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Local TV Show Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i Wins Emmy® Award


June 4, 2023

San Francisco, CA — June 4, 2023 — A local television show about Hawai‘i filmmakers reached a new milestone this weekend. “Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i” picked up an Emmy Award in the Historical/Cultural Program category.

The series is produced by Honolulu-based non-profit Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking whose mission is to create more opportunities for women in front of and behind the camera. The films are told through the eyes of Hawai‘i-based female directors and crafted by all-women film crews.

“ Each season of Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i spotlights the work and creative inspirations of six Hawai‘i women filmmakers.” says series producer Shirley Thompson, “We tell the stories of women who have produced and directed well known local films as well as camerawomen, editors and animators behind the scenes whose creativity helps bring local films to life.”

Adds series producer Vera Zambonelli, “It’s so important that we document and celebrate the pioneering women who paved the way and help build the local independent film industry, as well as new rising stars who continue to create groundbreaking work.” Zambonelli is also the founding Executive Director of Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking.

The show aired in March 2022 on PBS Hawai‘i and is currently streaming at The Northern California region Emmy Awards were presented June 3 in San Francisco by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The cast and crew gathered in Honolulu for an Emmy watch party and live-streamed the event over the web.

The Emmy Award winning program represents the third season of the Reel Wāhine series, a compilation of six short films which showcase the work of veteran Hawai‘i filmmakers Joy Chong-Stannard (PBS Insights, Canefield Songs: Holehole Bushi), Joan Lander (Act Of War: The Overthrow Of The Hawaiian Nation), and Meleanna Aluli Meyer (Maunakea: Sacred Mountain, Sacred Conduct). Also featured are Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, writer and co-director of the Oscar-qualified animated short film Kapaemahu, and documentarian Kimberlee Bassford (Patsy Mink Ahead Of The Majority), as well as Zoë Eisenberg (Stoke, Chaperone), one of only three women to direct a narrative feature film in Hawai‘i.

The series’ first featured filmmaker was acclaimed local film producer and director Heather H. Giugni, also an Emmy winner for her PBS food and travel show Family Ingredients. Giugni directed the short film about Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu. “I love that filmmaking is such a great influencer, that it gives your message power and the ability to make change,” said Giugni. “It was such an honor to focus on Hinaleimoana Kalu-Wong, a Hawaiian beacon who reveals her truth, her courage, her force — her mana — through action and voice. I am grateful to HWF for making this all possible by supporting women and young girls to tell more incredible stories.”

Additionally, award-winning filmmakers Anne Misawa and Erin Lau, along with producers Thompson and Zambonelli each directed one of the short films.

“It was an incredible honor to be a part of this project,” said Lau, who directed the film featuring Meleanna Aluli Meyer. “I wouldn't be where I am or who I am today without the guidance and examples set forth by female artists and leaders like Meleanna. I hope these powerful wāhine stories can also spark the next generation of female voices.”

“What a wonderful, joyful opportunity to work together with the HWF ‘ohana and with Joy!” added Misawa, who directed the film featuring Joy Chong-Stannard. “So deserving of a spotlight for many years, Joy’s modest grace and steadfast work has been a backbone to the Public TV and the documentary landscape, illuminating voices of ‘every person’ in Hawai’i to a larger arena. I’ve learned so much from Joy and hope that this glimpse of her as well as of those of others will further illuminate possibilities for many.”

Zambonelli underscores the ethos behind the series, “The film and television business is still an overwhelmingly male dominated industry, where most of the films and shows that you see are greenlighted, written and directed by men. Our series hopes to shatter the glass celluloid ceiling in the Hawai‘i film industry by hiring women directors, editors, camera and sound people. We are also training the next generation of Hawai‘i women filmmakers through an internship program where each director mentors one young woman through the entire filmmaking process.”

“When you see yourself in the past, you're assured of your future, and it's so important for people to see women making films, to see women directors in action, to see creative women telling their truth through the art that they make,” Thompson added.

Meanwhile, Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking is busy completing the next six films for Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i Season 4, which they plan to premiere in fall of 2023. HWF has now produced 24 films through the Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i series and has hosted over a hundred gatherings, bringing in attendance of thousands of people to learn about women filmmakers here in Hawai‘i. The Reel Wāhine of Hawaii Season 3 films are made with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Gerbode Foundation and Mary Therese Perez Hattori.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for season four and potential sponsors should contact Vera Zambonelli at Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking.


For more information, press only:

Vera Zambonelli

(808) 206-0848

Shirley Thompson

(808) 457-7924

See the tv show currently streaming on PBS Hawai‘i’s website through June 15:

Visit our page for more information and downloadable images:

See the trailer:

1 minute trailer:

Photo captions:

Photo 1: Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i series producers Shirley Thompson and Vera Zambonelli raise a glass after winning an Emmy in the Historical/Cultural program category on June 3. The filmmaking team gathered for an Emmy watch party in Honolulu and the ceremony was streamed live from San Francisco. Photo credit: Amber McClure.

Photo 2: The Emmy-award winning Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i 3 features (from Left to Right, top to bottom) filmmakers Zoë Eisenberg, Joy Chong-Stannard, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Joan Lander, Meleanna Aluli Meyer and Kimberlee Bassford,

About Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking

Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking advocates for women and girls (cis/trans), femmes, non-binary, gender-fluid and gender-queer to tell their stories through film with an intersectional lens.

The films and their directors:

Reel Wahine of Hawai‘i: MELEANNA ALULI MEYER directed by Erin Lau

Reel Wahine of Hawai‘i: JOY CHONG-STANNARD directed by Anne Misawa

Reel Wahine of Hawai‘i: JOAN LANDER directed by Vera Zambonelli

Reel Wahine of Hawai‘i: HINALEIMOANA WONG-KALU

directed by Heather H. Giugni

Reel Wahine of Hawai‘i: KIMBERLEE BASSFORD directed by Vera Zambonelli

Reel Wahine of Hawai‘i: ZOË EISENBERG directed by Shirley Thompson


Social Media Accounts and Hashtags:

Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking, Vera Zambonelli, series co-producer

On Twitter: @hiwomeninfilm

On Instagram: @hiwomeninfilmmaking

Shirley Thompson, series co-producer

Twitter @shirleythompson

Instagram @shirleythompsoneditor

@shirleythompsoneditor @shaneikaaguilar @jessiehearther @reneagavrilovstewart @wegofilm @kahaluu_laulau @martha.marje @Mokihantreez @alisonweek @liz_barney @uhleta @kristlekayelois @hgiugni @Christian.malia @_zzzeniii_ @vera.urban.encounters #ReelWahineofHawaii @meleannaameyer @zoeisenberg @hulagirlproductions @kumuhina #namakaokaaina @makingwavesfilms @em.cris @annemisawa #hiff #hiffhawaii #film #filmfestival #hawaii @hiffhawaii


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