Cinema Nights Gala at Honolulu Design Center to kick-off Center on Disability Studies' 20th Anniversary Celebration

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Charmaine Crockett, (808) 956-7539
Center on Disability Studies
Posted: Jul 13, 2007

HONOLULU — The Center on Disability Studies (CDS) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa will celebrate its 20th Anniversary at a gala cinema event at the Honolulu Design Center on Wednesday, July 18.

The opening gala sets the stage for Pacific Rim Cinema Nights, a new quarterly disability film festival at the Honolulu Design Center‘s Cupola Theater. Over the course of the next year, CDS will showcase feature films, shorts, documentaries, animation and experimental films in a variety of genres and styles that will inspire, provoke, educate and entertain.

"The power of film is transformational and unifying," says Jean Johnson, CDS Associate Director and Master of Ceremonies for the gala evening.

Kicking off the series at the gala will be the Hawaiʻi premier of "Mr. Blue Sky," a Sarah Garfield film that tells the story of an unconventional love triangle between three childhood buddies—two girls, one of whom was born with Down Syndrome, and one boy—who all grow up fighting who they are inside. Award-winning shorts, including "Difference is Normal," a Lebanese/Syrian production made during the 2006 bombing, will also be showcased. In addition, jazz pianist Matt Leonhardt and Hawaiian falsetto singer Kale Peters will provide entertainment.

Gail Williamson, Hollywood casting coordinator for persons with disabilities, will also be a guest speaker at the event. Well-known in the film and television industry and a recipient of the coveted national "Mother of the Year" award, Williamson will speak to the challenges in the entertainment industry.

"We are delighted to have Ms. Williamson at our gala," said Robert Stodden, founder and Director of the Center on Disability Studies. "We need to advocate for greater diversity in roles and to eliminate stereotyping in casting."

Sponsorship for the Gala and Pacific Rim Cinema Nights includes Lahaina Moon, Hawaiʻi Disability Rights Center, and VSA Arts of Hawaiʻi-Pacific. Suggested donation is $20. RSVP to 956-7539.

Williamson will also be offering a three hour workshop, entitled "The Business of the Business" on Saturday, July 21, at 10 a.m. at the Tenney Theatre, home of Honolulu Theatre for Youth. A first of its kind workshop in Hawaiʻi, the seminar aims to provide technical assistance and coaching support to entertainers with disabilities. The workshop is free and is co-sponsored by the Hawaiʻi Disability Rights Center, Art Enabled, Hawaiʻi State Council on Developmental Disabilities, and VSA Arts of Hawaiʻi-Pacific. For more information or to RSVP, call 956-7539.

Contacts for Interviews:

Robert Stodden, Director, CDS — (808) 478-1505

Jean Johnson, Associate Director, CDS — (808) 386-0672

Gail Williamson, Hollywood Casting Coordinator — (818) 893-1166

Gary Smith, Hawaiʻi Disability Rights Center — (808) 949-2922


A research unit in the College of Education, CDS works to accomplish its mission to support the quality of life, community inclusion, and self-determination of all persons with disabilities and their families through education, training, service, research, evaluation, and dissemination activities. July 1, 2007 marks the beginning of its 20th year and the starting point for a year of celebration. Monthly events are being planned to celebrate the many thousands of people with disabilities and their families across the state of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Basin who have been touched in different ways by the initiative and the projects that CDS has undertaken during its 20 years. For information about the Center on Disability Studies‘ 20th anniversary, contact or visit the Center‘s website at