NA KAMALEI: The Men of Hula
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The Filmmaker

Headshot of Lisette Marie Flanary

From filmmaker Lisette Marie Flanary:

When I first started researching and developing the idea for this film, I read an article entitled “Hula Men: An Endangered Species” that focused on the dwindling number of men dancing the hula since the revival in the 1970s. I hope that if someone were to write an article about men in hula today, it would be a much more optimistic story. In the last three years, men’s groups have really shined at the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, and I think there is a revival of sorts, or at least some really positive currents in motion that are taking men in hula off the ”endangered” list, so to speak. The recognition of the importance of men in the hula traditions is something that I think will only help to perpetuate that proud legacy. I hope that my film might also encourage more men to dance. “Dare to hula, leave your shame at home” is a powerful message of being proud of who you are and where you come from.

Her three favorite films:

I hate questions like this! It’s so hard to just pick three…

1. Fallen Angels or Chungking Express by Wong Kar Wai
2. Three Colors Trilogy (Blue/White/Red) by Krzysztof Kieslowski or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry
3. Latcho Drom by Tony Gatlif or Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron

I know that adds up to eight films but any three of them are tops in my book.

Her advice for aspiring filmmakers:

  • Learn how to take criticism well. This is a very important part of filmmaking. Being able to listen to other people is crucial to making good films.
  • Talk to other filmmakers. I think one of our most valuable resources as independent filmmakers is sharing our experiences and stories with one another. Take advantage of community events or panels.
  • Be organized. Think filmmaking is just being really creative? Think again. Being a smart and savvy businessperson is just as important. Paperwork and accounting are a drag, but someone has to do it.
  • Stay positive. The road to making and finishing a film can be a long and sometimes difficult one, but don’t get discouraged. Never give up and always have a Plan B, C, D, etc. You are gonna need them!
  • Don’t work for or with mean and/or crazy people. Ever. It’s not worth it. This should actually be golden rule #1…

What do you think is the most inspirational food for making independent film?

I love to cook and actually find it very relaxing after a stressful day of editing to make a nice meal. I’m also a vegetarian and love to make anything out of Deborah Madison’s cookbooks. I’m a sucker for cookbooks with pretty pictures and that is where I get my inspiration for meals. Cheese, tofu, eggs and black beans are inspirational to me. There is a place called the Blue Apron in my neighborhood that has an awesome cheese section. The people who work there are super friendly and let you taste as much stuff as you want. I like to choose a couple of cheeses, get a nice crunchy baguette, a good bottle of wine and then take my time cooking dinner while I nibble. Usually dinner is a salad and some veggie entrée. I’m not a food snob by any means though, and if I’m feeling lazy, ordering a pizza can be pretty inspirational when you are making a movie. I even like cold pizza for breakfast—which my husband thinks is pretty gross. Breakfast of champions (or independent filmmakers with no money), I say…


Lisette Marie Flanary

A filmmaker and hula dancer, Lisette Marie Flanary creates documentary films about the hula dance that celebrate a renaissance of Hawaiian culture. Lisette’s first feature, American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawaii, aired nationally on the award-winning non-fiction showcase P.O.V. on PBS in 2003 with an encore broadcast in 2004. Winner of a CINE Golden Eagle Award, the film focused on the perpetuation of the hula dance in Hawaiian communities living on the mainland in California. American Aloha broadcast internationally on ITVS’s True Stories: Life in the USA series in 2007 and on AMDOC’s True Lives in 2008.

NA KAMALEI: The Men of Hula premiered at the Hawaii International Film Festival’s Sunset on the Beach screening in 2006 and was awarded the Hawaii Filmmaker Award and an Audience Award for Best Documentary. In 2007, NA KAMALEI screened in numerous festivals and received the Audience Award at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, the VCFILMFEST Special Jury Award for Best Non-Fiction Feature, the Emerging Director Award at the New York Asian American International Film Festival and Best Documentary at the San Diego Asian American Film Festival.

Flanary is the writer, producer and director of Lehua Films. Since graduating from NYU’s film school in 1995, she has worked on many independent productions both in the U.S. and abroad, including the Student Academy Award-winning Homeland, shot on location in El Salvador, as well as her own short film entitled Kill Kimono. She received her MFA in creative writing at the New School in 2000 and continued her traditional hula studies under master hula teacher, Patrick Makuakane, in San Francisco, California. In 2006, she formally graduated as an ‘olapa (dancer) in the Papa ‘Uniki Lehua class. Under the blessing and guidance of her teacher, she formed a hui, or a group, called Na Lehua Melemele and continues to teach classes that perpetuate the art of the hula in New York City.

Flanary’s most recent documentary project, One Voice—about the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest—finished production in Honolulu in March 2008. Her final film of the hula trilogy, Tokyo Hula, will focus on hula in Japan and is slated to begin production in 2009.

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