My Point of Heu
Originally published on Frolic Hawaii in 2015.
#DearThalia is heart-wrenching, eye-opening, awe-inspiring, raw and insightful. If you take four minutes out of your day to watch the trailer of the brand new local documentary by my high school classmate Rex Moribe, you will tear up, as I did.
The back story of how this project came to be goes way back to my home island of Kauai, where Rex and I used to sit next to each other in math class. Rex was a contender for Kapaa High School student body president. He was a funny, outrageous and positive guy who went on to become a pro bodyboarder and an entrepreneur (he’s the creator of Da Secret Sauce Hawaiian chili pepper water). He was always interested in film and once on Oahu, became an avid participant in Throwdown in Chinatown.
So how and why did this Kauai surfer-turned-businessman decide to focus all his attention, time and money on a Kakaako homeless family? I just had to catch up with him and find out.
Why did you decide to do this project?
I only knew of one homeless person (on Kauai) as I grew up. He stayed and slept in front of my favorite surf spot, Wailua Beach.
Fast forward to when I moved to Oahu in 1998. I was 18 with big dreams to become a professional bodyboarder. I’ve seen so many homeless people on the streets and on the beaches, particularly the west side, that had me thinking, “Is this normal?” This haunted me. In fact, I wanted to shoot this movie when I was 20 with mini-DV/VHS style of filming, but I never did – until now.
What have you learned during this time spent on the streets with this family?
There are many, many unsung heroes that help the homeless without being asked, even refusing a thank you. I lost count of the amount of people I met passing out food and clothing and saying “I do this because it’s the right thing to do.”
The homeless of the future could be your next-door neighbor, your aunty, your uncle, your father, your mother, your son, your daughter, even you or me.
What do you hope to achieve with this film and Kickstarter?
To create awareness that homeless people are everyday people. Yeah, we have the “crazies,” but between that and in hiding distance, there are families, regular tax-paying people who work and then end their day in a tent. I am afraid for the children of the future and the elderly of this generation.
This haunts me, because my own mother could easily be homeless in 10 years. She is a widow with three children, a high health insurance premium, and running a day care. What happens if she cannot do the day care any more – homelessness? If I have anything to say about it, NO!
What do you think the future holds for you in your career and endeavors?
The future is a mystery box and that’s what I love about life. Do I hope to make more films? Yes. Do I hope to inspire others to do exactly what they wish to do, as long as it doesn’t hurt themselves or others? Yes. I don’t know what the future holds for my career and I’m OK with that. But what I do know is that without changes now, it won’t matter what career I have – I will never be able to retire in Hawaii.
Moribe just launched a “Dear Thalia” movie 30-day Kickstarter to try to recoup the money he fronted to create this film, get it released and eventually on to DVD. He’s only asking for $5,000 but in actuality his bills have exceeded $10,000 for this project.
Here’s the “Dear Thalia” trailer on the website
Dear Thalia Kickstarter
It’s a story that has already touched many hearts. After my blog post in March about Dear Thalia: What it’s really like to be homeless, local filmmaker Rex Moribe’s documentary about a 3-year-old living in Kakaako, thousands of people shared Thalia’s plight on Facebook. Now I have some updates.
First, there is good news. When Moribe launched his Kickstarter to fund the film, he had $1,500. Twenty-four hours after the post was published he had $7,000. “I gotta thank you, and all the Frolic Hawaii readers, huge for that. From that it exceeded $10,000, which is double the amount we asked for,” Moribe said. “It led to a lot of promotions including a feature on KITV4 news. Also emails — people from different islands, countries, states showing interest. Now everyone is excited about the movie.”
Thalia and Rex have had many adventures since meeting last year. She loves going to the beach.
Moribe finished editing the film earlier in September and submitted it to several film festivals around the world. I was ecstatic to hear the Hawaii International Film Festival has selected the documentary for its Fall 2015 showcase. For Moribe, who is my high school classmate and a self-taught former pro body boarder turned guerrilla-style filmmaker, this is a dream come true. Not just because the film will show on the big screen, but also because he can share Thalia’s story.
“This movie right here will literally put you in ground zero Kakaako and you will see what it is like to be homeless. This has never been done before. You’ve never seen what it’s like inside the tent, at the shower, cooking dinner, after dark and when it rains.”
When Moribe first met the Martins, a series of medical and employment setbacks had forced the family onto the streets. At the time there were 30 to 40 tents in the Kakaako area. Now there are more than 160. “I would never say I am an expert on homelessness, but this is more gnarly than I ever expected it to be,” Moribe says. “There’s a lot of confusion in the community because you don’t always see local families on the streets. That’s because they are hiding. You do see a lot of people from the mainland, fresh out of jail, mentally ill, some who have come to Hawaii for the benefits.”
Four years old now, Thalia is getting ready to start kindergarten next year.
The Martin family remains homeless, but has not yet been affected by the city’s sweeps of Kakaako’s homeless camps. Thalia’s dad Tracy cares for her while her mom, Tabatha, who was juggling two jobs, now works at one job. Moribe notes that Thalia, who just a few months ago didn’t understand that her home was different, is starting to realize what it means to live on the streets.
The Martin family has not yet been impacted by the recent homeless sweeps in the area.
The long-term goal is to get the family into a home they can afford. Moribe used all his savings and maxed out his credit cards to produce and edit “Dear Thalia.” If the film sees a profit, Moribe wants to put the money into using it as an educational and awareness tool at schools, other film festivals, on tour and in churches. Money raised will also likely support local non-profits and homeless outreach organizations.
HIFF tickets for “Dear Thalia” are available to the public on Oct. 19.
“Being in the film and being able to see ourselves express the hardships we endure daily from fellow locals, the visitors and even our own government officials constantly stereotyping the homeless as nuisances, brings an emotional feeling of sadness and disappointment at the lack of aloha our own birthplace of Oahu (known as the Aloha state) has for its kama’aina and especially for its keikis,” Tabatha Martin says. “However, being a part of this film has been truly a blessing, and having people view the real life of a homeless family in Honolulu will hopefully change a lot of negative perceptions of homeless individuals.
“Everyone always thinks about changing the world,” she says, “but no one ever thinks of changing themselves.”
Dear Thalia: The Story of a Hawaii Homeless Family
Oct. 19 HIFF ticket sales go public
Nov. 15 12:30 p.m. First showing and world premier; Martin family will be in attendance
Nov. 17 4 p.m. Second showing featuring a surprise guest
For more information and updates: www.dearthalia.com