Dear Thalia screened at packed theaters on two days of this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival. In Dear Thalia, Rex Moribe documents the trials and tribulations of the Martin family that is living on the streets of Kaka‘ako with their young daughter Thalia. Filmed in guerrilla style, much of it filmed by the family themselves, the audience gets a firsthand account of what it’s like to live on the streets where it is illegal to sit and lie on the sidewalks (through the “sit-lie bill”). This makes it difficult when public parks close at night and shelters have strict guidelines. One of the most touching moments of the film is when Thalia’s mother talks about when the city comes to do the sweeps and how her daughter gets ready for them. Sweeps are when city workers come and remove [throw away] all of the personal belongings of the people living on the street; in this scene, the mother talks about how Thalia gets all her stuff ready and packed away so that it won’t be removed by the workers.
We met Rex Moribe in the early stages of the film when he contacted the archive to research footage from Victoria Keith Production’s The Sand Island Story. During his visit, Moribe shared with us, along with chili pepper water, a cut of his trailer. As we watched the images on the screen, we knew he was on to something very powerful; he was exposing the homelessness issue and telling the story through the lens of people who were actually experiencing it. Moribe ended up working with Victoria Keith Productions and using raw footage interviews from the documentary. During the late seventies a community of people moved out to Sand Island located in Honolulu Harbor. The island was used as a dump and so a community started living there; living off the land and sea as was abundant in fish and caring for it. Eventually they were removed from the land by the state but not without a struggle; The Sand Island Story documents the struggle to resist eviction. Much of the footage Moribe used included interviews with Clement Apolo, a resident of the island and a Hawaiian war veteran, as the issue progressed from organizing to evictions.
Moribe juxtaposed what was going on in Sand Island with what is happening now in Kaka‘ako and it magnified the issue. One of the last scenes Moribe used from the documentary shows the Sand Island residents singing Hawai‘i Aloha after the evictions — a symbolic scene which captured the community’s perseverance even in times of hardship.
We were happy to see archival footage used to educate people; films like this breathe life back into the archive and put things into context. A former Sand Island resident was in the audience for one of the screenings and was pleased with the film. Hulo hulo, congratulations Rex Moribe on the premiere and getting the word out about this issue and to the Martin ‘Ohana for opening up your home and personal lives to expose the issue it will make a difference! To find more information about the film, visit https://dearthaliamovie.wordpress.com/.