World Premiere of Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi Season 3, featuring Hawai‘i women filmmakers
Honolulu, HI — October 8, 2021 — Following an unprecedented year of production due to the pandemic, Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking is excited to present the world premiere of its third installment of Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i at the 41st Hawaiʻi International Film Festival on November 7, 2021, which will screen in-person and will stream as part of HIFF's online film festival from November 4 to 28, 2021.
Season 3 of Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i showcases the often untold stories of Hawai‘i women filmmakers, celebrating the powerful and important work of pioneering women who paved the way to help build the local industry as well as new rising stars who continue to create groundbreaking work.
The season spotlights six new episodes that document the real-life stories of these filmmakers through a female gaze, while also redressing gender inequity in the male-dominated industry.
Those featured in the film series include:
Meleanna Aluli Meyer, a visual artist and filmmaker known for her documentaries which focus on building pride, understanding and support of Hawaiian families and culture from an insider’s perspective. Her film, Maunakea: Sacred Mountain, Sacred Conduct, was featured in HIFF 40.
Joy Chong-Stannard, a live television and documentary director whose career spans 40 years in public television. Her documentaries, such as Canefield Songs: Holehole Bushi, explore local culture, the dynamic social and economic upheavals of Hawaiʻi’s history and its impact on everyday working people.
Joan Lander, who worked alongside her longtime partner Puhipau Ahmad, is an acclaimed documentarian known for her on-the-ground work of capturing Hawaiʻi’s history in the 1970’s, 80’s to the present. Together, they produced films such as Act Of War: The Overthrow Of The Hawaiian Nation, which documents important political and cultural happenings of the Hawaiian Renaissance as well as a wealth of vital indigenous knowledge.
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, writer and co-director of the Oscar-qualified animated short film Kapaemahu, which recounts an ancient Hawaiian story of four extraordinary beings of dual male and female spirits. She was also the protagonist and educational advisor for the award-winning documentaries Kumu Hina and A Place in the Middle, and also co-directed and co-produced the award-winning PBS/ARTE documentary Leitis in Waiting.
Kimberlee Bassford, a director, producer and teacher whose films feature powerful female protagonists, including Patsy Mink Ahead Of The Majority and other films that have won awards and have been broadcasted on PBS.
Zoë Eisenberg, one of only three women to direct a narrative feature film in Hawai‘i. She is also a producer and writer, known for featuring strong women protagonists and the landscape of her home on Hawai‘i Island. Eisenberg is also the co-founder of the Made in Hawai‘i Film Festival.
For the first time, Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i season 3 also features two filmmakers from Hawaiʻi Island, Lander, and Eisenberg, whose work reflects the land, culture, people and issues of their island.
“We produced six films in a pandemic, including travel to a neighbor island,” said series co-producer Thompson. “We followed COVID safety protocols outlined by the Hawai‘i Film Commission, and Vera got certified as a COVID safety officer so she could manage protocols on all the productions. It was a challenge, as five of the six shorts were filmed before the vaccine was available. Our highest priority was to keep our wāhine subjects as well as our crews safe. And yet we knew we had to keep the production moving forward, and get these stories told.”
Producers Shirley Thompson and Vera Zambonelli said at the core of this project is to tell the full story of Hawaiʻi filmmakers and to provide a space to feature the work of these women and have it documented for generations to come.
“We realized that the history of filmmaking in Hawaiʻi wasn't being told correctly, and we wanted to fix that — part of that is including the history of all these women filmmakers,” said Thompson.
“There have been women filmmakers here in Hawaiʻi from the beginning of filmmaking here in the islands, and they've done historic work. They have documented the culture of Hawaiʻi and the people who live here. We feature directors, producers, writers, people with original stories, and all of that is part of this series.”
While featuring renowned Hawaiʻi women filmmakers on screen, many of the women behind the camera are well accomplished in their fields. Award-winning filmmakers Anne Misawa, Heather H. Giugni and Erin Lau, along with the producers, 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
In crafting these stories, the producers also began this project to cultivate a passion and eagerness for cinema among young women.
“We are here to create a brave and safe space for women and girls to connect, collaborate and support each other in telling stories and making sure that we pay attention not only to the stories, but also who's telling those stories,” said Zambonelli, who is also the founder and executive director of Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking.
“When you see yourself in the past, you're assured of your future, and it's so important for people to see women making fil