• Katie Caldwell

Girls Making Media That Matters Film Fest!

It is officially the last night of Making Media That Matters and I have arrived early to Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH Manoa to help set up. I love this place and am thrilled that Vera chose it for our final evening together. I greeted some of the staff and took my place at the registration table, where we were signing in guests! I met members of the board, who were each so gracious and willing to lend a helping hand. I sat down and got to work taking names and greeting our guests. The MMTM participants starting trickling in with caregivers, Mom, Dads, uncles and aunties; some with excitable little brothers or sisters in tow. I hugged each of them, already feeling sad that the end was near. Some of the students were excited, some were nervous, and some were calm as can be, like they show their own personal feature films on the daily. :)

As the space grew louder with more and more voices, some of our staff were interviewing the students about their experience. Popcorn had been placed at the entrance (I mean who watches movies without popcorn, right?!?!) and I happily munched alongside a few of our participants as I waited for the show to begin. Kaiwipuni (Punihei) Lipe, the HWF Vice-President of the board welcomed the audience giving a beautiful Oli and then provided us with a brief history of Kamakakūokalani. She spoke lovingly about the powerful mana present and told us that the Halau we were in has the name of the Hawaiian goddess and ancestor: Haumea. This brief historical and place-based introduction seemed so extremely fitting for our program. Next, Cindy Spencer, one of board directors, took the stage to give a hearty mahalo and acknowledgement to our donors - all of the foundations and nonprofits and in-kind donations that make Making Media That Matters possible. Tai-an Miao, the treasurer of the board, took the stage and spoke about our upcoming campaign (Please watch our video and donate HERE !) to raise funds for, and awareness about, our upcoming Summer Reel Camps for Girls*, then she introduced Vera.

Vera spoke about our Making Media That Matters program and how we each learned from one another, always with the intention of making media that is important to the participants, the audience, and the world. She said a special mahalo to each staff member and the work that they contributed, but her last statement was probably the truest and most simplistic: "This is ultimately not about me or the staff, however, but about the films and the students." Indeed.

From there we transitioned to viewing our first film! I couldn't wait to see the final products! Two of our film mentors, Elliana and Sam, came up to introduce the film Nameless, by CAPS Productions. Nameless is a film about a young homeless girl with big dreams that has a desire to be free. The first opening notes of the chosen film score echoed throughout the space, and the beginning shot was a close up of the little girl's eyes (the young girl in the movie was portrayed by one of our own students). I found myself suddenly completely overcome with emotion and my eyes welled up. My mind flashed back to the beginning of this program and how well I've gotten to know these amazing teenagers. I thought about how much planning, time, and effort they put into each film...and here it had finally come together. I kind of laughed inwardly to myself at my emotional response, but also thought about how lucky I am to be part of something that moves me in such a profound way. I was impressed with the composition of this film...the way the team used light, camera angles, and effects to draw the audience in. The film began with images of a young girl, happily talking about the dreams she has for herself. It showed her playing, swinging, and running freely. Then it abruptly cuts to "reality" and the little girl is homeless, crying and clearly in some trauma-induced state, being held by an older woman that is trying to help her. The filmmakers from CAPS Productions were called up to the stage after the movie aired, for a quick Q&A with the audience. Here were some of the questions asked and answered:

  • What inspired this particular theme? The director, Liti, answered that she has had a long-held a passion for children, and thinks that overcoming poverty is incredibly difficult. She wanted to show the audience that even homeless children have dreams.

  • How was it to act in the film? Our student actor, Bella, answered that she had fun, but that it took her awhile to feel comfortable. Our film mentor, Elliana, was also an actress in the film. She responded that because she is a filmmaker, she is much more comfortable behind a camera, but that she too loosened up and enjoyed herself.

  • What were the challenges to making this film? Imiloa, the DP and camerawoman, stated that the group had to move locations on the second day of shooting and start all over. This was frustrating because they lost so much footage from the first day.

  • What was it like to learn about and operate sound on a film? Siena, the sound person, answered that It was weird to hear everything super loud, "like a dog" (this gave the audience a good chuckle). She could even be completely across the street with the equipment and still hear the group loud and clear.

To watch Nameless, click here!

The next group was introduced by another one of our amazing film mentors, Talissa. This film was entitled Cutouts by Body Positive Productions, and is the story of a young girl that is struggling with body image and confidence problems. She is so haunted by her self-esteem issues that magazine cutouts actually "chase" her down the street. The film opened with a teenage girl, asleep in her bedroom with a magazine across her face. Cutouts of slim, airbrushed models line the wall above her bed. As she awakens and begins to get ready, she painfully looks in the mirror; pinching her hips, looking at herself disapprovingly, and applying loads of makeup before leaving. As she walks down the street, the magazine cutouts seem to "chase" her and haunt her to the point where she feels she cannot escape. The final scene portrays her drawing images and posting them next to the cutouts on her wall. I was impressed by the chances this group took in making their film...many difficult special effects were added to portray emotion and to set the tone of the film convincingly. When the film ended, the team was called to the stage for a Q&A with the audience. Some of the questions and answers were:

  • What was your inspiration for the film? The director, Kyung Ju, stated that because the group is made up of all girls, they have all experienced some form of negative self-image and unhealthy body image. She went on to state that because they could all relate to those feelings, they were all passionate about this project and wanted to make a film that portrayed it.

  • What was your inspiration for the scene that had different colored lights flashing? Kyung Ju answered that they used a projector to flash different colors. The idea was to convey a feeling of chaos. They wanted to represent what women go through, mentally. Kyung Ju artfully stated, "When you say, 'self-image issues,' it's not physically seeable, but it's still a very real, painful thing. We wanted to show how stressful it is."

  • As the only actress, did you feel pressure? The actress, Sequoia, answered that even though it was stressful at times, everyone got along really well and she just tried to do what she thought was best for the scene, and what the director told her to do. She stated that it was an experience she was glad to have.

  • What was it like to be a set designer and manager? The set manager, Maya, answered that she had to be extremely observant with the sets. She stated that figuring out how to make a bedroom in our film space was a challenge, and that she had to get creative to do so, like taking a stack of books to cover an outlet for a scene.

To watch Cutouts, click here!

We then had a brief intermission and some of the staff showed a "mockumentary" entitled Overqualified that they had filmed and created as a surprise for the staff and audience. The film hilariously showed some of our film mentors behaving completely inappropriately and acting disastrously inept at filmmaking. It was hysterical and such a surprise for all of us! :)