March is Women’s History Month, and WCC will celebrate with its annual Women’s Film Festival on March 15 and 17. All screenings will be in Hale ‘Ākoakoa 105 and are free and open to the public.
On March 15, Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority, which was directed by WCC journalism instructor Kimberlee Bassford, will be screened.
The documentary follows the journey of political progressive and Maui local Patsy Mink. She was the first woman of color in the U.S. Congress and served as Hawai‘i’s congresswoman for 24 years.
Bassford was inspired by Patsy Mink when she was in graduate school and realized that she probably would not have had that opportunity if Mink had not been the driving force behind Title IX.
“Before Title IX, colleges and universities had quotas that limited the number of women they admitted as well as practices and policies in place that prevented girls and women from participating in the full spectrum of educational programs that men enjoyed, among them sports,” Bassford said.
She spent four years on the film, and five on her more recent film Winning Girl, also screening at the festival.
Winning Girl captures the journey of local, part-Hawaiian and Samoan Teshya Alo, a 16-year-old prodigy in judo and wrestling. Alo ventures to both the judo and wrestling world championships, and the film displays the difficulty of growing up while simultaneously being under the pressure of the spotlight. Bassford will be present after both films to answer questions.
On March 17, the Women’s Film Festival will screen Kumu Hina: The True Meaning of Aloha, which showcases some of the challenges that Pacific Islander culture faces after westernization was introduced to the islands.
The story is illustrated from the perspective of Kumu Hina, a respected teacher and cultural practitioner, who also happens to be a mahu or transgender woman.
In Native Hawaiian culture, mahus were valued as good luck, cherished for possessing both male and female spirit and were usually brought up to be exactly what Kumu Hina is–a community leader.
However in today’s society, Hina and others have faced hardships and harassment, and this film aims to destigmatize some of the western-imposed ideas of transgender people in Hawai’i. The film’s directors, Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, along with Kumu Hina, will be available at the festival for Q&A afterward.
Another viewing on March 17 will feature Haku Inoa: To Weave a Name, about the filmmaker Christen Hepuakoa Marquez and her mother.
The dramatic documentary lends a heavy perspective through Marquez’s life after her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and Marquez, her father and brothers all moved to start a new life in Seattle. Marquez lived on the mainland for 20 years, only to return to Hawai’i searching for the meaning of her Hawaiian middle name from her estranged mother.
The festival is organized by social sciences department chair Kathleen French, who felt women were underrepresented in the media and was inspired to start a film festival here to “highlight the roles of women in our society” through women’s films.
Although it is a “women’s festival” and the films are about women and for the most part by women, they were not made only for women. Men are absolutely encouraged to attend. For more information, contact Kathleen French at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Gracie Berkley, Ka ‘Ohana Co-Editor in Chief