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June 27, 2012

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US students screen short flicks at festival

A short documentary about a Hawaiian grandmother in her mid-90s has won first prize for best documentary at the Sino-US Student Shorts Exhibition and Competition at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Mini-documentary "Ka Pua" (a Hawaiian flower) looks at the life of Elizabeth Lau, whose strong character is reflected through her sense of family and unconditional love. She is described by a line in the film, "Aia no ka pua I luna," meaning the flower is still on the tree. The film's director Erin Lau was born and raised on the island of Oahu. She attends the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in the Academy for Creative Media.

"I just find her inspiring because she's in her mid-90s and she's a very strong woman. She takes care of herself, takes care of those around her," Lau said of her grandmother. "I see her as a role model, and I just want to show her to the world and hopefully inspire other people."

Lau and five students from the University of Hawaii screened their films at the Shanghai festival.

They spoke to Shanghai Daily before they departed yesterday.

Starting in 2006, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Academy for Creative Media and Shanghai University's School of Film and TV have organized the Student Media Art Exchange Program, which is supported by the Shanghai and Hawaii international film festivals.

Holly Larson showed her first narrative short film "Rhythms" to the Shanghai festival. The subject is a lonely young man named Carl who is looking for a friend in a world where no one seems to understand him because of his strange condition: he hears music in almost everything, even footsteps, and he starts dancing to the music in his head.

Larson herself is a dancer, so the native of Seattle, Washington, finds in dance a way to tell stories.

"My teacher was telling me to make a musical. I don't think I could make a musical in five minutes but I'll try. I kind of put that into consideration as well," Larson said of her final product.

The short film "Fine Kine Dining" directed by Richard Dang tells the story of a heartbroken young musician named Jed who tries to restart his life by working at a restaurant, starting at the very bottom. He also faces problems of dealing with a disgruntled, long-time employee.

The film, represented by Jeffrey Leong, was made during the October 2011 SMART Exchange Program when Shanghai University students visited the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

This year the students from Hawaii joined 14 Shanghai University students to shoot collaborative works during a three-week program.

Student Vincent Desrosiers-Nault said the films were completed in just seven days. That's 48 hours of pre-production and two days of shooting. "The Shanghai students are very resourceful, they know so many people and they bring actors," Desrosiers-Nault said.

Time was not the only challenge faced by the students; language was another problem for the Americans when they worked with Chinese students. "It's hard to communicate sometimes. Luckily they know English," Larson said. "They are good at explaining what they want. I think it's definitely interesting for me and Jeff (Jeffrey Leong) because we are working with the director who's Chinese."


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