• Ngaio Simmons

End of Summer Reel Camps for Girls - A Reflection

The evenings are colder now. The past two months have felt like pure heat at all hours as if the sun and its rays follow us into the night well after its setting. While it seems like perpetual summer in Hawaiʻi to people who aren’t from here or haven’t lived here long enough, the rest of us know this was just one of many extremely hot summers to come. Every year it gets hotter and we notice the uptick in degrees more and more. Climate change is real. The people of the Pacific feel it intensely. Thankfully, though, we are beginning to see the influx of cool air earlier in the day. No longer waiting till we get home to sit in front of the fan or going to the bathroom to splash water on our faces for a second because it is now 75 degrees at 6:00 pm instead of 80. We are seeing a shift. We are having cooler commutes home and chances to enjoy the sunset without fear of being fried. We are transitioning.

Much like our Reel Camps. From early June up to the very last day of July with a sliver of a break in between, HWF has been hosting reel camps back to back to back. Meeting and re-meeting participants. Learning about new and familiar topics. Making new friends and re-uniting with old ones. Watching an entire film come to life from start to finish in a week’s time. And we are finally at the end of this specific cycle. Our summer of filmmaking has wrapped up and we find ourselves at the last showcase for summer 2021. The point of transition before the next equinox. Having cultivated and strengthened pilina both within the camp itself and through the sharing of films, we gather one more time in the circle that is Ka Waiwai to see what the participants have created in this last week. We gather together to see what Youth Mental Wellness looks and sounds like through the eyes of those who know it best.


Nameless Productions’ film, “Linda,” tells the story of a young girl who experiences manipulation and pressure from a supposed “friend,” Kathy, to let her cheat off her test. When they are both caught with the exact same results on the test, Kathy lies and makes it seem as if Linda is the one who cheated. After talking to her older sister about it and realizing that these actions are not what healthy friendships consist of, Linda finally decides to tell the teacher the truth and through this she gains more confidence in herself and her worth. Paper Hearts Studio’s film “Fake” shows an uneven relationship between two girls. One is trying earnestly to be a good friend while the other takes advantage and takes time away from activities that are important and meaningful to her friend. One of the girls ends up being stuck with the responsibility of ensuring the group project gets finished while the other one skips out to hang out with someone else. Much like the first film, the girl who is saddled with all of the work and who actually puts labor into this supposed friendship has a conversation with her mom, who encourages her to not give in to the negative tendencies of this person and to put herself first. This results in her telling her teacher that she did all of the work in the group project by herself and therefore receiving all of the credit, which is well-deserved. She learns that she is worth good things and that she deserves people that will appreciate her for who she is.


We’ve all grown up surrounded by a culture of self-sacrifice and burn out. We are encouraged by the colonial apparatus and capitalist mindset to throw out what feeds our souls and our spirit in favor of what feeds the proverbial machine. We see words like ‘grind’ and ‘hustle,’ and phrases like ‘no days off.’ We are taught that to get anywhere we must first let everyone take advantage of us. Go through hazing. Run around and do things for everyone else before ourselves. Grit our teeth and take the abuse because without it, we don’t get anywhere. It is taxing. It is demoralizing. It is corrupting. It has the power to absolutely destroy one’s wellness in every sense of the word.


But, as Kamuela Enos stated during the Q&A portion of the showcase, these films remind us that “self-advocacy is the core of mental wellness.” Tanya Smith-Johnson followed up with a point on self-care by saying that these films also remind us that “it is self care to have boundaries.” The films, while having slightly different plots and obviously different characters, had the same exact message and it is those points quoted above. To truly thrive means to put yourself first. To help others but only when you have given the love and assistance you deserve to yourself first. That wellness begins with remembering that your needs, desires, hopes, and dreams matter just as much as everyone else’s. That they too deserve support and a giant line drawn in the sand to keep anyone who would dare trample on them away. These films remind us that it’s ok to want to help others but never at the expense or detriment of our own health and mindset. We too deserve happiness, love, and healthy, abundant relations.


And what better way to end a season? To farewell summer and welcome in the new cycle? I can’t think of one. We’ve traversed many roads since starting the journey into beautiful, Reel Camp madness in early June. From environmental and reproductive justice all the way to LGBTQIA+ issues, it’s fitting that we end with mental wellness. Talking, thinking, and dreaming about what we do when we need to take care and make space for just us in the midst of all that we work for and towards. How we continue to push for this self-care and love mentality both for ourselves and for society as a whole. As we close the chapter on this season and we take all the lessons we’ve gained with us, how have you learned to show up for yourself today? How will you show up for yourself tomorrow? When the next season comes around, what will you share with us about how you’ve carved out your own forms of self-advocacy, tenderness, and care? And how can we continue to show up to support you as you keep. on. doing. the. dang. thing?


Another season is coming around. We look forward to hearing all about it.


To learn more about each Summer Reel Camp for Girls, click the links below.