Featured Filmmaker: Mary Lambert, Director of ‘Fishing Pono’

Director Mary Lambert in HawaiiFishing Pono: Living in Harmony With the Sea shares the story of Native Hawaiians living on Moloka‘i who are using ancient conservation methods to restore fisheries in the waters of their island. The short film screens at Celestial Cinema on June 12th, opening night, after the premiere of Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau. In addition, Mary will be a part of a filmmaker panel, held on Saturday, June 15th at the Wailea Marriott, discussing making films that matter.

Click here to watch the FISHING PONO trailer, and to purchase tickets to Celestial Cinema.

We recently connected with the film’s director, acclaimed filmmaker Mary Lambert, to find out what inspired her to bring Fishing Pono to the silver screen.

Q: How did you get involved in film? Where and when did you start?

A: I have been a film director since 1979. I got my start directing music videos in the early 80’s.

(Writer’s note: for those that don’t recognize Mary, you’ll surely recognize her work. She directed many of Madonna’s most talked-about videos  (“Borderline,” “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” “La Isla Bonita” and “Like a Prayer”) and well-known videos for Janet Jackson (“Control” and “Nasty Boys”), Sting (“We’ll Be Together Tonight”), The Eurythmics (“Would I Lie To You”), and many more. She also directed the feature film Pet Semetary, based on the Stephen King novel.)

Q: What inspired you to create Fishing Pono?
A: I have always loved fantasy, science fiction, musicals and thrillers. Most of my feature and television projects have reflected my tendency toward the supernatural or the bizarre. In 2007, I directed my first documentary, 14 Women, inspired by my sister, Blanche Lincoln, a US Senator from Arkansas. I thought it would be an easy project. It was the most difficult film of my career. Around that time in my life I met Teri Tico. She was to become my close friend. She encouraged me to finish 14 Women. Her dedication to protecting the environment and shedding light on the truth became an inspiration to me and led to our collaboration first on Miss South Pacific and subsequently Fishing Pono. Respecting our oceans and protecting the home of whales and dolphins and fishes and coral reefs should be a something that every human being knows how to do. I wanted to make a film to make that clear.

Q: What was the most challenging part of creating this film?
A: The biggest challenge of directing Pono, was finding the human story. I didn’t want this to be just a gloom and doom movie about the decline and fall of the world’s fisheries. (Also the fish can’t speak in human voices so I needed humans to speak for them.) I wanted to give audiences characters they could love and respect to lead them through a possible solution to the problem. We traveled all around the Hawaiian Islands and met many wonderful people with Native Hawaiian ancestry. We talked to them about ancient wisdom and culture and current events and mythology and always about fish. I was moved to tears and laughter so many times! As a result of all these interviews, it was finally possible to recognize that Mac PoePoe and Mauna Kea Trask were the two people to represent the fish.

Q: What type of experience do you hope the film will bring to viewers?
A: I hope that viewers will learn that, although there is no easy quick solution to “fix” our oceans, there is hope if people begin to change their attitudes and realize as Carlos Andrade said, “You can’t just keep using up the resources and turning them into money and stacking it in the bank.” The ancient wisdom of the Hawaiians can save the oceans if we will listen.

Q: What do you think our Maui audiences will most appreciate about your film?
A: I think audiences will love the story of Mac PoePoe and how he saved Mo’omomi Bay and they will see in Mauna Kea Trask how someone who works in modern society within the system can also support the traditional ways.

Q: Do you have any prior connection to Maui? If so, please explain.
A: Maui is where I met my friend Teri Tico (producer of Fishing Pono).

The Featured Filmmaker series is coordinated and written by the Maui Film Festival’s Filmmaker Liaison and Social Media Director Sara TekulaClick here to see all of the Featured FIlmmaker posts and be sure follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get live updates from the festival.