“Oceania is vast, Oceania is expanding, Oceania is hospitable and generous, Oceania is humanity rising from the depths of brine and regions of fire deeper still, Oceania is us. We are the sea, we are the ocean…”
― Epeli Hauʻofa, We Are the Ocean: Selected Works
Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking (HWF) began last weekend leading its newest workshop, Oceania Voices, a filmmaking intensive for women. The filmmaking intensive was organized in-part and centered in response to the overwhelming call from women in the community, that desired to deepen their technical and storytelling skills through the medium of film. The workshop was organized, facilitated, and executed by Vera Zambonelli along with a dynamic team that included Daní Ortiz Padilla as documentarian. The filmmaking instructors included, Gemma Cubero del Barrio and Valerie Narte, both brilliant, fierce and leading filmmakers in Hawaiʻi. The workshop laid out foundation skills for filmmaking and gave the women an opportunity to learn from two leading creatives in the field. It was designed to examine the connection and relationship to the Pacific, and the way in which place, history, and connection informs voice, storytelling, and creation.
During the three-day workshop, the women were given the opportunity to explore story building, filmmaking, and creativity by focusing on what drives their own narratives, at its’ core. Each day was intentional and flowed seamlessly with the guidance of Vera, Gemma and Val, as the instructors. From pre-production to the press kit, it was packed with key conceptual elements for filmmaking and was certainly a fascinating experiment with time, to say the very least.
On the final day, the women organized themselves into two production crews. Beginning early that morning, the crews were able to begin shooting right after our morning session. Before that though, they had the time to sit with and figure out what they were going to shoot for the allotted time of only two hours! An emerging idea and familiar thread throughout had to be, the paradoxical nature and essence of what it means to live and be in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. Hawaiʻi not as just a place but as lineage, connector, home, and as resistance. The production crews explored issues around displacement, houselessness, tourism, and poverty in Hawaiʻi. By this time, it was abundantly clear that both crews had their story and it was time to hit the ground running. By the time lunch time came, both crews were getting ready to move into the latter part of the training that included; footage review, editing, media management, and distribution as well.
To say that these women are simply inspiring would of course be so incomplete of a word. The women created such honest, moving, and realistic stories about their experience. Within a mere couple of hours, the women jumped into and embarked on their individual journeys as directors, screenwriters, sound technicians as well as editors. I, for one relished in the women’s commitment to film, and their exploration in deepening their connection to each other, this land, and their own voice as storytellers. Both production crews similarly focused in on the paradoxical, dismal, and the relentless nature to their existence here on island. It was a solid attempt at exploring creativity while practicing voice within the context of Hawaiʻi, while shedding light on the underlying tones of occupation, conflict, and disconnection. Something that stayed with me was the concept of the Pacific, as a connector into a source of vulnerability thereby allowing for more fluid, malleable conversations around how to create our story with our own unique voice at the center. If you didn't get an opportunity to join this time around, the HWF community intends on organizing another intensive for women in the upcoming months so stay tuned!