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2016 Funded Projects

Posted on December 22, 2016

Mele Murals 

A story about the transformative power of art through the unlikely union of graffiti and ancient Hawaiian culture.

About the filmmakers

Tadashi Nakamura, Producer/Director 

Tadashi was named one of CNN’s Young People Who Rock for being the youngest filmmaker at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. His recent film Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings (NEA funded) was broadcast nationally on PBS in 2013 and went on to win the 2013 Gotham Independent Film Audience Award.

Keoni Lee, Producer

Keoni is a native Hawaiian film producer and co-founder of ʻŌiwi TV, the first and only Hawaiian language and culture-focused television station. Lee and ʻŌiwi TV have produced 3 PBS national programs, produced the first native language news magazine on a nationally affiliated tv station (Ahaʻi ʻŌlelo Ola, KGMB9), received awards from international peers in the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network, and in 2012 he was a panelist on native media at the United Nations Indigenous Forum. 


Kū Kanaka 

Kanalu Young, professor, activist, and chanter, inspired Native Hawaiians to reclaim their sense of worth by the daily practice of Hawaiian language and culture

About the filmmaker 

Marlene Booth, Producer/Director 

Marlene is an award-winning filmmaker and instructor in film at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, who has worked both as an independent filmmaker and for public television station WGBH-TV in Boston. She has produced and directed several major documentary films including: Pidgin: The Voice of Hawaiʻi, The Had a Dream: Brown V. Board of Education Twenty-Five Years Later and more. 


Out of State 

Thousands of native Hawaiian inmates are sent to a private prison in the desert of Arizona.

About the filmmakers

Ciara Lacy, Producer 

Ciara has produced, directed, or written non-fiction TV for PBS, ABC, TLC, Discovery, Bravo, and A&E as well as produced rock-documentaries with theatrical distribution for Dave Matthews, My Morning Jacket, and O.A.R. Ciara is a current Sundance Institute Time Warner Fellow and Firelight Media Producing Fellow, a 2014 Tribeca All Access Awardee, a 2013 Princess Grace Foundation Awardee, and a 2012 Sundance Institute NativeLab Director Fellow. Ciara holds a BA in psychology from Yale University and is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii. 

Beau Bassett, Producer

Beau's experience represents the intersection of Hawai`is justice system, filmmaking, and native Hawaiian culture. Beau is a graduate of the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and is fluent in the Hawaiian language. As a filmmaker, Beau created his first short film, Tewetewe, in 2006 for PBS broadcast, and was accepted as a 2008 producing fellow to the Sundance Institute's Native American and Indigenous Program. He currently practices law in Honolulu.


Poi E 

A film about the unofficial national waiata (anthem) of Aotearoa and the community spirit of Pātea and Dalvanius Prime.

About the filmmakers

Tearepa Kahi, Director

Tearepa wrote and directed and edited the short film Taua, which won the best short film award at the 2007 National Geographic All Roads Festival (USA) and was awarded honorable mention at the 2007 ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Canada. His other short film, The Speaker, won the Friends of the Civic Award for Best Short Film and the 2006 Wairoa Māori Film Festival Short Film Drama (Aotearoa) Award. 

Kahi is a former member of Te Paepae Ataata – the Māori  Script Development Board and Chairperson of Nga Aho Whakaari – the Māori  TV and Film Body.


Alexander Behse, Producer 

Alexander is an award-winning creative producer who’s eclectic body of work has resonated across the wider Pacific. From high-end documentaries to celebrated prime-time series, Behse’s drive for risk-taking treatments, engaging subjects and his eye for talent have made him one of the most innovative and prolific young producers of indigenous, factual and adventure programming in the region today.


Reikua Kahi, Producer 

Reikura was the first graduate of Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa education and was invited to the islands of Hawai’i in 1986 with her Kuia Letti Brown to share and explore the newly formed Hawaiian language initiative known as Punana Leo. POI E: The Story of our Song marks Reikura’s first film as a Producer and her next film is about to go into production in February 2017 – HERBS: songs of freedom slated for release in 2018.



Merata is the record of the life of Merata Mita, whose ambition was to tell stories from her own perspective, to her own people, and the barriers she had to overcome to do so. This film chronicles the events that shaped the person who became the first, and only, Māori woman to write and direct a dramatic feature film. 


About the filmmakers

Heperi Mita, Director 

Since moving to Wellington, New Zealand in 2011, Hepi Mita has worked with Nga Taonga Sound & Vision (formerly The New Zealand Film Archive) as Kaikohikohi, advocating for and working with the Maori production community in an effort to preserve the cinematic and television history of Aotearoa. He received technical training from the staff of L’Immagine Ritrovata in large gauge film scanning and was certified through their Film School Asia programme in Singapore. 

After earning a degree in media studies from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2009, Hepi began his professional career for the Pulitzer Prize award winning newspaper and EPPY award winning news website The Las Vegas Sun. Here he covered sports and developed his technical skills in video production as a videographer, editor and web developer for their online multimedia. 

As the son of two of New Zealand’s most prolific filmmakers, Hepi has a strong passion for Aotearoa’s moving image heritage and a lifetime of exposure to the industry. He graduated from Punahou High School in 2003. 


Chelsea Winstanley, Producer

With a background in documentary directing, Chelsea began producing television and short films with business partner Desray Armstrong in 2008. She has made and won media peace awards for her documentaries and made several Television series for the indigenous broadcaster Maori Television. TV series included the origins of traditional Māori music through to Kete Aronui an arts series which featured an episode on Merata Mita. 

Since then Chelsea has gone on to make some of the most successful NZ short films of the last 4 years, including having films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival two years in a row - Nightshift by Zia Mandviwalla, and Meathead by Sam Holst respectively. 


Aloha ʻĀina Warrior

For 40 years, Walter Ritte has been one of Hawaii's most powerful advocates for Aloha ‘Āina, a multi-layered cultural belief in love of land that became his lifelong call to action. His activism has deep roots in his home island of Molokaʻi.   

About the filmmaker


Matt Yamashita, Producer

Matt was born and raised on the Hawaiian island of Molokaʻi. He is of Japanese, Filipino, and Caucasian ancestry. After receiving a BFA in Film Production from Chapman University, Matt returned to Molokaʻi to become the island’s first professional filmmaker. He has been working in the Hawaiʻi film industry since 2001. Matt has unique expertise working within Hawaiʻi-based communities, cultures, and environments and has dedicated the focus of his work to telling Hawaiʻi’s stories through a local lens. Matt has held key roles in productions that have received statewide and national broadcast, including PIC-funded Nā Loea: The Masters II (from Pacific Heartbeat Season 4), and The Roots of ʻUlu. He is well-known for his ability to deliver quality products while working with very limited resources and small production teams. 


A Paradise Lost 

Is an animated/live-action documentary that captures an intimate tale of how humans are deciding the fate of the critically endangered Palila, a small Hawaiian bird that lives only on Mauna Kea volcano on Hawai'i Island. This emotional story is told from the bird’s point of view – a unique and bold storytelling strategy.


About the filmmaker

Laurie Sumiye, Director 

Laurie is an artist, animator and filmmaker with an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from CUNY Hunter College. Her short documentaries, Struggle for Existence, an animated/live-action film about endangered Hawaiian birds, and Of Memory & Lossures, an animated oral history of a Latino neighborhood in Brooklyn, have won awards and screened at DOC NYC, BAM, PS1MoMA and Hawaii International Film Festival. A Paradise Lost  is her first long-form documentary film project.


On a Flaxen Plate

On A Flaxen Plate (I Runga I Te Paraharaha Vavae) follows one young Polynesian on a personal journey of discovery to uncover the forces that have shaped the Polynesian diet in the modern era. 


About the filmmaker

Richard Riddiford, Director & Producer

Richard has worked in film and television for thirty years. He has produced or directed nearly thirty documentaries. His drama credits as a director include two feature films Arriving Tuesday and Zilch . He has worked as a series director on two television drama series. He has also produced and directed television commercials. A number of his documentaries have been in the arts and music area. He has made three documentaries about notable New Zealand architects, Sir Miles Warren, Ian Athfield and Rossano Fan. His music documentaries include View From Olympus  about New Zealand’s leading classical composer John Psathas and Mike Knock  one of New Zealand’s leading jazz musicians. He has also made a number of historical and political documentaries including Tarawera, the story of New Zealand’s famous Pink and White terraces and Class of ‘87  about the fallout of the financial meltdown in the late 80s in New Zealand.



Tonga Leiti

This film will tell the story of Tonga's paradoxical embrace of gender fluidity through a character driven, cinema-verite-style portrait of the most prominent leiti in the Kingdom, Joey Joleen Mataele.  It is also home to the Miss Galaxy Pageant, a joyful annual celebration of the creativity and talent of “leitis,” a visible community of transgender Tongan women who do not conform to traditional notions of the gender binary.


About the filmmaker

Dean Hamer, Director 

Dean is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and New York Times Book of the Year author with a long history in communicating complex and controversial ideas to diverse publics. He formed Qwaves with partner Joe Wilson to produce insightful and provocative documentaries about often overlooked social issues. Their films have been supported by Sundance, ITVS and Pacific Islanders in Communications, won awards at over 100 film festivals across the world, and used as outreach and educational tools by a wide range of community and educational organizations.

In addition to his film work, Hamer is the author of several best selling nonfiction books including The Science of Desire and The God Gene, a consultant for the BBC and Discovery channels, and a sought-after lecturer and frequent guest on TV documentaries and news shows including Nightline and Oprah. In 2011 he moved to the north shore of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, to work on Kumu Hina.


Pacific Walking Warriors 

This film follows the story of three Samoan activists as they walk across America to raise awareness of obesity and diabetes, particularly in the Pacific Islander, Indigenous and LGBTQ communities they meet along the way.


About the Filmmaker 

Kimberlee Bassford, Director

Kimberlee is an independent documentary filmmaker from Hawai‘i. She first learned about the issues of obesity and diabetes in the Pacific in college when she spent a semester studying abroad in (Western) Samoa, during which she took Samoan language and culture classes, conducted independent research and lived with local families. That was also when she was introduced to Sia Figiel’s work, which often explores the experiences of Samoan girls. Kimberlee has spent much of her filmmaking career focusing on the stories of girls and women and the Pacific.

Most recently, she directed, produced and wrote the documentary WINNING GIRL (2014), which follows a Samoan/Hawaiian teenage judo and wrestling phenom vying to become world champion in both sports. The film aired on the World Channel’s signature series “America ReFramed,” as well as on PBS Hawaii and OC16. It also won a Special Jury Award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. It is distributed by Women Make Movies in North America and by Java Films internationally.


The Ninth Island 

A character driven, hour-long documentary for public television, currently in development. The narrative of the film, which focuses on one Native Hawaiian struggling to make ends meet in her ancestral homeland, will take the verite of life unfolding and mold it into an audience-gripping, three-act structure.


About the Filmmaker 

Christen Marquez, Director 

Christen is committed to producing character-driven stories and covering social justice issues throughout the world. In 2012 she completed her documentary feature debut, E HAKU INOA: TO WEAVE A NAME. The program was broadcast on public television nationally in May of 2014. She has also worked as a Producer and Videographer on a docu-series for Nat Geo called Southern Justice, which followed inmates and corrections officers in two county jails in the Appalachia region of the United Sates.

Her work has been supported by Cal Humanities, The Independent Television Service (ITVS), the Gucci Tribeca Film Fund, the San Francisco Film Foundation and Pacific

Islanders in Communications. In 2011 she was awarded the 'Through the Soul of an Artist' grant for Artistic Innovation by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and was selected for participation in the 2013 CPB/PBS Producer's Academy. She holds a BFA in Film and Video Production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.


Ciara Lacy - Producer  

Ciara is a documentary filmmaker whose interest lies in crafting films that use both strong characters and investigative journalism to challenge the creative and political status quo. Ciara is honored to be the inaugural Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellow (2016) as well as a Firelight Media Producers’ Lab Fellow (2014-2016). She has also benefited from fellowships with the Sundance Institute's partnership with the Time Warner Foundation (2015), the Sundance Institute’s NativeLab (2012), the Princess Grace Foundation (2013), and the Independent Filmmaker Project (2012). Her latest documentary, OUT OF STATE, is the proud recipient of support from the MacArthur Foundation, ITVS, the Sundance Institute, Firelight Media’s Next Step Media Fund, Tribeca Film Festival’s All Access Program, Pacific Islanders in Communication, and the Hawaii People’s Fund. She is also an experienced grant writer, having drafted federal, state, and foundational grants as a specialist for the company Grantwriting and Consulting. Ciara holds a B.A. in Psychology from Yale University and attended high school at the Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii.

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