Director Meets With Students and Screens "Recycled Life"

May 5, 2011

Leslie Iwerks, an Academy Award- and Emmy-nominated documentary producer and director, visited campus April 13, 2011, to screen her short film "Recycled Life." The documentary traces the lives of the people, called guajeros, who live and work in the Guatemala City garbage dump, the largest and most toxic landfill in Central America.

The evening screening at Thurston Memorial Chapel, part of Punahou's film-and-discussion series "Food for Thought," was free and open to the public, and included a question-and-answer period with Iwerks.

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Earlier that day, she had joined a dozen aspiring Punahou student-filmmakers to talk about her journey as a filmmaker. The University of Southern California Film School graduate talked about how she wanted to focus on a subject close to home for her first film, "The Hand Behind the Mouse."

That documentary was about her grandfather, Ub Iwerks, the Disney animator who drew and co-created Mickey Mouse. The film's success paved the way for Iwerks' later work, including "The Pixar Story," and "Industrial Light and Magic: Creating the Impossible."

Reflecting on her hard-won experience, Iwerks highlighted some of the key questions documentary filmmakers need to ask themselves: To begin with, do you have a really good story to tell? Do you have great characters and special access to those characters? If so, how can you tell the story in a way that's unique? Finally, what's going to be the greatest gift out of what you're filming?

For Iwerks, the gift of "Recycled Life" was being able to use the film as a fundraising vehicle to give guajero children access to educational and health services. "To me, success is giving back," she said.

Sarah '11 walked away from the presentation inspired. "It was amazing to see that kind of passion in someone," she marveled. "The fact that she's using film positively to deliver a message so that change can happen is at the core of what filmmaking is all about."

Alayna '14, who similarly hopes to attend film school at USC and direct a documentary on her grandfather's life, said: "She is living my dream. It shows me you can make a difference in the world by taking risks and by doing what's right. It gave me hope."

Mahalo to the Class of 1950 Speaker Fund, which made this presentation possible.

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