Dear Hawaii Independent Editor,
This year’s ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase made an emphasis that: “This ain’t Hollywood. It’s ‘Ohina.” Now, when I think of typical Hollywood I think of films saturated with strong White male characters where minorities are regulated to the periphery as lazy, criminal, or supportive. Females are depicted as sexual objects, victims of violence, love-objects to be obtained, or domestic servants. And the stories are fantastical or centered around a problem so cliched and unoriginal, that the outcome and conclusion is practically pouring out from the preview. Thus, my surprise when after viewing the films in ‘Ohina’s Short Film Showcase, I saw everything that is “Hollywood.” When I approached the Directors (all young brown-skinned males) about the lack of representation of females and the unoriginal storytelling in their films, Gerard Elmore’s (one of the young brown-skinned male directors) rebuttal was—-and I am paraphrasing: “No woman submitted anything to ‘Ohina.” This non sequitur did not answer my question.
Now of course I am concerned of the dearth of female talent and artists in these local film productions, but one does not have to be a female or a racial minority to create a film that represents women and other minorities as something more than a stereotype. Bigotry and prejudice is often perpetrated and perpetuated by the very victims it endangers. Progress and originality is often authored by the majority, who can draw upon their privilege and resources to enlighten the community to stories and circumstances of the typically stereotyped, the typically abused, and the typically forgotten. The primary purpose of any art form, whether you are a man, a woman, a racial minority, or something in-between, should be to provide a unique perspective that is of such provocation and beauty that it naturally engenders in the audience a new approach to and understanding of their reality. One does not have to be a woman, a racial minority, or even a filmmaker to see that this purpose was not fulfilled in any of the films showcased at ‘Ohina.
I hope that ‘Ohina and their sponsors will continue to provide opportunities for local filmmakers, but with the caveat of fostering the primary purpose of art. Or maybe just truth in advertising—after all, this really is not Hollywood, it is Hawai’i and when their’s is an opportunity to tell our unique stories and to showcase or unique minority perspectives, we should do so earnestly and boldly without cheating ourselves or diluting our stories with the comfort of convention and stereotype.