Adobe: Keep it real with the filmmaker, educator and co-founder of the Don Mua festival

Stay real with filmmaker, educator and co-founder of the Don Muña festival

Where I’m from: Don Muña

Natural splendor is part of the daily life of Guam-based filmmaker and educator Don Muña, who co-founded the Guam International Film Festival (GIFF) 10 years ago with his brother Kel. Here, tropical breezes flow through the palm-fringed sandy beaches and lush, verdant landscapes of the US Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands. But Muña, who is an American Chamoru, wants to tell stories beyond the “promotional postcard” version of his island, beyond his reputation as an American military outpost.

Guam’s identity and the stories that shape it are still ongoing, according to Muña. This is precisely why it is important for him to bring the themes that have shaped his life – broken homes, creative ambitions, generational secrets, finding purpose, to name a few – into the films he takes. realizes, as well as the stories he defends. as a festival organizer.

Adobe had the opportunity to speak with Muña about the world of possibilities he envisions for his creative colleagues CHAmoru and Pacific Islander, an ambition that is central to his contribution to the film Where I’m From. An Adobe project bringing together the voices of artists from Asia and the Pacific Islands, “Where I’m From” allows each contributor to explore all the ways in which they define themselves and their creativity.

How did you start as an artist?

I don’t really consider myself to be an artist. I have always liked to put things together. My brother Kel and I are the youngest of eight kids in our family, and we used to spend a lot of our time doing weird stuff for entertainment, like making stop-motion home movies with our old VHS camcorder. This is where I started to take an interest in the technical aspect of creation. My brothers Kel and Mike and I also had a band: Kel on piano, Mike on drums, and I sang and composed. We recorded our songs on an old double deck karaoke machine with a single RCA input and microphone.

How did you come to work in the cinema?

Kel and I are a good team and we wanted to make our own movie. I like to say he’s a lot more disciplined than I am as a creator, while I take on a more technical role. When we were teenagers, Kel got a job at the local TV and radio station, KUAM. He rose through the ranks and hired me. Kel introduced me to Photoshop and web design – it was in the 90s, so it was really new. He wanted to explore film school, but we were a broken family back then, with no resources, no connections. We didn’t know much. Kel entered film school at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, and I decided to move to the mainland. We started a videography business, and through one of our first gigs, we discovered online marketing. Internet and MySpace forums were really making an appearance. There were all these cool ways to go online, and we saw these platforms as a way to help us make our own movie.

Was it a very DIY process?

Yes. We pooled all the resources we had to make a movie the best we could. I had written a short story about dark family secrets and daddy issues that I thought were related to the people of Guam. It became the screenplay for our first movie, “Shiro’s Head”, which debuted in 2008. We shot it entirely in Guam and it ended up making waves throughout the Pacific Island community. We got to go to festivals in Hawaii and Los Angeles, got good national press, then awards – we never thought that was possible. At film festivals, it was amazing to meet people like us, to make films independently. When we came back from that experience, we said, “There must be more than us in Guam.

How were the first years of GIFF?

We started the film festival in 2011 and set out to create a film industry in Guam. From the start, it was not at all difficult to find people who wanted to submit their films. It was surprising, our first year we received over 300 film submissions from over 50 countries. At our peak, just before the COVID-19 hit, we received 800 films. There is an influx of artists, creators, and people who want to see Guam and spend their production dollars on Guam. Our community can benefit from this and we are actively pursuing the development of the Guam Film Bureau to bring more economic and artistic opportunities to the home. These days you should be able to “do it” from your hometown and be able to create any work you want to create.

How do you feel now that GIFF has reached the 10-year mark?

Ten years is the demonstration of our commitment. We have established ourselves and have shown that we are serious about advancing Guam’s film industry. I want people to stay in Guam and attract more people here. While we were making our second film, “Talent Town” (2014), a documentary, we interviewed dozens of local creators and the collective consensus was that they felt like they had hit a ceiling and felt under. estimated. But we can still survive as artists. We don’t yet have what we think we deserve, and we have to get there.

What story do you want to tell about Guam?

We are much more than what is depicted in movies and TV shows, like military bases and beaches. Telling our own stories would help us as citizens of Guam, as CHAmorus, as Guamanians, and give the world a better sense of who we are as individuals. Guam and the Mariana Islands give me this feeling like the islands belong to me, so I feel like I belong, and I need to share my positive energy with my islands and our people.

About Monty S. Maynard

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