Women on the rise: REEL WĀHINE OF HAWAI‘I Season 4

In the intricate tapestry of cinematic storytelling, the role of women filmmakers is an essential thread that weaves narratives of diversity, creativity, and perspective. Historically underrepresented in various aspects of the film industry, women have, nonetheless, made indelible contributions that have shaped the cinematic landscape. Their voices, both in front of and behind the camera, bring unique insights, stories, and emotions that enrich the collective human experience.

In a new series of six short films produced by Vera Zambonelli and Shirley Thompson that are directed, filmed, and edited by all women crews, REEL WĀHINE OF HAWAI‘I Season 4 showcases the creative challenges and triumphs of Hawai‘i women filmmakers: Ann Marie Kirk, Jana Kealokaokeakua Park, Stephanie J. Castillo, Sancia Miala Shiba Nash, Leanne K. Ferrer, and Shaneika Aguilar. The series’ world premiere at HIFF43 garnered so much anticipation that the festival added an additional screening which sold out almost as quickly as the first one. Audience members lined the walls just to get a glimpse into the world of formidable wāhine creators. The series was produced by the local organization, Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking, whose programs advocate for women and girls (cis/trans), femmes, nonbinary, genderfluid, and genderqueer to tell their stories through film.

Episodes from REEL WĀHINE OF HAWAI‘I unveil a compelling collection of short film portraits. These films delve into the often untold stories of women creatives dedicated to preserving Hawai‘i’s rich history and culture through the lens of cinema. Among the featured filmmakers is Ann Marie Kirk, a Hapa Hawaiian activist and political documentarian, whose films explore the historical depths of Hawai‘i whilst examining their profound influence on contemporary life and identity. Jana Kealokaokeakua Park, a producer/director hailing from Moloka‘i, presents narratives that gracefully bridge the diverse communities shaping Hawai‘i. The series also pays homage to the late Stephanie J. Castillo, a Filipina-American documentary director and writer known for her work in “Simple Courage,” as well as cinematographer on the rise, Shaneika Aguilar (Mama’s Wish). Introducing a fresh perspective, emerging millennial filmmaker Sancia Miala Shiba Nash also presents her experimental visual approach in “Ka moʻopuna i ke alo, The grandchild in the presence.”

The emotional pinnacle of Season 4 is undoubtedly the episode remembering groundbreaking executive producer and beloved Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking member Leanne K. Ferrer. Her invaluable contributions to the independent film community in Hawai‘i facilitated through visionary funding and support from the organization she led, Pacific Islanders in Communications, stand as a testament to her lasting impact on the cinematic landscape. Her daughter, Kaʻiulani Ferrer carries on her legacy as the next generation of Women in Film. In a cinematic celebration of resilience, diversity, and the enduring power of women in film, REEL WĀHINE OF HAWAI‘I Season 4 not only illuminates the creative triumphs of extraordinary women filmmakers, but also underscores the profound impact of their voices on Hawai‘i’s cultural tapestry.

Olivia Trice (She/Her) is a multi-hyphenate producer and force to be reckoned with. She is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University with a BFA in Multimedia Cinematic Production & Screenwriting. With 5 years of TV/Film production experience under her belt, Olivia is credited for her work on GODZILLA VS. KONG, HAWAII FIVE-O, MAGNUM P.I., and AMERICAN IDOL. As a former ambassador of the Community & Teen’s department at Instagram, she has also spent much of her development online translating those connections into real-life impacts and business collaborations. While her artistic expression has evolved to span multi-forms of digital media, Olivia’s passions remain photography, experimental filmmaking, and storytelling through aerial dance/improvisation. As of this year, Olivia is a Wahine in Film Lab Fellow with Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking.

The HIFF ONLINE CREATIVES & CRITICS IMMERSIVE (HOCCI) program supports sustainable film criticism in Hawai‘i through mentorship and paid career opportunities. The mission of HOCCI is to broaden diversity in film criticism across the Pacific region and use influencer branding strategies to spark career opportunities in Hawai’i, not be hampered by oceans, state borders and distance, because geography is no longer a barrier. The 2023 HOCCI is supported by Critical Minded, a grant-making and learning initiative that supports cultural critics of color in the United States.

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