During the Fall Festival HIFF invites filmmakers to visit classrooms virtually to share the craft of filmmaking and storytelling with young students. Below is a list of filmmakers available for an online session to meet with students between Nov 5 to Nov 20 during HIFF’s Fall Festival.

To sign your class up for one of the free sessions below, please RSVP by selecting the speaker(s) you’d like to meet and let us know your preferred date and time of your class. This program is open to all primary, middle, and high schools in Hawai’i.

Sessions will be conducted via a private Zoom link. Please RSVP by October 16! Mahalo!

For any questions, please email Education Coordinator, Jen May Pastores at

To sign your class up for one of the zoom sessions below please RSVP by October 16 at:

Kimberlee Bassford


Kimberlee Bassford combines her love for storytelling with her background in journalism to bring the underrepresented stories of girls and women to the world. She directed and produced the documentaries Winning Girl (2014, The World Channel, Women Make Movies/Java Films), Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority (2008, PBS, Women Make Movies) and Cheerleader (2003, HBO Family, Documentary Educational Resources) and was a producer on two national PBS documentary series: Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? (2008) and The Meaning of Food (2005). She has garnered numerous honors for her work, including film festival audience awards and grand jury prizes, a duPont-Columbia Award, Student Academy Award and CINE Golden Eagles. Her work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, Women in Film, ITVS, Center for Asian American Media, Pacific Islanders in Communications and CPB/PBS. She has also served on juries for the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase and Guam International Film Festival. Kimberlee holds a BA in psychology from Harvard University and a Masters in Journalism from the University of California Berkeley. She owns Making Waves Films LLC, a documentary production company in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

Yi Chen


Yi Chen is a documentary filmmaker based in Washington, DC. She is a Soros Equality Fellow and DC Arts and Humanities Fellow. Her debut feature First Vote is currently in distribution at festivals including AFI DOCS, CAAMFest, LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Houston AAPI Film Festival, Nevertheless Film Festival, and Hawaii International Film Festival. The film received grants from Ford Foundation JustFilms, Open Society Foundations, Center for Asian American Media, ITVS, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Kartemquin Films, and Southern Documentary Fund. The first Vote is available on GOOD DOCS for educational distribution. Yi holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from American University and taught at George Mason University’s Film and Video Studies program.

*Yi Chen’s film FIRST VOTE is also available as an Educational Screening. If you sign up for this session  you’ll also receive vouchers for your class to watch her film prior to the Q&A.

Justyn Ah Chong Headshot


Justyn Ah Chong is a Native Hawaiian filmmaker from Mililani, Oʻahu.  After graduating from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2011, Justyn worked as a director, cinematographer and editor at ʻŌiwi Television – Hawaii’s first Indigenous broadcast station. Most recently, his acclaimed film DOWN ON THE SIDEWALK IN WAIKĪKĪ (2019), premiered at the 2019 Maoriland Film Festival in New Zealand and won the People’s Choice Award for Best Short Drama. The film has continued to screen at festivals around the world, including the imagineNATIVE Film Festival in Toronto, the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and the 307 Film Festival in Wyoming where it was awarded Best of Fest. 

Justyn is currently producing two short narrative films, HAWAIIAN SOUL (2020) and E MĀLAMA PONO WILLY BOY and is also in pre-production for his second directorial narrative short, THE MAN AND THE TREE.  He is a 2020 Nia Tero 4th World Media Lab fellow, and in early development on a feature-length documentary, BURY ME GREEN.  In addition, Justyn continues to create culturally-inspired, place-based stories on a work-for-hire basis through his production company, Olonā Media.

Gerard Elmore


Gerard is a multi Emmy® Award winning teacher / writer / editor / producer / cinematopher / director who has a range of experience varying from television production, film and TV commercials.   As a commercial director, he has directed a number of award-winning commercials, locally & nationally.  Winning multiple local Peles (ADDYs), Telly awards & a national Gold ADDY award.  As a teacher, he has lectured at the Academy for Creative Media, Manoa and West Oahu. 

Currently, Gerard is the lead producer at NMG network where he helps to produce, develop, execute and distribute content.  He also serves as the Executive Director for the ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase, that is designed to help local filmmakers promote, fund, screen and develop Hawaii based content


Raised in the small town of Kahaluʻu on Oʻahu, Native Hawaiian filmmaker Erin Lau fell in love with film while videotaping concerts & public access TV commercials for her father’s Hawaiian music non-profit. After graduating from the University of Hawaii, Erin started her career, working as a videographer and editor for a Native Hawaiian production company, ʻŌiwi TV. She later moved to LA after receiving a full-ride merit scholarship from Chapman University, where she completed her MFA in Directing. During her education, she was selected as a Sundance Native Lab fellow for her film The Moon and The Night. As a result of the film’s success, Erin signed with UTA and LINK Entertainment. She then shifted her attention to episodic content and participated in Powderkeg’s Break The Room writers’ room for the Quibi show Last Resort. Most recently, she was shortlisted for the 2020 HBO Directors program and accepted into the Sundance Indigenous Intensive presented by WarnerMedia. Now, by day, Erin works as a Senior Producer-Director for the digital media company, Jubilee Media, creating content that has garnered millions of views. By night, she is developing projects inspired by her family, heritage, and the socioeconomic issues that plague Pacific Islander communities.




Conrad Lihilihi is a Kanaka Maoli filmmaker, nocturnal ukulele player, and first team left over eater. He attended the University of Washington where he created his own major, Ethnic Identities in Film and after a quick corporate stint at Microsoft, in the summer of 2008, Conrad left rainy Seattle and moved to smoggy Los Angeles where he began work as a Production Assistant for NBC’s The Office. 

Conrad then went on to work in both Production and Post Production on film and TV projects, scripted and non scripted, for NBCUniversal, E! Entertainment, Sony, FOX, MTV, Viacom, Warner Bros., SpikeTV, Defy Media, Asylum, TMZ, and Gametrailers. He was a video editor for Telepictures’ Crime Watch Daily, which won a daytime Emmy for Outstanding Multiple Camera Editing and he spent five summers teaching filmmaking to high school students at a creative and performing arts summer camp at Occidental College. He is currently on the International Dubbing Team at Dreamworks Animation where he’s working on bringing ʻōlelo Hawai’i into the Dreamworks catalogue.

As a writer/director, Conrad’s sci-fi thriller short, The Device (2013) was a semi-finalist at NBCUniversal’s Short Cuts Film Festival and was picked up for broadcast on Robert Rodriguez’ El Rey Network. His horror short, Happy Birthday Claire (2016), was also picked up by El Rey Network and screened at historic Hawai’i Theater. His recent Smithsonian docuseries, Language of a Nation (2020) , details the rise and fall of the Hawaiian Kingdom as told through the newly rediscovered and translated Hawaiian language newspapers. The docuseries is currently being used in school curriculum at the high school and university levels in Hawai’i and is being recut into a feature film. His most recent comedy short, The Mainland (2020), is beginning its festival run and is a semi-autobiographical story about his early years in Los Angeles pursuing acting. Conrad also writes/shoots sketch comedy under his Tuntadun Films youtube channel and his goal is to tell real stories of Hawai’i and her people to the world.



Ciara Lacy’s interest lies in crafting films that use strong characters and investigative journalism to challenge the creative and political status quo. She has created content for film and television, managed independent features, as well as coordinated product placement and clearances for various platforms. Her work has shown at festivals around the world as well as broadcast on networks including Netflix, PBS, ABC, and Al Jazeera. In the digital space, she has created content for notable outlets like the Guardian and the Atlantic Online. 

Ciara is honored to be the inaugural Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellow as well as part of the inaugural class of NATIVe Fellows at the European Film Market. She has also benefited from fellowships with the Sundance Institute and Time Warner Foundation, Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab, the Sundance Institute’s NativeLab, Tribeca All Access, The Princess Grace Foundation, The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and the Independent Film Project (IFP). Ciara holds a BA in Psychology from Yale University and has given talks at academic institutions across the U.S. She continues to work on documentary content for broadcast and digital while also expanding her intimate style of filmmaking into the branded content and commercial spaces.


Kimi Howl Lee

Kimi Howl Lee is a biracial writer and director from New York City, and a graduate of Stanford University’s Film and Media Studies program.  Kimi began her career as a Story Editor curating short-form content for Snapchat Inc., before transitioning full time to filmmaking.    In addition to writing for television, Kimi‘s award winning short films SUGAR and KAMA’ĀINA have travelled the film festival circuit internationally, and have premiered on Nowness, The Future of Film is Female, Short of the Week, and Vimeo Staff Pick, among others.  Kimi was a participant in Film Independent’s 2019 Episodic Lab, the 2020 Breaking Through the Lens Directors Fellowship, and Women In Film’s Multi-hyphenate program.  She recently sold her first television project, and is currently slated to direct her debut feature, MOUTH, which she also wrote.  Kimi currently repped by UTA and Kaplan Perrone.

Valerie Castillo Martinez

Valerie Castillo Martinez was born in the Philippines and moved to the US in 2001. After 9/11, she joined the US Air Force and worked as a system analyst. She completed her MBA, worked in banking, and traveled as a military spouse. In 2013, she decided to pursue her graduate studies in Film at Columbia University and graduated in 2016.

She has written, directed, and produced several projects set in the US and international locations. She started her company IndieFlip, to make films that deal with underrepresented subjects and cross-cultural themes. Her emphasis on innovative storytelling, collaboration, and international co-productions highlighting diversity and inclusion with underlying social themes has led to some of her film’s successes.

Her thesis film “Pria” (2016), set in Indonesia, earned her the Entertainment Partners Best Producer Award and a Caucus Foundation grant. It received awards from the National Board of Review, Director’s Guild of America, and won Best Short at Hawaii International Film Festival, NewFest, Queensworld, and the first Golden Reel Award at Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. It has played over a hundred film festivals and is available on multiple platforms.

Her next short, “The President’s Visit” (2017), set in Lebanon, received grants from the Katharina Otto Bernstein Film Fund, Doha Film Institute, and Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture. It premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize at the

Dubai Film Festival and Nashville Film Festival, also receiving an Oscar-qualification. Her short, “Manila is Full of Men Named Boy” (2018) was selected to world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, as part of the Orizzonti  competition. It played in Busan, Singapore, Clermont Ferrand, SXSW, New Orleans, and won best US short at the Palm Springs Film Festival, and Best Short in Dresden Film Festival and CinemaOne Originals.

She completed a fellowship at Film Independent’s Project Involve program where she produced a satirical dark comedy “Great Again” and a stop-motion clay-animated piece “The Mud&quote”. She was tapped the next year to co-manage the 2018 Project Involve fellowship, being an executive producer on six shorts that premiered at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival. She supervised the first out-of-state PI short “Liberty”, which won Generation Special Jury Prize for Best Short at the 2019 Berlinale, SXSW, Miami, and AFIFest.

Death of Nintendo is her first feature film as writer and producer. The screenplay won Faculty Honors at the Columbia University screenplay competition participated in the 2017 Tribeca Film Institute Network and Film Independent Producers Lab, and is an inaugural TFI Pond5 grantee.

It was also selected to participate in the 2019 Venice Gap Financing Market. It had its world premiere at Berlinale 2020 and is continuing its festival rounds. Valerie also taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Tampa and works as an Artist Development Manager for Film Independent, handling special initiatives with Netflix and CNN, as well as consulting in selections for all their labs.

*Valerie Castillo Martinez’s film DEATH OF NINTENDO can be made available by request so that students can have a change to watch her film prior to the Q&A. Note: the film is rated PG-13 due to language. 



Anne Misawa grew up in Hawaii. Having graduated from University of Southern California’s Graduate Film and Television Program, Anne Misawa has worked internationally in various aspects of film production. Her primary work is as a Director and as a Cinematographer.

Directorial credits include:
WAKING MELE, (Sundance Film Festival, 2000), and EDEN’S CURVE (Emerging Film Best Feature Award, NCGLFF, 2003). Anne teaches cinematic production at the Academy for Creative Media, University of Hawai’i where she produced & directed the feature length documentary, STATE OF ALOHA (2009), which has garnered various awards.

Her work as cinematographer include many award-winning films — MARGARITA, WITH A STRAW (2014), JACK & DIANE (2012), TREELESS MOUNTAIN (2008), TIME OUT (2004), SALT (2003), and LIV (1998).



ʻĀina Paikai is a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) filmmaker determined to tell the stories of his homeland.  Along with graduating from UH Mānoa’s Academy for Creative Media, he found a long career at ʻŌiwiTV, starting as an intern and eventually becoming the senior staff photographer.  As part of ʻŌiwiTV, he has worked on several award winning nationally televised documentaries including the Nā Loea Series (2014), Mele Murals (2016), and Moananuiākea: One Ocean, One People, One Canoe (2018).  His wife, Annemarie, and two young children support his latest journey into full-time fatherhood and part-time production, as a freelance media maker and owner of Kamaʻāina Creations, LLC.   

Mitchel Viernes

Mitchel Viernes 

Mitchel Viernes is a filmmaker from Honolulu, Hawai’i. After receiving his first video camera as a birthday gift when he was 10, he fostered his passion for visual storytelling as a student of Moanalua High School, and eventually went on to receive his Bachelor of Media and Creative Technology at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Mitchel has since produced several short films and become heavily involved in the local filmmaking scene. In 2017, he received the ‘Ohina Greenlight Award for his Hawai’i Science Fiction short “Kālewa” under the mentorship of “Black Panther” co-writer Joe Robert Cole. “Kālewa” went on to premiere at festivals around the country and internationally. He is currently continuing to build his body of work as a writer/director and just completed his second feature film WATER LIKE FIRE.

Mitchel Viernes’ film WATER LIKE FIRE is also available as an Educational Screening. If you sign up for this session  you’ll also receive vouchers for your class to watch his film prior to the Q&A.

Hao Wu

Originally trained as a molecular biologist, Hao Wu traveled to the Internet world before focusing on filmmaking. He held various management positions at technology companies including Excite@Home, Yahoo China, and Alibaba. From 2008-2011, he was the China Country Manager for TripAdvisor, the largest travel website in the world. Wu’s Documentary films have received funding support from The Ford Foundation JustFilms, ITVS, Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, NYSCA, and international broadcasters. His first feature documentary, The Road to Fame, co-produced with BBC, VPRO, CNEX, and DR, broadcasted in over ten countries after an extended festival run. He Also produced “Nowhere to Call Home,” which The New York Times Called“Inspiring Dialogue, Not Dissent, in China.” His Next Feature Documentary, People’s Republic of Desire, about China’s live-streaming phenomenon, won the Grand Jury Award at the 2018 SXSW, among many other awards. It screened at over 40 film festivals worldwide and broadcasted nationally on PBS Independent Lens. The New York Times Called The film “hypercharged,” while The Los Angeles Times Said It’s“invariably surprising and never less than compelling.”We Followed That film with All My Family, a Netflix Original DocumentaryShort, that launched globally in May 2019.76 Days, Wu’s latest work, and the first feature documentary on the COVID-19 pandemic to play at a film festival is world premiering at Toronto International Film Festival in September 2000. Born and raised in China, Wu holds an M.Sc. degree from BrandeisUniversity and an MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School ofBusiness. From 2008-2011, he was a fellow at New America, a D.C.-based think tank. His writing has appeared on,, Marketplace Radio, Strait Times, China Newsweek, and China Daily. Heis a member of the Documentary Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.