Filipino Film Festival Celebrates Heritage Through Film
When moviegoers gathered for the premiere of Hale Keaka’s first Filipino film, Etiquette for Mistresses, many had no idea they were witnessing the revival of a Lanai Theater tradition.
Longtime residents may remember a time when the old theater screened Japanese and Filipino language films, a popular treat for the island’s large population of first-generation immigrants. Just as those screenings united the community under one roof, so did this event, which drew crowds of multigenerational viewers to share laughs and tears together.
In just a few days, Lanai’s large Filipino community, as well as movie lovers of all backgrounds, will be treated to an exciting cultural and cinematic experience when the “Pamana! Shared Memories in Filipino Motion Pictures” film festival comes to town.
Joint effort to bring films to Lanai
“Pamana!” is a joint effort between Lanai’s own Makamaka Film Society, the Network for the Promotion of Pacific Island and Asian Cinema (NETPAC/USA) and Pulama Lanai.
“Many hands came together to bring it here,” said Simon Tajiri, who co-founded Makamaka Film Society with Anthony Pacheco in 2011. “NETPAC, which is all about promoting Asian and Pacific Islander culture through film, is involved with Hawaii International Film Festival. Zelda Keller from our film society was volunteering with them, and they had been wanting to do an event on Lanai, which brought us all together.”
“Many members of our Filipino community are very into movies, and even go to Maui or Oahu to catch premieres of Filipino films,” added Pacheco, a filmmaker and owner of Kekulamamo Film Company. “We wanted to get people excited about the festival, which was how we got the idea to start screening Filipino films in the weeks leading up to the event.”
Films on display at Hale Keaka
On Nov. 14 and 15, the festival will provide free showings of Magkakabaung (The Coffin Maker), directed by Jason Paul Laxamana, at 10 a.m. in theater 1; and Film: American Beginnings of Philippine Cinema, directed by Nick Deocampo, at 10:30 a.m. in theater 2. Audiences will be treated to Q&A sessions with Laxamana and Deocampo following the films.
Magkakabaung, a 2014 independent drama shot in Kapampangan with English subtitles, tells the story of a coffin maker who must bury his daughter after an accidental death by his own hand. Laxamana received several honors for Magkakabaung, including Best Asian Film at the Hanoi International Film Festival in Vietnam last year.
“The Coffin Maker is a little grittier, a very different type of film than the two we have shown so far at Hale Keaka, but there’s always a moral lesson with Filipino films,” said Tajiri.
Deocampo’s documentary, Film: American Beginnings of Philippine Cinema, is the second episode in a continuing saga on the history of Filipino film. It explores through 3-D rendered animation the American colonial and cultural influences on Philippine cinema.
Sharing stories with the next generation
Laxamana and Deocampo also plan to pay a visit to LHES to work with students in the Juiced Pineapples class on media production and film history. Under the guidance of English teacher Karen Gracia deBrum and the Makamaka Film Society, students have made more than 40 short films to date.
“The mission of the film society is to educate, inspire, and enable the insightful viewing, adventurous discussion, and the original creation of truly great film on Lanai,” said Tajiri. “We’re happy to have been a part of bringing this event to the community to celebrate our Filipino heritage, especially for our kids.”
“We received a lot of support from the community, including our partners at Pulama Lanai, Hale Keaka, Lanai Community Association and the Filipino community,” said Pacheco. “It’s exciting to bring these Filipino films to the theater, just like the old days.”
Nov. 14 and 15 at Hale Keaka
10 a.m.: Magkakabaung (The Coffin Maker)
10:30 a.m.: Film: American Beginnings of Philippine Cinema
Director Q&A sessions to follow