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Shorts showcase

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    Mark and Matthew Stowers are brothers sent into the forest in "Malaga."
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Spooked Samoans in the forest. Lychee thieves in Honolulu. K-drama-crazy Korean ladies on the run. …

The eight films screening at the ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase have it covered, from a point of view that is based right here.

It’s been four years since the last showcase for short films made by Hawaii auteurs has taken place, and ‘Ohina board members Gerard Elmore, Darrin Kaneshiro and Lance Rae thought it was about time to bring it back. (Filmmaker Jeff Katz got the event started in 2001, but he is now involved with the long-running independent "Soul Saviors" project.)

"It’s a showcase — not a contest, not a festival," Rae notes. The films — three to 30 minutes long — are chosen by a committee including local filmmakers and public relations reps.

Some films being screened have already gained notice, including local drama "Lychee Thieves," by Kathleen Kwai Ching Man, and K-drama comedy "Ajumma: Are You Krazy???" Both have earned decent reviews and screenings at creditable festivals.

‘OHINA SHORT FILM SHOWCASE

Where: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts

When: 7:30 p.m. today, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. tomorrow,

Cost: $5-$8.50; all proceeds support activities at the Academy of Arts.

Info: 532-8794, www.ohina.org

Note: The short films also screen at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Aloha Theatre, Hilo.

 

THE PROGRAM

"One Night": written/directed by Misa Tupou

"Into Mousetrap": written/directed by Fabio Cardoso, Blake Pedersen

"Malaga": written/directed by Robert Poleki, Daniel Poleki

"Ajumma! Are You Krazy???": written/directed by Brent Anbe

"Voices of the Dust": written/directed by Michael Ogasawara, Tomas Pais

"I Was Tourist": directed by Gerard Elmore; written by Sung Kang, Gerard Elmore

"The Branch Will Not Break": written/directed by Fabio Cardoso, Blake Pedersen

"Lychee Thieves": written/directed by Kathleen Kwai Ching Man

 

"This year, it was really competitive," says Elmore, himself a filmmaker ( "All For Melissa"); he also hosts "Hawaii Reel Stories" on Oceanic cable."

"Some were done for fun, and some are a little more polished. … Some were done in 48 hours — at Showdown in Chinatown."

Go to www.ohina.org to see trailers and clips from the festival, including Elmore’s own trailer for ‘Ohina, co-directed with Todd Robertson — he promises it’s "wild," with a plot involving a giant, ninjas and ice cream trucks.

"We really want to celebrate local filmmakers," Elmore says. "Look to see how good they are."

ROBERT Poleki, whose "Malaga" is in the festival, says his films have been rejected from showings in the past. He was "really nervous" about this one — and ecstatic to find out he would be included.

The 29-year-old filmmaker, whose day job is as a social worker who serves people who are homeless and mentally ill, credits the monthly film competition Showdown in Chinatown for putting him on a potential career path in film.

"I picked up filmmaking from Showdown," he said.

The first film Poleki and his brother Daniel, 35, submitted at the monthly (a comic short called "Egg Surprise") came in at second place — a big surprise to them, but also a major boost to their confidence. And other filmmakers at the event gave feedback and advice on ramping up their storytelling techniques.

"We just got started from there," Robert Poleki said.

Via connections made at the short film competition, he was hired on as a camera assistant on "Lost" — and he calls that an education in professional technique and organization.

Now, films have become an obsession for the Polekis. They got started in 2007, and Robert Poleki estimates he’s made 25 films since then — usually with a seven-man crew that includes his brother, other family members and friends from the neighborhood.

"We make short films just to make them now," he said. "We put them on YouTube. … I do everything — editor, director, writing. … If the others are not acting in a scene, they’re doing lighting, sound — they’re grips."

"Malaga" means "journey" in Samoan, Poleki explained. In the film, the Poleki brothers’ first real venture into dramatic storytelling (their usual stomping ground is comedy), two brothers are sent into the forest by elders to become men.

The story line is not strictly taken from Samoan lore, but inspired by it.

"It’s about family, aspects of Samoan culture," the filmmaker explained. "Actually, my dad is in the film. The two stars we cast are my cousins. We recruited them. … My other two little cousins are in it, too. They were naturals! We just put them in it and they went with it."

They shot a draft take of the film, examined it — then redid it, and the effort paid off.

Next, the brothers plan to make their first full-length film — script, storyboards and all. Describing it, Poleki sounds a little amazed that he’s come that far.

"If I wasn’t in Honolulu, Hawaii, I wouldn’t have had the help — we wouldn’t have had the tools to learn filmmaking," he said. "We owe a lot to Showdown in Chinatown, and Torry Tukuafu" — a local filmmaker and camera operator, and driving force behind the competition.

The Polekis have built a wider network of filmmaking peers through their involvement with the ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase.

"There are a lot of good, creative ideas out there," Robert Poleki said. "Everybody wants to work together."

 

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