to talk about our week, what events may be coming up, and to make sure everyone is emotionally alright. Katie then proposed we each give a brief story about a time when we were injured in a ridiculous way. One of the members told us about the time she was playing tag with her brother in their home; as her mother warned her not to run in the house, she instantly slipped and fell on her back. Her mother simply gave her the look of “I told you not to do it.”
One of the mentors recalled a memory from her childhood where she faced an unrelenting bully. Her younger self thought jumping as high as she could from a swing set would level her with the bully. Though she made a perfect landing on all fours, she was promptly hit in the face by the swing, knocking her backwards, only to be smacked again from behind.
With every story, the group laughed with a little more ease. Each week we are getting even closer than before.
Dani then had us split into groups to define gender and we noticed the limitations of our gender (as told to us by others, of course) or the specific gender roles required and expected of us. My group came to the conclusion that gender is a personal subject which is different for every individual, there’s nothing concrete about it. Words like “fluid” and “spectrum” were used, making me happy that the younger generation seems much more open to gender fluidity.
As we transitioned to discussing when gender roles had affected us, our small group began to realize the instances usually took place at school, among friends, or with some of their closest family members. We acknowledged that it was more of a dated practice rather than a lesson or critical thinking when these gender stereotypes were applied to us. It's depressing to think that on a daily basis, gender stereotypes are used to limit, berate, and destroy confidence. Unfortunately, due to time restraints we were unable to share with the other groups the responses to the second question.
Then we moved from the hālau up to the classroom. As we settled into our seats, Laurie gave us a preview on the different roles in filmmaking. She also talked about the importance of variety; in angles, and in shots and scenes. She made it clear how it is crucial for every person behind the scenes to know their job, as well as the importance of how to communicate and go beyond the bare minimum with their work in order to have back up material. Laurie then played some examples on the projector, presenting the differences between an amateur-like short film and a professional-looking one.
After the presentation, Vera brought in guest speakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, who were showing us their film, A Place In The Middle. The movie began with telling the story of how in Hawaiian culture, men, women, and people who felt they were between both sexes (Māhū), lived among each other harmoniously. After missionaries came, the māhū went into hiding, as their very essence was deemed sinful by the newcomers. Yet, through perseverance and preservation, many aspects of Hawaiian culture have been saved. The film then brings us to present day Oʻahu, where we look through the lens of Ho’onani, a middle schooler who yearns to lead the boy’s hula group at her school. Kumu Hina, a firm but supportive teacher to Ho’onani, strives to create a space for people who find themselves in the middle. The movie demonstrates the emotional journey of self-appreciation, discovery, and triumph that both Ho’onani and Kumu Hina face. At the end of the movie, Ho’onani leads the boy’s group in the school’s final production, winning not only their respect but their hearts, as well.
Typically, one would assume a film about a marginalized group would consist solely on sadness or depressing topics, yet A Place In The Middle was far from a tragedy. The film showed the victorious side of living in the middle.
Back at the hālau, Dean and Joe answered questions about their inspiration for the film, their reasoning for the subject, their previous film endeavors, and advice for potential future filmmakers.
As the evening came to a close, the students filed out of the hālau, chattering amongst each other about subjects they could cover with their own films. While we seemed to discover more hilarious (yet wonderful) details about each other, the group has also come to realize that not all subjects revolving around social justice have to be gloomy or filled with sorrow, but instead can be brimming with pride. It seems like every week these girls sprint to discover new or more in-depth topics, rather than taking meek baby steps.