Themes from Pacific and Asian Literature and Film


5–8 November 2002


Participant Biographies

(For biographies of Fall Celebration writers see




MARILOU DIAZ-ABAYA (New Moon) is the leading director in the Philippines with numerous awards and honors to her credit. After graduating from Assumption College of Manila, she obtained her MA in Film and Television from the Loyola Mary Mount University in Los Angeles and pursued her post-graduate studies at the London International Film School. Soon after, she returned to the Philippines and began directing critically acclaimed and commercially successful films. She teaches film at the Ateneo de Manila University.

She has involved herself with the Filipino film industry, which credits her for the invaluable contribution she has made in bringing to reality the plight of the often marginalized but brave Filipino woman. She is a founding member, one-time President and currently an officer of the Directors Guild of the Philippines (DGPI), and President of Neptune Productions. In addition, she directs political and public affairs programs for television.

Her films have been exhibited at film festivals of London, Berlin, Fukuoka, Tokyo, Hawai‘i, Hong Kong, New York, Shanghai, Cairo, New Delhi, Damascus, and Singapore. Her works have garnered awards and citations from various local and international award-giving bodies. Her 17 full-length features are acclaimed not only for their success at the box office but also for their daring subject matter, such as violence against women in Brutal, incest and imprisoning constraints of social mores in Karnal, as well as double-standard norms in gender behavior.


BUDDHADEB DASGUPTA (The Wrestlers) is India’s leading filmmaker, an heir to Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. A poet and novelist as well as a filmmaker, Dasgupta has won the National Prize as the best director in India; Best Director in the 2000 Venice International Film Festival and the critics’ favorite at the recent 2002 Toronto International Film Festival. In addition to his twelve feature films and eighteen short and documentary films, he has written eight poetry books and four novels, as well as a book on cinema, Dreams, Time and Cinema. A book on the films of Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Time and Dreams, was written by John W Hood and published by Seagull Books, India.


ESTHER FIGUEROA (The Land Has Teeth: Rotuman Justice), PhD, has degrees in history; East Asian languages and literatures; and linguistics. A published writer, Figueroa has taught and developed curriculum at the university, high school, intermediate and elementary school levels. Figueroa is co-founder and co-owner of Juniroa Productions, Inc., a Honolulu-based independent media company where she has developed, written, produced, directed, videotaped, and edited numerous television, video and multi-media programs. Dedicated to perpetuating native cultures, Juniroa Productions has since 1985 produced two innovative television series, and over 50 television specials, documentaries, and educational programs. Juniroa is currently producing groundbreaking local content interactive DVDs.

Figueroa has been involved in various media, arts, and technology educational organizations. Her most recent efforts have been in the field of media preservation. She is founding director of Legacy Foundation of the Pacific, a 501c non-profit foundation that focuses on media preservation. In 2000 and 2001, in a partnership between Legacy Foundation and the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, Figueroa curated week-long retrospectives of Hawai‘i films, “Made in Hawai‘i,” and films from the Pacific, “Oceania Revealed.” Figueroa is currently working on a documentary about indigenous justice and a documentary about the island of Molokai.


MERATA MITA is the first Maori woman to make films. Her documentary Bastion Point: Day 507 has won many international awards, as has her documentary Patu. In addition to documenting Maori concerns and issues and important aspects of New Zealand history, she has made films on the challenges facing Tonga and Rapa Nui. Her first feature film, Mauri, won the prize for best film at the Rimini Film Fest in Italy. In 1996 she was awarded the Leo Dratfield Lifetime Achievement Award for documentary by the Robert Flaherty Foundation. She has been an invited speaker at the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Hawai‘i. She is currently collaborating with Patricia Grace on a screenplay of Grace’s novel Cousins.


PUHIPAU and JOAN LANDER (NA MAKA O KA ‘AINA) (Act of War). Na Maka o ka ‘Aina ("the eyes of the land") is an independent video production team that focuses on the land and the people of Hawai‘i and the Pacific. Documenting traditional and contemporary Hawaiian culture, politics, history, language and the environment, Na Maka o ka ‘Aina is committed to giving voice to the current movement toward Hawaiian independence and sovereignty.

Since 1982, Na Maka o ka 'Aina has aired over 80 programs on Hawai‘i Public Television, the Public Broadcasting Service, WorldLink, Deep Dish satellite network, Free Speech TV, and Hawai‘i's commercial stations, in addition to producing regular program-ming for Hawai‘i's public access cable channels. Their work has also been seen on television in Japan, Australia, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Denmark, and Canada.

Na Maka o ka 'Aina productions have been screened at film festivals from Japan to Berlin, capturing several awards, such as the CINE "Golden Eagle," the Bronze Plaque from the Columbus International Film Festival, the Silver Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Hawai‘i Filmmakers Award from the Hawai‘i International Film Festival. Recognition has also come from indigenous film festivals such as Dreamspeakers (Alberta, Canada), the Aotearoa Film Festival (New Zealand), The Two Rivers Native Film and Video Festival (Minneapolis), the Native American Film and Video Festival (New York City), and Video América Indigena (Mexico).


DON C SELWYN has a longstanding and distinguished career in the New Zealand film and television industry as an actor, producer, and director. He is a leading proponent of Maori drama, performed in both Maori and English, and a prime mover in encouraging respect for Maori viewpoints and culture in mainstream New Zealand film and television drama. He has devoted many years to training Maori and Pacific filmmakers and is a mentor and inspiration to many now working in the industry. He is a former member of the board of the New Zealand Film Commission.

His contribution was officially recognized in 1999, when he was awarded the New Zealand Honours Award Officer of NZ Merit (ONZM). He was awarded an honorary performing arts degree from Unitec in 1999 and he was New Zealander of the Year 1995 for his contribution to arts and culture. He received the Wellington Fringe Award for service to theatre, film and television and the National Film Board of Canada Alanis Obomsawin Award for outstanding contribution to the advancement of Aboriginal filmmaking in Canada at the Dreamspeakers Indigenous Film Festival in 1994.

A New Zealand Maori of Ngati Kuri and Te Aupouri descent, he grew up in Taumarunui in the center of New Zealand’s North Island, an area influenced by many different Maori iwi (tribes), with leaders initiating community projects for youth, education and te reo Maori (Maori language). He became a schoolteacher, noted for his pioneering methods at a multicultural school in Wellington.

Always concerned with education and promotion of Maori, from 1984 to 1990 he ran a film and television training course called He Taonga I Tawhiti (Gifts From Afar) for Maori and Pacific people to give them the technical skills to enable them to tell their own stories. 120 people went through the course over its six-year existence. In 1992, with producer Ruth Kaupua Panapa, Selwyn formed He Taonga Films to create job opportunities for course graduates and to provide outlets for Maori drama writers.

Through He Taonga Films, he has produced and directed Maori language television dramas (Maaui Pootiki, Tohunga) and many Maori dramas in English, including Don’t Go Past With Your Nose in the Air, awarded best foreign short film at the New York Festival in 1992. He was executive producer of the 2000 New Zealand Media Peace Award-winning feature The Feathers of Peace.





VILSONI HERENIKO is a professor of Pacific Islands studies at the University of Hawai‘i where he teaches Pacific Islands literature, theatre, and film. He is also a playwright, filmmaker, and author of several books and numerous scholarly articles. In fall 2002 he became editor of the journal The Contemporary Pacific. His feature film The Land Has Eyes is now in post-production and scheduled for release in 2003.


RUTH Y HSU is an associate professor of English at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She has published in journals such as Hitting Critical Mass; Passages: A Journal of Transnational and Transcultural Studies, and Postcolonialism, as well as in essay collections in the areas of Asian American literature, academe, and the issues of race, ethnicity and gender. She is currently working on a book-length project on the intersections of race, ethnicity and gender and cultural performances. She has lived and/or worked in Singapore, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.





IBRAHIM AOUDE is Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. He publishes in two areas: Hawai‘i’s political economy and Middle East politics. He is co-editor of Arab Studies Quarterly, an international journal about Arab affairs, as well as the book review editor for that journal. Professor Aoude also teaches courses on ethnic identity, social movements, and political economy of Hawai‘i and the Pacific as well as a course on Middle East politics.


GAYE CHAN is an artist and a professor of photography at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Hawai‘i in 1969 as part of the second diaspora of Chinese immigrants to the United States. The primary focus of Chan’s work is the slippery area between the yearning for individual agency and the recognition of being morer flotsam in the tides of history. Chan’s studio production is primarily made from found images and objects. She has had solo exhibitions at Art in General (New York City), XYZ (Toronto), Artspeak (Vancouver), Gallery 4A (Sydney), San Francisco Camerawork, The Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, and the Honolulu Academy of Art. As co-founder of art-activist collaborative DownWind Productions with Andrea Feeser, Chan is also a recent Creative Capital grant recipient.


CATHY FERGUSON grew up and went to school in what novelist Willam Gass calls “the heart of the heart of the country.” She completed her PhD in 1976 in political science at the University of Minnesota, where, with the support of her very open-minded advisor, she wrote the first dissertation on women of feminism in that department. She taught at Siena College in Albany, New York, then came to UH in 1985. In spring of 1999 she held a Fulbright appointment at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel, and has taught at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna Austria, and the University of Gotenberg in Gotenberg, Sweden. She holds a joint appointment in political science and women’s studies and is currently the director of the Women’s Studies Program. Her central research interests are contemporary political theory, feminist theory, and militarism. She has published five books. The most recent, with Phyllis Turnbull, is Oh Say, Can You See? The Semiotics of the Military in Hawai‘i. She is currently writing a book on Emma Goldman as a political thinker, and another on home schooling. She teaches courses in feminist theory, feminist methods, history of political thought, and political theory in Star Trek, among other topics.


THEODORE GONZALVES studied at Santa Clara University (BA Political Science 1990), San Francisco State University (MA Political Science 1993), and at the University of California at Irvine (PhD Comparative Culture 2001). His areas of scholarly interest include: Filipina/o American culture, history & politics; U.S-Philippine relations; ethnic and cultural studies; cultural nationalisms and the performing arts. Professor Gonzalves has taught college and university courses since 1991 at the following institutions: the University of California (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine & Los Angeles), the California State University (Sacramento, San Francisco & San Jose), Pomona College, and Santa Clara University. Gonzalves' essays have been published in leading academic presses as well as community-based works. He is currently working on a draft for his book, based on his dissertation, "When the Lights Go Down: Performing in the Filipina/o Diaspora, 1934-1998."

In the field of performing arts, Gonzalves has served as a board member for Bindlestiff Studio, a San Francisco-based "epicenter for performing arts"; co-founder of Jeepney Dash Records, an artist-run recording label; keyboardist for the Legendary Bobby Banduria; and musical director for "tongue in A mood" Theatre. Gonzalves' musical work has been featured at concerts such as the Asian American Jazz Festival. He has also written, produced, and performed several scores of independent film projects. In 2002, Gonzalves was named a recipient of a "Meet the Composer" award from the Meet the Composer Fund in New York. Professor Gonzalves' curriculum vitae may be viewed online at His musical work is featured at


Elizabeth K Inia is a knowledgeable elder from the island of Rotuma, as well as a (retired) schoolteacher and published author. Mrs Inia has an enduring concern for preserving Rotuman culture. She continues to learn from her elders and instruct younger Rotumans, on the island as well as in migrant communities, about their cultural heritage. Since 1977 she has been preparing Rotuman language materials for the Fiji Ministry of Education Curriculum Development Unit with a view toward perpetuating the language among the children of Rotuman migrants to Fiji. Her 1998 book on Rotuman proverbs, Fäeag ‘es Fûaga, was an extension of her work on language, as was A New Rotuman Dictionary, published in the same year in collaboration with Sofie Arnsten, Hans Schmidt, Jan Rensel, and Alan Howard. Her most recent book, Kato'aga: Rotuman Ceremonies (2001) is a detailed account of the rituals that comprise Rotuman ceremonial performances.


MOMI KAMAHELE is a Native Hawaiian nationalist who believes in self-determination and who lives among her people in Wai‘anae, O‘ahu. A Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and educator, Ms Kamahele received formal training in hula and chant, and received a BA in Hawaiian studies and an MA in history at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She is an instructor in, and the discipline coordinator for, Hawaiian studies at Leeward Community College. She has taken her skills and training into her community while bringing the community into her classroom. Her research and teaching interests include culture and politics in Hawai‘i and the Pacific.


KAREN K KOSASA is an Assistant Professor in American studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She recently completed a dissertation on art pedagogy and settler colonialism in Hawai‘i and received a PhD in visual and cultural studies from the University of Rochester in 2002. She has been hired to develop and direct the museum studies graduate certificate program at UH Manoa.


GLENN MAN is professor of English at UH Manoa. He teaches and writes on film, and on film and its intersection with literature. He is the author of Radical Visions: American Film Renaissance, 1967–1976.


PAUL A SCHROEDER was born and raised in Puerto Rico, in a mixed German and Puerto Rican household where English was the lingua franca. He recently joined the University of Hawai‘i from Stanford University, where he received his PhD in Spanish. His first book, on Cuban filmmaker Tomas Gutièrrez Alea, was published by Routledge Press in 2002. Currently, he is working on a history of Latin American film. He teaches Latin American literature and film in the Department of Languages and Literatures of Europe and the Americas at UH Manoa.


NANDITA SHARMA is currently a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow on Gender and Globalization in Asia and the Pacific, Office for Women's Research and Women's Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She is also an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Her main research interest is the study of nationalism and immigration policy formation within processes of globalization.


GEOFFREY WHITE is a professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and senior fellow with the Pacific Islands Development Program at the East-West Center. He has recently been editor of The Contemporary Pacific and codirector of the UH/EWC program in international cultural studies. He has published a number of works on war memory in the Pacific and the United States, most recently a coedited volume, Perilous Memories: The Asia Pacific War(s).