Kama'āina (Child of the Land)

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.

  • Kimi Howl Lee
    Director
    SUGAR (Short Film), NEVERLAND (Short Film)
  • Kimi Howl Lee
    Writer
    LOCKE AND KEY (Netflix + Genre Arts), The EXPATRIATES (Amazon Studios + Blossom Films), SACRED LIES (Facebook Watch + Blumhouse)
  • Natalé Olsen
    Producer
    LAVENDER (Narrative Short, Sundance 2019), FINGERS (Feature)
  • Sabina Friedman-Seitz
    Producer
    THE FLORIDA PROJECT (Feature), LORELEI (Feature), WE WERE AN ISLAND (Feature)
  • Anastasia Solovieva
    Producer
    SNORKELING (Feature), PEER PRESSURE (L. Devine's Visual EP)
  • Malia Kamalani Soon
    Key Cast
    “Mahina ”
    First-time Child Actor
  • Sabina Friedman-Seitz
    Key Cast
    “Shayla”
    The Florida Project (Feature), Book Club (Feature), The Boy Downstairs (Feature), Fingers (Feature), Lorelei (Feature), The Blacklist (TV), Turnt (Facebook Watch).
  • Twinkle Borge
    Key Cast
    “Twinkle”
    First-time Actor
  • Project Type:
    Short
  • Genres:
    Drama, Coming of Age
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 3, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    25,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    ARRI Alexa Mini
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Outfest Fusion
    Los Angeles
    United States
    March 7, 2020
    California Premiere
  • Santa Fe Film Festival
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    United States
    February 15, 2020
    North American Premiere
    Best Native Cinema
  • Tally Shorts Film Festival
    Tallahassee, Florida
    United States
    February 8, 2020
    Winner, Best Short
Director Biography - Kimi Howl Lee

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.

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Director Statement

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

Although Kamaʻāina 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 Kamaʻāina 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.