Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking took us to the movies to see the Women of Wonders Film Festival! The Women of Wonders Film Festival is a free and open event for the public that focuses on the achievements and life stories of women of all walks of life, from around the globe including those from Hawaiʻi. Because the students have been racking their brains for ideas on how to execute a fabulous film, taking a break to observe filmmakers in their creative element was a wonderful break! At around 3:30pm the guests began to trickle in and settled themselves into the seats at the Doris Duke Theatre to watch the short films program. After Vera introduced the event, the Women of Wonders Film Festival day #2 began.
As the room went dark, the screen opened with a scene of a young girl pouring tea from a teapot, into a glass, observing the glass’s contents, and then pouring it back into the teapot. She repeated this several times in order for her to capture the perfect picture on her phone. Eventually she got the perfect look for her tea, but unexpectedly, the battery in her phone died, so she angrily marched to find her charger. While the tea sat unattended, an older lady (most likely a family member) inched over with her walker only to gulp down the refreshing beverage and hobble away without a care in the world. As the girl returned with her charger she looked to find found the tea glass empty, and the movie ends.
The next film began with a young boy drawing outside with chalk. A girl comes up behind him and asks to play with her. As he goes into the house, he walks into a room to grab toys, sheets, and miscellaneous items. He creates a cozy tent for he and the girl to play in. As they play, the girl pulls out a wooden box. Inside sits a blue feather, which she hands to the boy. Without hesitation, he leaps up to hug her tight. Immediately after the hug, the scene was disturbed by the boy’s mother, who yanked the tent off and yelled at him for messing up the room, where the sister sat was empty. She took the toys and the sheets, setting the room back to its previous (darker) state. The boy left the room with his feather in hand. The last scene is he boy finishing his chalk drawing on the pavement. There lies the memory of his sister, drawn on the asphalt with the feather beside her. The boy had imagined his sister’s presence.
The following film opened with the scene of an empty house and a young woman talking to a smart-speaker. The woman’s younger sister comes from another empty room, voicing her displeasure for leaving their childhood home. The older sister assures her that everything will turn out well. As the younger sister is left alone, she begins to reminisce about times spent with her family in the house. As she walks through the house, she revisits the memories of her childhood - cooking with her parents, getting ready for parties with her family, her parents fighting, and other memories. She eventually comes back to the present and asks the smart-speaker where everyone is at the moment. The speaker responds by telling her that their mother is driving, their father is in his new house, and that both the sisters are at home. As the older sister comes into the room, the younger sister with a smile tells the smart-speaker to remove the category “home” from their current house. The film concluded with the speaker complying.
The screen went from black to showing an animated flower on a table. The flower was mesmerized by a painting of a sunset, and made a squeak of desire. All of a sudden, the flower nearly fell off its perch, but a trusty table saved it. The table then looked up to the painting on the wall. Like the flower, the table too wished to see this beauty and gallivanted (with the flower still on top of it) out the door. While the table and flower were trotting along the road, they came across a flower growing on a bush. The animated flower attempted to make contact with the other flower, only to realize the flower on the bush would not or could not respond. Though the flower was upset, the table walked them along to a storefront where they found a table sitting idly. The animated table tried to make contact with the storefront table, but again it was in vain. As both the flower and the table were discouraged by these encounters, the flower noticed the same painting from before on a car only an alley away. The table reared up and sped as fast as it could towards the vehicle, only to trip and fall. The flower ended up breaking its pot and the table was stuck on its backside. The flower dragged itself to the main road to call for help, only to be overlooked and nearly stepped on. The flower came to rest eternally by the table who remained motionless.
As the animated film concluded, the next film began with a story being told by a young New Zealander. She talked about her appreciation for the island, but how she and her family were not Maori, her ancestors are from Spain. She talked about the appreciation she and her family had for their heritage. The young girl told a story of her great grandmother. The tale was of her being born on the voyage to New Zealand, enjoying and loving her heritage, and on a return from a visit from Spain, she died on the voyage in which she was born. As the young girl said - her great grandmother was born and died at sea.
Another animated film came on the screen, this time telling the stories of people’s dreams. All were random manifestations, being told in the form of a single drawing line. Every story appearing to be connected by string.
Unlike the previous films, the plot in the following film was a poem, recounted by women of all walks of life. They talked about discomfort, rape, societal expectations, and how women need to stand up and fight back from now on.
The theme of fighting injustice continued with the next film that revolved around a fishing community. A new fishing group created by women had emerged. The woman in charge was a strict mother and fair ruler. The film began with her lecturing her daughter on completing tasks, or not leaving things to do later. The fisher women then faced a devastating blow when the fish in their enclosures were poisoned by an opposing fisher group. The woman in charge went to seek help from the other community fishermen, but sadly she was denied. Though the fishermen tried to discourage her and the group from fishing, the women banded together to keep the fish safe by keeping watch over the enclosures.
The last movie struk an even harder emotional chord. The film commenced with a teenage daughter coming to help her mother with business (dry cleaning), only to be confronted with an argument. As the day goes by, rude customers enter and exit the scene and the girl repeatedly asks why doesn’t her mother stand up for herself. As the day comes to an end, a suspiciously creepy customer enters just before closing. As he asks for his clothing, he follows the mother into the back to “help” out. As the daughter tended to the store, she decided to check up on her mother, only to see through a crack in a backroom door that her mom being assaulted by the customer. Though the daughter is initially stunned, she then saves her mother by interrupting the incident. After the customer leaves, the daughter and mother fold clothes silently side by side. Probably the films that stood out for me the most were the sisters that were moving and the mother and daughter at the drycleaners. When the sisters were moving away from their childhood home it reminded me of my own sister and I. Although we moved multiple times across different countries, every house left us with memories. When we lived back in California, the memory of our little bare feet slapping on the hardwood floors as we would chase each other around the house echoed through my ears. When we lived in Germany we would hunt for salamanders in our front pond, our hands would feel slimy after every touch due to their mucus and we would usually be soaked from slipping into the pond because of the mud surrounding it. In italy we would me chomping down on our sweet bread snacks holding our mother’s hand as we walked down the cobblestone from school… I could go on for ages about these memories. Every move took was a drastic change in our lives as every new home we created wouldn’t be our last. We have the most beautifully simplistic memories from all of these wonderful places, and like the sisters in the short film, my sister and I too realized there would be a new adventure.
The mother and daughter film at the dry-cleaners film, provoked a different set of emotions. We often hear about immigrants or people with a heavy english accents being racially targeted. Unfortunately ignorant and vicious people see immigrants with a heavy accents as an easy target, assuming their stupid, slow and clearly unable to defend themselves verbally. It's unfortunate but clearly visible that these bullies have been allowed to continue or fully display their true sentiments as the recent political climate has shifted. I remembered when we lived abroad and my mother faced this multiple times in stores where she was supposed to serve and not ridiculed, or when she would try to speak to our teachers at school (in whichever language our host country used) and instead would be ignored. The film showed how the mother was disrespected verbally and physically due to her accent and heritage, and sadly this story holds true today for many across the globe. I ask that witnesses to these atrocities stand up and fight back, there is nothing more motivating than people uniting together for the betterment of society by silencing and educating these bullies.
As the Women Of Wonders Film Festival ended, the theatre took a quick refreshment break. The audience made little groups between family members and friends, and a frenzy of excited conversation erupted among the people. I was now filled with inspiration on how I could help the girls create movies for the Making Media That Matters segment, and how to make films for my future career. What an incredible way of making unique, yet satisfying films.
Refreshments were served, small talk halted, and Vera came up onto the stage to announce the beginning of Indie Lens Pop-Up Film Dolores, a biographical/historical film about Dolores Huerta. The movie talked about the life, struggles, and fight for justice that Dolores Huerta started. She helped to create the National Farmworkers Association (which later on became the United Farm Workers), she alongside Cesar Chavez initiated the Delano Grape Strike and is most noted for her phrase “Si se puede,” which was used by president Barack Obama. She is a passionate advocate, putting the cause before her family, her health, even her own relationships with friends or those in power. She is an advocate for workers rights, immigrants rights, and women's rights. She created a platform for people in unjust circumstances to have a voice and better their lives. After many boycotts, protests, and strikes, Dolores retired from her positions of the United Farm Workers. At 87 years old she still advocates, organizes and speaks at events about people’s fight for justice.
The phrase “Si se puede” was heard throughout the theatre as the film ended. People amongst the audience discussed what a strong woman she is and how inspirational her drive was. I discovered that Dolores did everything she could for the people she felt needed it the most. Although many times she had to leave her children in the hands of stranger while she campaigned, she created a better future for those in need and an example of service for her children to follow. Though not every farmer and group she advocated for were on her side, she saw the greater outcome for the population as a collective; she saw what the end results needed to be while others could hardly imagine simple change in their lives.
The next segment was the premier of Reel Wahine of Hawaii. This portion of the night was an exhibition of 6 short films that talked about the experience of women as established filmmakers within the industry. The Reel Wahine of Hawaii Premier captured their challenges, triumphs, and how their style and philosophy evolved.
Although I had to leave for this section, Valerie Narte, Hawaii Women in Filmmaking documentarian, talked about how the event turned out, as well as and her reflection on her own participation in the making of the films.
“The Reel Wahine premiere was the most well-attended program of the WOWFF 2018” said Valerie. “Although we had been working on the series for over a year and I knew what the films were about, it didn't hit me until I saw all the Reel Wahine on stage - and getting to share the stage with them - that what we were working on was something really magical, and I am super grateful to be a part of it.”
Valerie shot five of the six films featured and was selected to edit Anne Misawa’s piece. “I was really excited to film and edit Anne Misawa's piece because she is a cinematographer and a teacher at the Academy for Creative Media at UH Manoa, where I went - although I didn't get to take her cinematography class,” said Valerie.
Valerie and Laurie Sumiye, director of the film, had the opportunity to attend one of Misawa’s advanced cinematography classes and be present at the premier of Go For Broke (which was produced by Misawa). Valerie shot B-Roll and interviews for her film.
“So it was a much more involved process than the other RWH [Reel Wahine of Hawaii] films that I had shot,” said Valerie.
The evening event was incredible. The MMTM participants were inspired by the creativity and content of the short films, the intensity of the documentaries, and the success stories of women filmmakers. While many people feel the idea of creating films is to follow the steps of famous hollywood blockbusters, there is plenty of room to expand. These films showed us a new styles of filming, animation, and storytelling methods that evoked strong emotions and worthwhile stories.