‘Winning Girl’ Premieres Tonight, Just Not in Hawaii

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Today brings the national broadcast premiere for an award-winning documentary telling the story of Honolulu teen Teshya Alo as she competes at the national level in both judo and wrestling. But while the film “Winning Girl” features a local girl from Kamehameha Schools as she beats boys and even competes with women twice her age, it’s not going to air in Hawaii.

“Winning Girl” follows Teshya for four years, from age 12 to age 16, chronicling both her triumphs and challenges, and pulling back the curtain on her family’s sacrifices to help her achieve her dreams of dominating in two separate sports. She perseveres despite the costs of traveling to mainland events from Hawaii, and the universal awkwardness of puberty.

The documentary was directed by local filmmaker Kimberlee Bassford of Making Waves Films and edited by Honolulu documentary editor Shirley Thompson (and features an original score by Mark Menza). It was an official selection of the Hawaii International Film Festival, and Bassford won the special jury prize at the L.A. Asia Pacific Film Festival.

For weeks now, the creators of “Winning Girl” have been excited for the film’s national broadcast premiere on “America ReFramed,” a documentary spotlight on the World Channel, which features “public television’s signature nonfiction documentary, science and news programming complemented by original content from emerging producers.” It will air tonight, Tuesday, May 12 at 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central.

“America ReFramed” showcases 26 independent films from around the country that tell stories of a diverse and transforming America, exploring the differences and commonalities between people of different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual preferences, and abilities. Each film is followed by a discussion led by host and moderator Natasha Del Toro.

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Unfortunately, no cable or television provider in Hawaii carries the World Channel, and according to Kimberlee, our local public television station has opted not to pick up the film.

“Sadly, PBS Hawaii does not want to air the film, despite the fact that the film was produced with public television funding and is airing on the mainland via public television’s World Channel,” she tells me. “Winning Girl” got support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting via Pacific Islanders in Communications.

She has contacted Oceanic Time Warner Cable, and there is interest to air it on OC16. But that will require an exemption from World, and even if one is granted, it won’t be able to air until June.

Fortunately, there are other options for Hawaii residents interested in this Hawaii-grown story. There will be a public screening on Friday, May 29 at The ARTS at Marks Garage (1159 Nuuanu Avenue) as part of the third-annual Women of Wonders Film Festival. It can also be purchased by educators for educational purposes at Women Make Movies.

And you’ll probably be hearing more about the documentary in the weeks ahead, as “Winning Girl” also recently received a grant from the Open Meadows Foundation to support distribution and outreach efforts, including organizing screenings with Hawaii youth groups.

“I know World wants to stream the film after their broadcast, and I believe they have the rights to stream it for 90 days after the initial broadcast,” Kimberlee adds.

For details, visit the Making Waves Films website, connect on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter at @MWFDocs.

You can also watch the first two minutes of the film on YouTube:

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