SF ShortsSF Shorts

Kama'āina (Child of the Land)
“A beautifully honest and insider portrait of a homeless teen searching for community in magical Hawaiian locations.” – F3 Film Magazine
Kama'āina (Child of the Land)  USA  Narrative      Film Website
A queer sixteen-year-old girl, Mahina, must navigate life on the streets in Oahu, until she eventually finds refuge at the Pu’uhonua o Wai’anae––Hawaiʻi’s largest organized homeless encampment.
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Kimi Howl Lee
Director Bio : Kimi Howl Lee is a writer and director from New York City, and is a graduate of Stanford University's Film and Media Studies program. Kimi began her career as a Story Editor curating short-form content for Snapchat Inc., before transitioning full time to filmmaking. Kimi’s feature script, MOUTH, won the grand prize for Best Narrative Feature in the 2015 BlueCat Screenwriting Competition, subsequently landing on the TrackingBoard’s 2015 “Hit-List” of best unproduced scripts. She also wrote and directed SUGAR, a short proof of concept, which had a successful festival run and was a finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Kimi was most recently staffed on the Amazon Studios + Blossom Films drama series THE EXPATRIATES, based off the NYTimes best-selling novel. She is currently a story editor on Netflix's LOCKE AND KEY, executive produced by Carlton Cuse and based off of the popular graphic novel. Kimi was a participant in Film Independent’s 2019 Episodic Lab, and Women In Film's Multi-hyphenate mentorship program. She is currently repped by UTA and Kaplan Perrone.

Directors Statement : In Hawaiian, Kamaʻāina means “Child of the Land” and refers to any resident born on the islands––regardless of their racial background.

Although Kama
ʻāina is set in paradise, the short will grant viewers a privileged glimpse into a largely neglected corner of the island––Wai’anae––the predominantly native, low-income neighborhood known as the “west side”. Wai’anae runs along Farrington Highway, and is comprised of fast-food chains and auto-part shops––a section of Oahu you don’t see displayed in travel magazines. According to federal statistics, Hawaiʻi has the highest homeless rate per capita in the nation, as well as the highest rate of homeless youth. Although Native Hawaiian’s make up only 10% of the population, nearly 42% suffer from homelessness. Priced out of Hawai‘i's skyrocketing housing market, and failed by systemic negligence, many native people have turned to one another for support, and have built beautiful makeshift communities.

Pu‘uhonua O Wai‘anae is one example. The overwhelmingly Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community has created a safe, stable, thriving encampment. They live beneath a grove of kiawe trees, near the Wai‘anae Boat Harbor.

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to tour the Pu’uhonua o Wai’anae, and was able to interview the de fato governess of the encampment: Twinkle Borge. As a self-identifying queer woman, Aunty Twinkle strives to provide a safe-haven for LGBTQIA identifying youth. In addition to presiding over 260 displaced families living in the abandoned boat harbor, Twinkle has also single-handedly raised dozens of minors, including many LGBTQIA teens who have turned to her for shelter.

My intention with Kama
ʻāina was to shed light on the staggering homeless crisis that plagues Hawaiʻi’s youth, without fetishizing their situation. The cast was comprised of primarily houseless, first-time actors––including our sixteen-year-old lead, Malia Kamalani––whom I met at the local Starbucks. I am tremendously grateful that Twinkle granted me permission to shoot in the Pu’uhonua o Wai’anae, and that Malia was so generous in sharing and re-enacting her experience. My hope is that this film will vindicate the unsheltered souls living off the land.