man playing the ukulele
Promotional image for Tokyo Hula.

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Academy for Creative Media (ACM) will shine at the 2019 Hawaiʻi International Film Festival (HIFF) through works made by students, faculty, staff and alumni. The pieces playing at HIFF include Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi, Tokyo Hula and a selection of shorts in ACM UHM Night and Made in Hawaiʻi.

The film festival has come full circle. HIFF started in 1981 as an East-West Center project at UH Mānoa, and has expanded into an event that shows Asian films made by Asians, Pacific based films made by Pacific Islanders and culturally accurate Hawaiian films made by Hawaiʻi filmmakers.

Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi

Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi is a film series that redresses gender inequity in the film industry by documenting the real-life stories of Hawaiʻi women filmmakers through the eyes of a woman. Produced, filmed, edited and directed by all-women crews, these six short portraits reveal untold stories of local activists and artists who preserve Hawaiʻi history and culture through film.

The six short films profile women who helped build the local independent film industry as well as current working filmmakers at the top of their field. Among the artists highlighted in the films are ACM faculty members Lisette Marie Kaualena Flanary and Marlene Booth, ACM lecturer Laura Margulies and ACM alumni Erin Lau.

Each short film features an accomplished Hawaiʻi filmmaker recounting the challenges and triumphs of her life and career in just eight minutes.

“People who document history shape society’s perception of what happened and why,” according to Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, founding director of Hawaiʻi International Film Festival. “Reel Wāhine records women’s unique role in shifting or changing the film culture of Hawaiʻi. In doing so, my hope is that Reel Wāhine not only encourages other women to be proactive in influencing Hawaiʻi society, but to also document how and why they did so.”

The films will be shown on November 16 (12 noon) and 17 (11 a.m.) at Dole Cannery Theaters. Directors and featured cast members will be in attendance and will answer questions in a post-screening discussion. Tickets for this film can be purchased online.

Tokyo Hula

Flanary, a hula dancer herself, explores hula in Japan in her documentary, Tokyo Hula. The film examines tourism, economics and a love for all things Hawaiian that fueled a cultural phenomenon revealed through the personal stories of Japanese sensei who have started their own schools and Hawaiian kumu hula who are now living and teaching in Japan. Tokyo Hula follows teachers and students in and outside of hula classes and competitions to better understand their daily lives, struggles and challenges in practicing a cultural art form in a foreign host country.

Flanary’s film juxtaposes the two main subjects—Japanese sensei Seiko Okamoto who was trained by the late revered Kumu Hula Aloha Dalire and Kumu Hula Lōpaka Igarta-DeVera, who was entrusted by Kumu Hula Sonny Ching to move to Japan to open a branch of their school. The documentary illuminates how the hula has become both big business as well as an evolving global tradition that continues to flourish in Japan.

“Why do the Japanese love the hula dance so much? This simple question—which has perplexed many master hula teachers and practitioners alike—was the inspiration driving my first trip to Japan to explore the hula craze in 2009,” said Flanary. “Ten years later, the number of people dancing hula in Japan continues to grow—and the popularity of the hula continues to blossom around the globe.”

Tokyo Hula is the final film in a trilogy of award-winning documentaries about the evolution of hula in the global world—American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawaiʻi (2003) and Nā Kamalei: The Men of Hula (2007), which both screened at HIFF.

Tokyo Hula will be shown on November 11 (6:15 p.m.) and November 17 (6 p.m.) at Dole Cannery Theaters. Tickets can be purchased online.


top image drawing of girl and creature bottom image girl covered in leis
Promotional images for student films The Girl and the Kappa Monster (top) and The Leis of My Heart (bottom).

UH Mānoa’s ACM students will have their own showcase, premiering 12 short films they produced during the 2018–19 academic year, ranging from animation to drama to documentary. The showcase will be followed by a Q&A with filmmakers where they will answer audience questions.

The short films are:

  • The Leis of my Heart by Dymond Cabildo
  • Blades by Noa Tramuto
  • Hawaiʻi Hardcore by Erick Melanson
  • Laurie Rubin by Justin Kimata
  • Distorted by Sophia Whalen
  • Wither by Joshua Co
  • Uproot by Kalilinoe Detwiler
  • Test Drive by Maia Goel
  • ʻĀpono by Emma Daily
  • The Girl and the Kappa Monster by Gavin Arucan
  • Roommates by Kyle Motonaga
  • Meraki by Rena Shishido

In addition to these short films, the ACM students also co-produced two films in collaboration with Shanghai University’s Shanghai Film Academy (SFA)—Skirt, which was directed by Briana Smith and Chloe Ma, and Flute, directed by Zhu Yiwen and Lan Shasha. This collaboration was made possible through the Student Media Art (SMART) exchange program which was supported by ITO EN, OSG and student travel support from the ACM system.

ACM UHM Night showcase will premiere on November 12 at 6 p.m. with the Shanghai Film Academy showcase to follow at 8:30 p.m. at Dole Cannery Theaters. The showcase will be followed by a Q&A where filmmakers will answer audience questions. Tickets and additional information on each film can be found on the HIFF website.

top image a family party bottom image man on the beach
Promotional images for Like Maddah (top) and Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki (bottom).

Made in Hawaiʻi

The Made in Hawaiʻi showcase brings forth the best short films from local filmmakers and stories based and shot in Hawaiʻi. This year’s showcase features six ACM alumni:

  • The Pit Where We Were Born directed by Alexander Bocchieri
  • Molokaʻi Bound directed by Alika Maikau
  • Moʻo directed by Anela Ling
  • Like Maddah directed by Rena Shishido
  • Other People directed by Bryson Chun
  • Down on the Sidewalk of Waikiki starring ʻĀina Paikai

These films, including Tokyo Hula, were nominated for the 2019 Best Made in Hawaiʻi Film. The Made in Hawaiʻi shorts can be viewed on November 8 (8:15 p.m.) and November 17 (3:30 p.m.) at Dole Cannery Theaters. Tickets and additional information on each film can be found on the HIFF website.

—By Janica Marie Pascua