filmmaker

The Filmmaker Who Went Behind Prison Walls

 

CEO Message

 

The Filmmaker Who Went Behind Prison Walls

Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEOBy definition, film directors have control issues. To fulfill their creative vision, they compel events and people and settings to conform to plan.

 

“I’m so bossy, I’m so bossy,” says award-winning O‘ahu film director Ciara Lacy, whose cinéma vérité documentary Out of State was selected for national distribution by the PBS series Independent Lens.

 

We at PBS Hawai‘i are proud to debut Out of State this month. The documentary follows two Native Hawaiian men who were sent to serve their prison sentences at privately owned Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona. They’re connecting with their culture behind bars, far from home, and later they struggle to reintegrate into society on O‘ahu.

 

Controlling her circumstances had long been a hallmark of Ciara’s life. As a teenager, her relentless control of time and study habits helped propel her to honors as valedictorian at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama. Next came graduation from Yale University.

 

Instead of pursuing a job related to her psychology major, Ciara resolved to break into the music video business in New York. And she did so – by placing a Craigslist ad.

 

Hawaiʻi filmmaker Ciara LacyHer ability to harness people and schedules and her creativity led to 10 years of consuming work in video production on the East and West Coasts.

 

“You want to show up and own the space and say, ‘This is how everything has to work.’ Right? This is my crew, this is my schedule, this is what it has to be,” Ciara explained on a recent episode of Long Story Short.

 

However, tell that to prison authorities who rule the roost and to prisoners who have more than enough reasons not to let down their guard. Ciara knew she wouldn’t be able to make the film she wanted, unless she released her need for control.

 

“When it came to working in the prison,” she said, “I call it Taoist filmmaking. You don’t have control and you just give it all up. And you say, ‘thank you for whatever you’re able to do.’”

 

All of five-feet-three inches tall and swimming in her husband’s long-sleeved shirt, Ciara says she employed a different “super power” in interacting with prison officials and prisoners.

 

“I brought a female presence into an all-male space and used collaboration. It wasn’t about me and what I get, it was about sharing.”

 

The result is a thought-provoking, multi-layered film, airing on May 6 at 9:00 pm on PBS Hawai‘i.

 

Congratulations to Ciara Lacy, her producer Beau Bassett of Honolulu and the documentary team. And best wishes to prisoners and ex-cons with their own kind of creative vision: seeing and striving to make better lives.

 

Aloha Nui,

Leslie signature


 

 

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
The Hawaiian Room

PBS Hawai‘i Presents: The Hawaiian Room

 

The Hawaiian Room, located in the famed Lexington Hotel, was an oasis of Hawaiian culture and entertainment in the heart of New York City. Between 1937 and 1966, hundreds of dancers, singers and musicians from Hawai‘i were recruited to perform at the entertainment venue. In this documentary, filmmaker Ann Marie Kirk shares interviews with over 20 former performers who speak candidly and fondly of their experience at the historic nightclub, and the culture shock of going from Hawai‘i to New York City.

 

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PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Leitis in Waiting | Cover Story

Pacific Heartbeat's Leitis in Waiting. The May Program Guide cover story by Emily Bodfish

May 2019 program guide cover story by Emily Bodfish, PBS Hawai‘i

 

Now in its eighth season, the anthology series PACIFIC HEARTBEAT brings the authentic Pacific – people, cultures, languages, music and contemporary issues – to your screen. This new season brings stories of determination and courage from Australia, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Tonga and the U.S. The series is a production of Pacific Islanders in Communications in partnership with PBS Hawaiʻi, and is distributed nationally by American Public Television.

 

Among the films premiering this month is Leitis in Waiting, which tells the story of the Kingdom of Tonga’s evolving approach to gender fluidity through character-driven portraits of leitis, or indigenous transgender women. The most prominent leiti, Joey Joleen Mataele, is a practicing Catholic of noble descent who, over the course of an eventful year, organizes a beauty pageant, and later a conference with fundamentalist Christians to discuss the rise of the rhetoric of intolerance toward leitis.

 

Filmmakers Joe Wilson, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu and Dean HamerFilmmakers Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kale – the subject of Hamer and Wilson’s earlier film Kumu Hina, which was also a film about gender fluidity that aired nationally on PBS – spoke with us about the film:

 

Could you give us some insight into your intentions with the film, the meaning of it for you and your audience?

 

Hamer: At first, we thought we would create a short film about the [beauty] pageant itself, which Hina won one year, by the way. While pursuing that, we realized we needed to make a feature length film on the leitis search for equality and recognition in their own country.

 

Wilson: We wanted our film to have an effect everywhere, but especially in Tonga. Our approach to filmmaking is to show, not tell, and let the viewers decide for themselves. That approach lends itself to the Tongan talanoa method of conflict resolution. You sit down with your opposition and try to come to a mutual understanding. Joey, the protagonist of the film, is currently using the film in that way as part of her advocacy.

 

Hina, you were instrumental in making the film because of your insider knowledge of the culture. Could you give some insight into those cultural differences some viewers might not understand, including the concept of the “usefulness” of the leitis?

 

Wong-Kalu: In Tonga, the royal family is held in utmost regard. They are synonymous with the nation itself, the flag, and the national seal “God and Tonga are my inheritance.”

 

On “usefulness,” the understanding in Polynesian culture is that your worth is not measured by how much you acquire, but rather by how much you sacrifice of yourself. The Tongan understanding of the word “useful” as it applies to people is different from in the west. When you hear people in the film say that the leitis are “useful,” it is praise for their service to others.

 

Wilson: At the same time, the frustrations that we tried to capture on film is the leitis’ struggle with something that marginalized communities struggle with everywhere. Whenever leitis, or anyone that has been relegated to a certain place, says, “I deserve more,” a backlash occurs.

 

What do you think the U.S. and Tonga can learn from each other?

 

Wong-Kalu: I would like to beg the question – why does Tonga have to learn anything from the U.S.? Tongans had a great way of embracing everyone in society. I want Tonga to be more discerning about what they import.

 

Hamer: One thing the U.S. can learn is that gender diversity has been around for centuries, and widely accepted in many parts of the world. The vast majority hid because the forces against them were so strong, but they were still there. It isn’t going to kill society if those people don’t hide anymore.

 


Leitis in Waiting

Saturday, May 25 at 8:00 pm

Click here to see PACIFIC HEARTBEAT SEASON 8 programming lineup and schedule

 

 

 

FINDING YOUR ROOTS
The Vanguard

FINDING YOUR ROOTS: The Vanguard

 

This acclaimed series with Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. explores the mysteries, surprises and revelations hidden in the family trees of popular figures.

 

The Vanguard
Author Ta-Nehisi Coates, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, and author and activist Janet Mock see their basic assumptions about their families challenged, placing their ancestors of all colors into the greater context of black history.

 

 

 

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Uncovering America

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: Uncovering America

 

Courtney B. Vance hosts this celebration of the renowned, respected and popular historian, author and filmmaker. Features appearances by distinguished guests seen in Gates’ work including Jodie Foster, Ken Burns, Jelani Cobb and LL Cool J.

 

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POV
Minding the Gap

POV: Minding the Gap

 

First-time filmmaker Bing Liu’s documentary Minding the Gap is a coming-of-age saga of three skateboarding friends in their Rust Belt hometown. While navigating a complex relationship between his camera and his friends, Bing explores the gap between fathers and sons, between discipline and domestic abuse and ultimately that precarious chasm between childhood and becoming an adult.

 

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PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Tibetan Illusion Destroyer

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS: Tibetan Illusion Destroyer

 

This film by Maui filmmaker Tom Vendetti documents the Mani Rimdu Festival in Nepal, which originated in Tibet and is still performed in an authentic colorful ceremony in the shadow of Mount Everest. The title refers to the Buddhist concept of destroying man-made illusions that lead to human suffering. Vendetti and renowned Hawaiian musician Keola Beamer were part of a Hawai‘i contingent that journeyed to Nepal to attend the festival. Beamer worked with musicians in Nepal to create the film’s original music.

 

 

 

GREAT PERFORMANCES
Movies for Grownups Awards 2019 with AARP

GREAT PERFORMANCES: Movies for Grownups Awards 2019 with AARP

 

Filmmakers and actors receive awards established to celebrate and encourage filmmaking that appeals to movie lovers with a grownup state of mind. Shirley MacLaine is this year’s recipient of the Career Achievement Honor.

 

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