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Show co-produced by UH West Oʻahu lecturer wins Emmy


“Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i” series producers Shirley Thompson (left) and Vera Zambonelli raise a glass after winning an Emmy in the Historical/Cultural program category on June 3. The filmmaking team gathered for an Emmy watch party in Honolulu and the ceremony was streamed live from San Francisco. Image courtesy of Amber McClure

“Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i,” a local television show about Hawai‘i filmmakers and co-produced by Academy for Creative Media at the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu lecturer Vera Zambonelli, won a prestigious Emmy Award at a ceremony this month in California.

The 52nd Northern California Area Emmy Awards 2022-2023, which honors excellence in television, were held on June 3 in San Francisco by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. “Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i” and producers Shirley Thompson and Zambonelli won in the category, Historical/Cultural — News or Long Form Content.

The series is produced by Honolulu-based non-profit Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking (HWF), whose mission is to create more opportunities for women in front of and behind the camera, according to a press release. The films are told through the eyes of Hawai‘i-based female directors and crafted by all-women film crews.

“Each season of ‘Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i’ spotlights the work and creative inspirations of six Hawai‘i women filmmakers,” Thompson said in a press release. “We tell the stories of women who have produced and directed well-known local films as well as camerawomen, editors, and animators behind the scenes whose creativity helps bring local films to life.”

Zambonelli, who is also the founder and executive director of HWF, added, “It’s so important that we document and celebrate the pioneering women who paved the way and helped build the local independent film industry, as well as new rising stars who continue to create groundbreaking work.”

The Emmy went to the third season of the “Reel Wāhine” series, a compilation of six short films that showcase the work of veteran Hawai‘i filmmakers. HWF presented the world premiere of its third installment on Nov. 7, 2021, at the 41st Hawai‘i International Film Festival. “Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i 3” aired in March 2022 on PBS Hawai‘i and is currently streaming for a limited time on PBS Hawai‘i’s website.

Zambonelli, who teaches Creative Media (CM) 401: Creative Professionals and CM 150: Film Analysis and Storytelling courses at UH West O‘ahu, directed two of the six short films. Another of the short films was directed by Heather H. Giugni, cultural collections specialist and producer at ‘Ulu‘ulu: The Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawai‘i at UH West O‘ahu.

Those featured in the film series and the award-winning filmmakers who directed each film are: Meleanna Aluli Meyer, film directed by Erin Lau; Joy Chong-Stannard, film directed by Anne Misawa; Joan Lander, film directed by Zambonelli; Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, film directed by Giugni; Kimberlee Bassford, film directed by Zambonelli; and Zoë Eisenberg, film directed by Thompson.

A collage of headshots of six women.
The Emmy Award-winning “Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i 3” features (from left to right, top to bottom) filmmakers Zoë Eisenberg, Joy Chong-Stannard, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Joan Lander, Kimberlee Bassford, and Meleanna Aluli Meyer.

“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.

The “Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i” Season 3 films were made with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Gerbode Foundation, and Mary Therese Perez Hattori.

The next six films for “Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i” Season 4 is scheduled to premiere in fall of 2023. HWF has now produced 24 films through the “Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i” series and has hosted over a hundred gatherings, bringing in attendance of thousands of people to learn about women filmmakers here in Hawai‘i.

Image courtesy of Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking