‘Rise’ changes a world

Every generation has underdogs that alter the course of history. In the early 1970s, it was a volleyball team from the University of Hawaii “that broke through social restrictions and helped change sports in America, forever.”

Dean Kaneshiro is proud to tell their story.

“I believe this film is for people who want to make a difference in the world around them,” he said.

Kaneshiro is the director of “Rise of the Wahine,” described as the “mostly untold story of a group of women from Hawaii who battled and overcame women’s inequality issues in the 1970s – a time of great social change for women. The film chronicles events leading up to and after the passing of Title IX and is centered on the formation of the first female volleyball team at the University of Hawaii.”

The film offers an insightful look into the team “who fought for women’s athletics and how they set the foundation for the future.”

The documentary will be shown at 5 p.m. Friday at the Waimea Theater as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival.

“I was drawn to the story, it’s about overcomers, it’s about visionaries, it’s about pioneers,” Kaneshiro said.

The film was nearly two years in the making. It required interviewing nearly 50 people and included shoots on Oahu and in Washington D.C., piecing together hundreds of photo and video clips and researching files in quest of details for the story that unfolded more than 40 years ago.

The process was, he said, definitely educational, enlightening and inspiring.

“It’s been a great adventure,” Kaneshiro said, “an Indiana Jones kind of journey.”

He recalled a particular story that led to the film and captured his heart and was one that Beth McLaughlin, a player on the Wahine team in the early 70s, shared during an interview four years ago. She received her stipend check for books and it was $25. A football player happened to be there and had his check – for $125.

Kaneshiro said it was difficult to understand that McLaughlin, an All-American, Olympic alternate player of the highest-skill level, received less money simply because of her gender.

“What would it be like to be on the receiving end of that?” he said.

It made him want to tell that tale, and in January 2013, the journey began.

“Rise of the Wahine is a historical documentary chronicling the central role that Hawaii played in unlocking opportunities for women 40 years ago,” said a press release. “The 1970s were a flash point for women’s opportunities in America, and female athletics at the University of Hawaii, especially volleyball, became the center of the fight.”

What the team endured, how it overcame, is an important part of history. It is a dramatic story, what he called a “world changer,” that took place in our own backyard.

“You should be very proud of the story,” he said.

The 90-minute film premiered Nov. 3 at the Hawaii Theater. About 1,000 people attended. It received rave reviews.

“I was super proud,” he said. “I’m very happy with the film.”

Kaneshiro and producer Ryan Tsuji will be on Kauai Friday and speak to students about the film, how it came together and why they made it, before it shows that night at the Waimea Theater.

“Every local person, every person living in Hawaii, should see the film to understand our history,” he said.

Tickets are available at the door and online.

Info: www.RiseoftheWahine.com and HIFF.org.

Kauai residents and visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy movies produced mainly by independent filmmakers during the upcoming Hawaii International Film Festival.

A total of 18 films will be shown at the Historic Waimea Theatre and the St. Regis Princeville Resort Thursday through Sunday.

Funding for the HIFF on Kauai is provided by the Kauai Film Commission and Kauai Visitors Bureau.

The film festival will open at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Waimea Theatre with “The Vancouver Asahi,” a true story of a 1930s Canadian baseball team consisting of second-generation Japanese immigrants. Initially, the team was dominated by their much larger Caucasian opponents, but after recovering and changing their strategies, they began winning games and gaining popularity. They became the champions of the local league and basked in the glory for five years until that fateful day in December 1941. The bombing of Pearl Harbor caused the Asahi to be treated with resentment and xenophobia, and the team never fully recovered.

Also showing with “The Vancouver Asahi” is a short animation, “Lava,” a musical love story between two volcanoes spanning millions of years.

The following night at the Waimea Theatre, “Rise of the Wahine” will be shown at 5 p.m.

Kauai resident and filmmaker Serge Marcil makes his debut in HIFF with “Hihi‘o,” a short film that captures his artistic interpretation of “mana,” or life energy, as a muse in a dream or hihi’o. The movie can be seen on Saturday at the Waimea Theatre or St. Regis Princeville Resort.

Other movies featured at Waimea Theatre:

Friday, 7 p.m. – “Where I am King,” directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna, set in the Philippines

Saturday, 12 p.m. – “We are the Giant,” directed by Greg Barker, set in the Middle East

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. – “Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday, directed by Shuichi Okita, set in Japan

Saturday, 5 p.m. – “Kundo: The Age of Rampant” directed by Jong-Bin Yoon, set in South Korea

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. – “Beyond Sight: The Derek Rebelo Story” directed by Bryan S. Jennings and Bruno Lemos, set in Brazil and Oahu’s North Shore. Also showing will be a short movie, “Hihi‘o,” directed by Kauai resident Serge Marcil

Sunday, 12 p.m. – “We are Brothers,” directed by Jang Jin, set in South Korea

Sunday, 2:15 p.m. – “My Brilliant Life”, directed by E J-Yong, set in South Korea

Sunday, 5 p.m. – “Mary Kom,” directed by Omung Kumar, set in India

Sunday, 7:30 p.m. – “Visions in the Dark: The Life of Pinky Thompson,” directed by Ty Sanga, set in Hawaii

Featured movies at the St. Regis Princeville Resort:

Saturday, 4 p.m. – “Beyond the Surface,” directed by Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, set in Southern India; “A Place in the Middle,” directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, set in Hawaii; and “Hihi‘o”

Saturday, 6:30 p.m. – “Beyond Sight: The Derek Rebelo Story”

Sunday, 4 p.m. – “Angel Azul,” directed by Marcelina Cravat, set in the U.S.

Sunday, 6:30 p.m. – “Fort Bliss,” directed by Claudia Myers, set in the U.S.

Tickets for the HIFF movies can be purchased at the respective venues.

For more information about the Hawaii International Film Festival, go to http://www.hiff.org/, send an email to: info@hiff.org or call (808) 792-1577.

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