A story of hope

LIHUE — Kauai attorney and filmmaker Teresa Tico is not a fan of doom and gloom.

“I like stories that have some hope,” the Hanalei resident said.

Her latest 30-minute documentary, “Fishing Pono: Living in Harmony with the Sea,” offers just that for the world’s oceans — a story about the decline of nearshore fisheries and how a few Hawaiian communities have taken the problem into their own hands by returning to a community-based management system.

“It’s about fishermen, Native Hawaiian fishermen, taking back control of their resources,” Tico said. “I think, as a community, we need to pay attention to what’s happening to our resources.”

Fishing Pono includes interviews with local experts and lifelong fishermen.

“The consensus among them is our fisheries are in severe decline,” Tico said.

The film screens Friday and Saturday as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival, which returns to Kauai this weekend after a seven-year drought.

Juno Apalla, a coordinator of the festival, said she is excited about HIFF’s return and hopes it will put Kauai on the map in the film world.

“My co-coordinator (Laurie Cicotello) and I have a vision it will be a part of the Kauai culture, something they can experience every year,” she said.

Directed by award-winner Mary Lambert, Fishing Pono features fisherman Kelson “Mac” Poepoe and his community-based conservation program on Molokai, which has turned the tide on a seemingly doomed resource, according to a release about the film.

It also highlights fishermen in Haena who are addressing the problem locally by following Poepoe’s model.

“We have lots of Kauai fishermen in the short film who have a lot to say about the subject,” Tico said.

The film is narrated by Mauna Kea Trask, a Kauai County Deputy Attorney, who takes the audience on a journey to find out if turning back the tide is truly possible.

According to United Nations Environmental Programme studies, global fish populations are on the brink of collapse. Over 70 percent of the world’s fish are either fully exploited or depleted, states the release.

So, is it too late?

Poepoe says it’s not.

“A visual feast of stunning ocean images mixed with graphic footage of industrial fishing practices, Fishing Pono leaves no doubt in the viewer’s mind that it’s time to reverse the trend,” according to the film’s synopsis.

Since Tico was a child, she has been passionate about the environment, specifically the ocean. As a lawyer, she has fought to preserve and protect Hawaii for future generations. Her films — approximately 30 of them — focus primarily on the bringing awareness to environmental issues.

“I am really concerned about the future or our children,” she said. “That’s why I continue to do what I do.”

The idea for “Fishing Pono” came to Tico while reading an in-flight magazine about Hawaiian elders, which included a segment about ‘Uncle Mac’ and his work on Molokai. As a passionate ocean user and environmental advocate, Tico decided to track down Poepoe and bring his story to life.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of hours and $150,000 later, “Fishing Pono” was finished, and Tico said she is “thrilled” it has been chosen for the HIFF.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” Tico said. “And films reach a much broader audience than an expert witness who takes the stand in court.”

“Fishing Pono” has been double-billed with “Plastic Paradise,” an independent documentary that chronicles Angela Sun’s journey to Midway Atoll, one of the most remote places on earth, to uncover the truth behind the mystery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The pair of films screen at 5:15 p.m. Friday at the Waimea Theater and 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the St. Regis Hotel in Princeville.

As part of the HIFF, 19 films will be screened at three sites on Kauai.

Joey Charles, a festival media assistant, said he believes one of the main struggles in Hawaii today is the idea of the culture being lost.

“For me, I think the festival is an amazing opportunity for the culture itself to be able to share its own stories and influence the next generation,” he said. “That’s the cool thing about film festivals … You get all these different stories from all over the world.”

HIFF opens on Kauai Thursday with a screening of “The Haumana,” a story about a washed-up and alcoholic Waikiki Polynesian entertainer, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Historic Waimea Theater.

For more information and a complete list of screenings, visit hiff.org. A trailer for Fishing Pono can be found at http://vimeo.com/64973042.

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