"Ipo Lei Manu," an entry by husband and wife team Daniel N.L. and Sharene Boulos, uses a combination of watercolor and CGI.

Short films
in spotlight

If anything at all, it's about exposure," said Jeff Katts, speaking of his 'Ohina Short Film Showcase, which for the past five years has given local independent filmmakers a much-needed outlet to share their visions with broader audiences.

Four free, two-hour showings, featuring works by 15 finalists, are scheduled this weekend at the Honolulu Academy of Arts' theater. "I've learned how important it is not just for filmmakers, but to actors and writers and anyone involved in film or video. These people really believe in their projects."

The 2003 'Ohina Short Film Showcase

Where: The Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts

When: 7:30 p.m. today and noon, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. tomorrow

Admission: Free

Call: 951-4413

For starters, there's a fictional account of a woman's high school reunion; a sexy, campy music video; and a documentary detailing a robot's visit to the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus. A number of this year's entries have come from the neighbor islands and the mainland, with a few pieces submitted from as far away as the East Coast.

Three of this year's final 15 are animation pieces, including one by Hawaii-based animator Daniel N.L. Boulos, whose impressive resume includes stints with top animation studios on the mainland and such notable celluloid fare as "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Space Jam," "The Prince of Egypt" and "The Road to El Dorado."

Though blessed with a dream job, Boulos longed for more creative independence than his employers could offer, and in March 2000, he and his wife Sharene began an independent business venture in Hawaii called Wiki Wiki Cartoons. Boulos' entry, "Ipo Lei Manu," was, in fact, conceived by his wife, a local girl, who envisioned an animated treatment of a musical composition by Queen Kapiolani.

Although Boulos' studio is entirely capable of constructing advanced animated pieces with the same techniques used by the major studios, he chose to produce "Ipo Lei Manu," using a procedure involving a novel combination of watercolor and CGI. "I don't know if we've invented it, but I've never seen it before exactly this way," he says. "I think it's pretty effective."

In "Ricky the Robot," UH theater major Hank West turned a grand prank into a video short which will screen as part of the 'Ohina showcase. "I told everybody there was, like, this famous robot in Europe and that he was coming to UH for a huge concert, just to see how many people I could get to come," explains West, who can be seen fashioning a robot outfit from everyday materials and plastering campus bulletin boards with word of Ricky's appearance in the 20-minute piece. "I was just thinking how funny it would be if I got into two cardboard boxes wrapped in tin foil and see what kind of reaction I could get out of people. I was really into it."

'OHINA SHOWCASE The students at Kapiolani Community College put together "Sugar Raid," a humorous animation piece.

WITH 80 to 100 entries submitted each year, Katts says the selection process is always a difficult one, and one which he prefers not to get involved in. Though he screens every entry, he is not part of the 'Ohina judging committee. Instead, a panel of hand-picked judges, with no direct ties to the local film community, make the final decision. "We decided we weren't going to choose a director, an actor and a producer to judge these," he explains. "I'm not going to expect a student with a film short to have the best audio in the world. Or video. Or lighting. Yes, those things are important, obviously, but being really technical with someone who just wants to get their piece seen isn't what 'Ohina is about. For the most part, we just want something people would be willing to spend five minutes to watch."

Still, Katts fields the occasional call from a dejected entrant who wants to know why his or her submission never made it to the showcase. "I started to realize that what I hated the most was rejecting entries. I know how much time and effort people put into their product and it's not easy going through the process," he relates. "There are some people I meet who, after I introduce myself, say 'Oh yeah, I entered something last year that didn't get in.' That's the hardest thing sometimes, but we deal with it as professionally as we can."

While there has been talk of expanding the showcase, branching out to the neighbor isles and adding an awards show, for the most part, 'Ohina has stayed true to its format over the years. "The only competition is getting into the showcase," said Katts. "Believe me, that's hard enough. Getting in should be the reward."

Here is a list of the entries that are being shown:

"The Bummer" (Scott Kikuta/Ryan Duncan) -- Animation piece about a boy and a monster he meets in the subway.

"The Right Spot" (Jeff Katts) -- A desperate housewife tries to save her marriage by giving her husband amnesia.

"Ipo Lei Manu" (Daniel N.L. Boulos) -- Hawaiian musical animation piece.

"The Marrying Type" (George Russell) -- A single woman returns to Honolulu for her 10th high school reunion.

"Sugar Raid" -- Humorous animation piece created by students at Kapiolani Community College.

"A Legacy" (Dorothy Mane) -- A Samoan female hates the violent legacy of her family.

"The Making of a Karaoke Video" (Gerard Elmore) -- Mockumentary of the behind-the-scenes of a karaoke video.

"Kava Kultcha" (Leah Kihara) -- In the year 2015, an underground resistance group struggles to perpetuate their "kultcha."

"Autumn" (Shane Curtis) -- A young man looks into a mirror and sees his father.

"Ebb and Flow" (Michael Ogasawara) -- A day in the life of a city.

"One Night in Bangkok" (Brent Anbe) -- Fun, sexy and campy music video.

"Saul & Mia" (Tony Pisculli) -- Mia learns the awful truth about Saul.

"Notes with a Beat" (Aran Higa) -- Live-action piece involving a college student and music.

"When We Were Ten" (Jules Nathan) -- Music video about being younger.

"Ricky the Robot" (Hank West) -- Hilarious mockumentary about a college student that set out to create a superstar robot.

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