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Home West O‘ahu Happenings ‘Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi’ premieres Nov. 7 at HIFF

‘Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi’ premieres Nov. 7 at HIFF


Image courtesy of Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking

Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking, founded by Academy for Creative Media at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu lecturer Vera Zambonelli, presents the world premiere of its third installment of “Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi” on Nov. 7 at the 41st Hawaiʻi International Film Festival.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival (HIFF) is hosting a hybrid event with both in-person screenings as well as an online festival from Nov. 4 to 28. Tickets are available at

Season 3 of “Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi” showcases the often untold stories of Hawaiʻi women filmmakers, celebrating the powerful and important work of pioneering women who paved the way to help build the local industry as well as new rising stars who continue to create groundbreaking work, according to a press release.

The season spotlights six new episodes that document the real-life stories of these filmmakers through a female gaze, while also redressing gender inequity in the male-dominated industry.

Zambonelli directed two of the six episodes and another episode was directed by Heather H. Giugni, cultural collections specialist and producer at ‘Ulu‘ulu: The Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawaiʻi at UH West Oʻahu.

Those featured in the film series and the award-winning filmmakers who directed each film are:

  • Meleanna Aluli Meyer, a visual artist and filmmaker known for her documentaries, which focus on building pride, understanding, and support of Hawaiian families and culture from an insider’s perspective. Film directed by Erin Lau.
  • Joy Chong-Stannard, a live television and documentary director whose career spans 40 years in public television. Film directed by Anne Misawa.
  • Joan Lander, who worked alongside her longtime partner Puhipau Ahmad, is an acclaimed documentarian known for her on-the-ground work of capturing Hawaiʻi’s history in the 1970’s, 80’s to the present. Film directed by Vera Zambonelli.
  • Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, writer and co-director of the Oscar-qualified animated short film Kapaemahu, which recounts an ancient Hawaiian story of four extraordinary beings of dual male and female spirits. Film directed by Heather H. Giugni.
  • Kimberlee Bassford, a director, producer and teacher whose films feature powerful female protagonists, including Patsy Mink Ahead Of The Majority and other films that have won awards and have been broadcasted on PBS. Film directed by Vera Zambonelli.
  • Zoë Eisenberg, one of only three women to direct a narrative feature film in Hawaiʻi. Film directed by Shirley Thompson.

“I love that filmmaking is such a great influencer, that it gives your message power and the ability to make change,” Giugni said in a press release. “It was such an honor to focus on Hinaleimoana Kalu-Wong, a Hawaiian beacon who reveals her truth, her courage, her force — her mana — through action and voice. I am grateful to Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking (HWF) for making this all possible by supporting women and young girls to tell more incredible stories.”

According to the press release, series producers Thompson and Zambonelli said at the core of this project is to tell the full story of Hawaiʻi filmmakers and to provide a space to feature the work of these women and have it documented for generations to come. In crafting these stories, the producers also began this project to cultivate a passion and eagerness for cinema among young women.

“We are here to create a brave and safe space for women and girls to connect, collaborate and support each other in telling stories and making sure that we pay attention not only to the stories, but also who’s telling those stories,” said Zambonelli, who is also the executive director of Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking.

Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking is a feminist nonprofit organization committed to gender justice in filmmaking through an intersectional lens. HWF is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2021 and continues to inspire young women to pursue film, giving them the tools and opportunities they need to succeed in the industry.

See the trailer for “Reel Wāhine of Hawaiʻi 3″: