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Student filmmaker makes history at festival

Aniston “Ana” Eyre is first student to win audience award

“Wagon,” a documentary by 2020 King Kekaulike grad Aniston Eyre, is the first student entry in Hawaii International Film Festival history to win the audience award. Photos courtesy Aniston Eyre

Makawao resident Aniston “Ana” Eyre had no idea her first feature-length film, “Wagon,” would take off at this rate.

“I didn’t expect it to blow up as much as it did,” Eyre said Wednesday. “I kind of just started out wanting to make a feature about my family’s summer travels.”

Eyre’s “Wagon” was named winner of Hawai’i International Film Festival’s audience award for the documentary category earlier this week. She is the first student in festival history to win the prize, organizers said.

“Not only are our more established filmmakers here in Hawaii getting acclaim and press and awards — even our young filmmakers are now excelling in that way,” Beckie Stocchetti, HIFF executive director, said Wednesday. “That’s really exciting when we’re thinking about the future of the film industry here in Hawaii.”

Hawai’i International Film Festival, the only statewide independent film festival in the U.S., marked its 40th year with a virtual event that streamed most movies online from Nov. 5 to Nov. 29 and screened some others in person. More than 170 films from 25 countries were presented this year. Audience awards, which polls viewers’ favorites in three categories — documentary, narrative and short — were announced Monday.

Ana Eyre

“Wagon” follows Eyre’s family of seven as they road tripped from New York City to Washington state in their 1982 G-Wagon that runs off used cooking oil from restaurants.

Stocchetti said “Wagon” resonated with viewers for many reasons.

“I think people loved how authentic it was,” she said. “It’s charming, it’s real, it’s a very family-oriented story.”

Plus, more people are thinking about what’s important and how time should be spent, Stocchetti added. Those themes were explored in the film.

Eyre, a 2020 King Kekaulike High School graduate, said filmmaking is new for her.

Makawao resident and student Aniston Eyre, director of the Hawaii International Film Festival award-winning documentary “Wagon,” is pictured.

She borrowed a camera from her neighbors and filmed the two-hour documentary last summer for her senior project, aiming to showcase her family’s unconventional, frugal approach to travel.

“I wanted to share how we travel — you don’t have to save up for years to go on adventures or trips with your family,” Eyre said. “I wanted it to be documentation but also inspiration.”

“Wagon” was filmed, storyboarded and edited by Eyre, who looked to neighbors Kent and Darlene Rayhill of Ohana Films for guidance and support. Another mentor, Jacqueline Zambrano, helped her with storyboarding, she said.

“I kind of figured it out as I went,” Eyre said.

Organizers said Eyre’s film was part of HIFF’s 2020 Student Showcase, an annual open call for any K-12 students in Hawaii to submit short, narrative, documentary, animation or PSA films for consideration.

Stocchetti said the showcase is one portion of student education and outreach, which is “extensive.”

“It’s a big part of our mission — to support early and continuing education in the industry to help build on and strengthen the creatives we have coming out of Hawaii,” she said.

Eyre said she was surprised just to be selected for the festival.

“I was pretty shocked,” she said. “I entered the film festival a few months ago and hadn’t heard from them. When I heard I got into student submissions, of course I was really excited to be a part of it.

“And then hearing that I won the audience award as a student is a dream come true — it’s amazing,” she added.

Eyre said when she was in high school, she had no idea what she wanted to study in college. Exploring filmmaking and earning recognition has helped drive her passion to pursue filmmaking. The 19-year-old began attending online classes for Columbia University in New York City this fall.

“It’s been very cool to have some sort of direction in these super crazy times,” she said. “I’m enrolled in a film class and I’m really loving it.”

Stocchetti said this is just the beginning for Eyre.

“We hope to see more from Ana,” she said. “We’re excited to see what happens next.”

To view the “Wagon” trailer, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nahShTZ7yk0.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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