Big Isle filmmaker resists demand to turn over video


POSTED: Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A documentary filmmaker from the Big Island is the first person to invoke Hawaii's media-shield law, which took effect last year.

The law protects journalists from being forced to reveal news sources and unpublished material and information.

The filmmaker is Keoni Kealoha Alvarez.

In Kauai Circuit Court, California businessman Joseph Brescia is suing 17 people he claims trespassed and protested on his property on Kauai's North Shore, delaying the construction of his home at Naue Point. His lawyer, Philip Leas, said the delays cost Brescia hundreds of thousand of dollars.

Brescia issued subpoenas for video Alvarez recorded of the protests. Leas says he knows the video exists because Alvarez provided some to one of the defendants to use in her defense.

“;That's selective use,”; Leas said, “;We should be allowed to use all of it.”;

The American Civil Liberties Union and attorney James Bickerton are representing Alvarez.

Bickerton said Alvarez recorded the video for an upcoming documentary and offered to give Brescia the same video he provided the defendant. But he will not turn over the rest.

He said Brescia wants all video depicting the property, the protests on the property, Brescia's agents, the lawsuit and burials on the property.

“;Brescia has no right to these materials,”; Bickerton said.

Alvarez said the documentary deals with Hawaiian belief systems, burial practices and issues that many people consider kapu. He said if he's forced to turn over the video, he will never be able to do a similar project again.

Leas said if Alvarez doesn't want to turn over the video, he has to establish that he qualifies for protection under the shield law.

“;We're not aware that he's a journalist,”; he said.

Bickerton said Alvarez qualifies because he regularly participates in the publishing of news. Alvarez is president of Hawaiian Island Productions and has produced at least one other documentary.

Brescia has been in and out of court and has gone back and forth between state and county agencies for approval to construct his home since his contractor found at least 30 Hawaiian burials on the property.