Student films screen at the Hawai‘i International Film Festival

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Two WCC Creative Media students were among the handful of local college students with films in last month’s Hawai‘i International Film Festival, the state’s premier event for independent cinema from around the world. 

Kyle Motonaga’s Skating is (My) Life and Andrew Emerson’s The Gift of Life screened in the festival’s new University Student Showcase. Both students produced their short documentaries in the college’s video journalism courses. 

Motonaga created his film about long-time friend Kekoa Andrade, who is a passionate and talented skateboarder. 

“Kekoa’s been wanting to film a skating video, and I’ve also been interested in skating since I was in 5th or 6th grade, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity,” he said.

Motonaga said his interest in video production began after taking his first video journalism class at WCC and loving it. 

“I’ve always loved watching movies, and now I’m learning how to make them,” he said. “I’m glad I ended up enjoying video journalism because it helped me follow through with a major.” 

Motonaga received his associate’s degree from WCC and now attends the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, majoring in Creative Media.

He said his WCC video journalism instructor Kimberlee Bassford contacted him earlier this fall encouraging him to submit his film to the festival, which he said was “a cool way to put my work out there.” 

“As soon as I heard about the festival’s new showcase for student films, I knew Kyle had to submit his film,” Bassford said. “The cinematography is just so beautiful. Kyle actually filmed Kekoa skating while he himself was skating, so the shots are so fluid. You feel like you’re flying on a skateboard with them.”

Bassford said she was also thrilled that Andrew Emerson’s The Gift of Life was selected for the festival. The film tells the story of Leilani Madison, a non-traditional student at WCC with a love for art. 

“Andrew really captured Leilani’s zest for life and her graceful demeanor,” Bassford said. 

WCC Creative Media student Cayson Kiyabu worked on Emerson’s film and was at the festival screening. 

“ … just hearing the story of Leilani still coming to college to learn made me learn something–which is no matter what age you are, you can still accomplish your goal if you put your mind to it,” Kiyabu said. 

The purpose of the Hawai‘i International Film Festival (HIFF) is to recognize new and emerging talent, promote career development and original collaborations through innovative education programs, and facilitate dynamic cultural exchange through the cinema arts. Each year in preparation for the event, HIFF programmers view approximately 1,000 films and choose around 150 features, documentaries and short films. Among them are world premieres, North American premieres, U.S. premieres, experimental films, animation and digital works representing social and ethnic issues, and first features by new directors. 

For more information about the festival, go to

by Antonia Gary, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter