February 22, 2019

Mother Tongue Film Festival Logo

This evening's program was presented in partnership with New York University/Stonewall 50. It featured the film, Leitis in Waiting, preceded by Voicemail, Tama, and Koriva with a discussion including Joe Wilson, Director/Producer, Leitis in Waiting, and Jeannette Soon-Ludes, Director of Scholarships and Programs at the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, that followed. Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Story Creator & Producer, Leitis in Waiting, and Joey Mataele, Protagonist & Campaign Spokesperson, Leitis in Waiting, joined the Q&A portion of the discussion virtually. Co-Director of the festival, Dr. Joshua Bell, gave the introduction.

The Mother Tongue Film Festival, a program of the Recovering Voices Initiative, will host its fourth annual program February 21-24, 2019 at various locations around the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Through over 20 films and audiovisual experiences from over 15 countries, the festival explores and celebrates language revitalization efforts around the world.


Joey Mataele

Joey Mataele

Joey Mataele is a leader in the LGBTQI and human rights movements in the Pacific. She co-founded and currently chairs the Pacific Sexual and Gender diversity Network, is the Pacific Island Representative for the International Gay and Lesbian Association, and chairperson of the South Pacific MSM Network Group. She co-founded the Tonga Leiti's Association in 1992, and developed the Miss Galaxy Pageant as an annual event to support it. Joey is also a talented singer and entertainer who understands the importance of oral culture and the role of song, humour and dance in Pacific cultures.


Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu

Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu

Hina Wong-Kalu is a Native Hawaiian teacher, cultural practitioner and community leader with a long history of perpetuating Kanaka Maoli language, philosophy and traditions, and promoting cross-cultural work throughout the Pacific Islands. She also engages in many community affairs and civic activities, and is currently the Chair of the O'ahu Island Burial Council. Hina was both a protagonist and educational advisor for the award winning documentaries KUMU HINA and A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE, and received a White House Champion of Change and Elison S. Onizuka Human Rights Memorial Award from the National Education Association for the groundbreaking impact campaigns associated with those films.  


Josh Bell

Josh Bell

Jeannette Soon-Ludes

Jeannette Soon-Ludes

Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson

YOUTUBE MEDIA
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Leitis in Waiting | 2017 | 70 min. | Tonga | Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, & Joe Wilson | Languages: English, Tongan

The island kingdom of Tonga is home to a vibrant and creative community of native transgender women known locally as leitis, who have held essential roles in Tongan society. Tonga is the only South Pacific Island to never have been colonized, but a rise in American-financed evangelicals threatens to resurrect colonial-era laws that would criminalize the leitis’ lives. Over the course of an eventful year, Leitis in Waiting follows Joey, a devout Catholic of noble descent, as she organizes an exuberant beauty pageant, mentors a young contestant rejected by her family and garners the support of a Royal Princess. With unexpected humor and extraordinary access to the Kingdom’s royals and religious leaders, this emotional journey reveals what it means to be different in a society ruled by tradition, and what it takes to be accepted without forsaking who you are.


YOUTUBE MEDIA
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Tama | 2017 | 9 min. | New Zealand | Jared Flitcroft and Jack O'Donnell | Language: English

 

Tama, a young Māori boy who is deaf, wants to perform the ceremonial haka dance despite his brother and father’s admonishment. On a near-fatal car trip to visit his mother’s grave, Tama confronts his father and begins the process of intergenerational healing and cultural reclamation. This film is the result of a collaboration between between deaf and hearing filmmakers.


YOUTUBE MEDIA
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Koriva | 2017 | 7 min. | Papua New Guinea | Euralia Paine | Languages: Tok Pisin, Motu

Visiting her relatives in Vabukori Village from Papua New Guinea’s capital city of Port Moresby, Koriva wants to wear her older cousin’s earrings and learn traditional dance. Her parents forbid her to do so, arguing that these traditions have no place in modern urban life. Koriva persists and shows them that one can be modern and value one’s traditions.


The Mother Tongue Film Festival is presented by Recovering Voices, a collaborative Smithsonian initiative and partnership between the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Founded in 2009, Recovering Voices recognizes that language communities and scholars have a mutual interest in documenting, revitalizing, and sustaining languages and the knowledge embedded in them. Through Recovering Voices, the Smithsonian strives to collaborate with communities and other institutions to address issues of indigenous language, knowledge diversity and sustainability at the national and global levels. In collaboration with communities and partner organizations, Recovering Voices seeks to improve access to the Smithsonian’s diverse collections—archival, biological and cultural—and to support interdisciplinary research, documentation, and revitalization. In doing so we seek to understand the dynamics of intergenerational knowledge transfer and to support existing community initiatives focusing on language and knowledge sustainability. The Mother Tongue Film Festival was created to promote this vision to a public audience through audiovisual media.