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Trailer for Blue Cooler, by Laura Margulies

An annual film festival that showcases a unique collection of cultural-based animated films from around the world will feature two films born out of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Academy for Creative Media (ACM) in the College of Arts, Languages and Letters. The sixth annual Cultural Animation Film Festival (CAFF) selected works by Laura Margulies, an ACM assistant professor and Debbie Kwon, an ACM alumna. Out of more than 1,250 animated film submissions from 98 countries, CAFF picked Margulies’ film, Blue Cooler and Kwon’s film Kites to be among the 77 showcased at the festival. The three-day event, October 14–16 will be held online and in person at Doris Duke Theatre.

“Our hope is that these films will shed a better light on who we are as a people,” said Michael Q. Ceballos, who organizes CAFF and is the CEO of Twiddle Productions Inc. “We also hope that CAFF will inspire animators (especially students) from around the world to create films and share their stories.”

Blue Cooler

Painted illustration of a box of beer on a trash can
Scene from Margulies’ animation short which was hand painted frame by frame.

Margulies’ award-winning oil-painted animation captures small moments of life in Hawaiʻi inspired by her childhood memories and experiences through a montage of richly painted and colorful brush strokes, sounds and images.

“Some things are nostalgic memories about how things were when I was young (banana trees, clothes on the line, rain, beer on garbage cans at Christmas) and there are comparisons to how those things are today,” said Margulies.

Painted frames from Margulies’ animated film are on display at Pauahi Tower in Downtown Honolulu with the Digital Arts Society of Hawaiʻi until November 5.


Debbie Kwon and the poster for her animated film KITES
Debbie Kwon

Kwon’s film centers on a young girl who spends her last day on Earth visiting friends and family aboard mystical flying kites. The short was created in fall 2020 during Kwon’s final semester at UH Mānoa in ACM 420, an animation production course. She graduated with a BA in creative media.

“The spirit of Kites has a lot to do with my own selfish urge to produce films that have something to do with my culture, especially when I was little I would get so excited seeing any character that looked remotely like me. So it just came naturally to me to write a story that would have Korean influences,” Kwon said.

The film festival will also feature Titrations: Radioactive Waste, a film Kwon worked on as an animator and character designer.

CAFF will host a spring showcase focused on students and the art of animation in April 2023. Former ACM Assistant Professor Brittney Biggs’ animated film Manō, illustrating the impact of human activities on sharks and coral reefs, will be among the featured works.

For CAFF ticket information, go to the Honolulu Museum of Art website.

Painted illustration of a beach shower
Scene from Margulies’ animation short which was hand painted frame by frame.
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