At the Wāhine in Film Mixer, hosted by Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking, everyone was asked to write on the wall what their most profound dream for the world of women in the film industry was. Several women wished for more funding for women’s projects. Others wished for equity. Another for more interactions among women, workshops and mentoring programs. One wished that she would longer have to count the number of female characters or subjects in a film because there would already by ample representation.
But by the closing of the night, Michelle Poppler -animator and HWF mentor - announced to the crowd that formed a circle around the room, that she didn’t write one.
“I didn’t have to,” Michelle shared. “Sixteen years ago, I wished there was an organization that got female filmmakers together back when I was a New Media Arts student at KCC and one of a handful of women in that program.”
Now that is a reality.
On November 4th, HWF opened its doors to host award-winning and aspiring filmmakers. From Executive Director of Women Make Movies Debra Zimmerman to Hawaii International Film Festival founder Jeannette Hereniko to 13-year-old filmmaker Phoenix Maimiti Valentine, the theme of the night was “Connect. Collaborate. Corroborate.”
Zimmerman, who earlier in the week spoke on a Hawaii Media Makers conference panel called “Changing the Narrative: Women in Media,” said that although she travels the world working with women and getting their films made, Hawaiʻi and the HWF is something special.
“This intergenerational, this meeting of women from all aspects of film is really something [Hawaiʻi] should be proud and so grateful for. I’m grateful to be part of it,” Zimmerman said.
Mixers like these and getting the women together, she said, is very important.
“That’s where our power lies, in our numbers. It’s our way of showing support for one another,” she said. “I think it’s important that women get a chance to tell their own stories. Everybody else’s dreams, let’s make them happen because our power is the way that we can work together and make sure that they do happen.”
HIFF founder Hereniko made an appearance before dashing off to the film festival, that started earlier in the week. She praised HWF’s efforts to promote women in film. As a pioneer for the advancement of women in the film industry in Hawaiʻi, she didn’t want to miss this gathering of women.
“I think it’s fantastic that women are shifting their own attitudes about their unique abilities and that women in film are being celebrated. It’s important for them to follow their bliss and realize their dreams,” Hereniko said.
The mixer was enough to inspire a newcomer to realize her dreams may be possible.
“I’m an aspiring screenwriter,” said Kala Abing.
Abing had only recently discovered HWF at a recent outreach effort a week prior and made sure she could attend the mixer. She said that HWF would be seeing her more often now.
The women directors and producers who have films playing at HIFF also got a chance to promote their films. That included Phoenix, who had two films in the student showcase.
The night could not have been more of a success for Zambonelli.
“It’s so amazing to see so many of us in the same room - so much brilliance. And also learning about each other and resources, the kind of things that actually happens when you have conversations,” she said.
HWF has created a community where there was none and works tirelessly to raise visibility and awareness of women’s and girls’ work in film. In January, it will resume the monthly gatherings, and currently holds open houses for people interested in learning about the organization and its several upcoming educational programs.
Below some of the wishes we all have for Wāhine in Film!