Film fest spotlights Kauai native Stephanie J. Castillo

LIHUE — The island that is featured in films shown around the world will have its chance to showcase filmmakers of its own.

The second Garden Island Film Festival will feature the award-winning documentary film, “Night Bird Song, The Incandescent Life of Thomas Chapin” directed by Stephanie J. Castillo, an Emmy award-winning director from Kauai.

“By working with the individuals with the films, one of the highlights was making contact with Stephanie Castillo, who’s actually from Wailua Homesteads here on Kauai,” said Kauai Film Commissioner Randy Francisco. “And I thought, ‘wow what a perfect opportunity to highlight a Kauai girl for this year.’”

Not only is the film festival, which takes place tonight through Sunday, celebrating Kauai films and its artists, but it’s also celebrating Castillo’s 25 years of filmmaking.

“We have filmmakers on Kauai. We have great filmmakers here. And I think the world doesn’t really know that,” Castillo said. “We know about the films, with Kauai being the movie island where films go to get made, but we don’t know so much about the films that are coming out of these islands.”

Castillo’s film is a music biography about a jazz musician named Thomas Chapin who, at the height of his music career, died at the age of 40 from leukemia. Her 10th film, Castillo has a personal connection with the film as Chapin was married to her sister, Terri.

“To be able to come back here to Kauai and premiere my latest film, my 10th film, is such an honor and a privilege to celebrate 25 years of filmmaking and to show the first showing in Hawaii,” Castillo said. “My films have all these Kauai threads through them. It wasn’t planned that way, but it just happened that way. It’s kind of amazing when I look back and see how Kauai has found a place in each of my films.”

Castillo is a Kauai girl through and through. She has three sisters who still live here with lots of cousins, nieces and nephews. It is also where her mother passed away two years ago.

For Francisco, Castillo’s presence at the festival this year goes a long way for celebrating the local film industry, hoping to inspire young filmmakers to pursue their passion for film like Castillo did over two decades ago.

“Hopefully this will inspire our youth to say, ‘Well, if she can, I can,’” Francisco said. “This festival gives us a chance to learn about different people and cultures.”

Mentoring and serving as an inspiration for young filmmakers is something Castillo never envisioned she would do. After all, she started creating films to share these stories, not for recognition.

“I had a mentor, so I know how important it is to have someone like that,” Castillo said. “I make myself available to young filmmakers, especially women. I’m committed to helping young women make their careers happen. It’s a great feeling to know that you’re sharing what was given to you what somebody else helped you with, and it carries on.”

She said filmmaking is far from easy. It took five years and $125,000 to make her latest documentary film and another $50,000 for marketing.

“But it’s not about the money,” she said. “I have a higher calling than money or becoming famous.”

The film festival is free and is open to the public. There will be three different locations of the film’s screening.

The first screening will take place at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villa at 6 tonight.

The festival will move to the Kauai Marriott Resort at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The Blu Umi and Japanese Grandma Cafe Bistro Garden in Hanapepe will host the final screening of the film at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Castillo will be present at each of the three screenings.

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