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On May 27th at 1pm PT, join us for a special chat featuring the filmmaker and subject of BORN THIS WAY: AWA'S STORY, as they discuss their experiences about communicating complex and sometimes controversial ideas in documentary filmmaking, including transgender visibility in Pacific Islander culture.

Livestreams are also available to watch on the Visual Communications Youtube Channel and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Facebook page!


Kiki Rivera (Host)

Kiki Rivera is an internationally produced, award-winning theatre artist, educator, and arts activist. Kiki has her BA in Theatre as well as her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and is a member of the 2018 ArtEquity cohort who holds workshops to encourage the growth of future indigenous storytellers. As an educated gender-queer person of color (Samoan-Filipinx born and raised in Hawaii) that is cis-femme presenting, Kiki recognizes her privilege and responsibility to those marginalized communities. Her work focuses on cultural and sexual identity and the effects of colonization. Kiki is one of many voices for Pacific Islanders in the diaspora and is published in Samoan Queer Lives edited by Yuki Kihara and Dan Talaupapa McMullin. Kiki believes in self-reflective storytelling from a contemporary indigenous perspective and creating space for marginalized theatre artists of color.

Te Awarangi ‘Awa’ Puna

Te Awarangi ‘Awa’ Puna is a transgender Maori teen on a journey to become her true self. In BORN THIS WAY, we get to know Awa’s family - some of whom have had trouble coming to terms with her actions, we meet her friends who have helped and we see the struggles that Awa faces - currently there is no surgeon in New Zealand that can perform the male-to-female operation. Through her story, Awa can help us to understand what it is to be transgender.

Mitchell Hawkes

Mitchel Hawkes specialises in creating emotional stories that deal with big concepts. His documentary about kiwi singer Stan Walker Stan won Best Director at the DocEdge International Film Festival. Mitchell has written and directed many prime time series, such as NIGEL BLOWS STUFF UP, THE CURIOUS MIND, RIVERS, and CADBURY DREAM FACTORY. Mitchell is also one of New Zealand’s leading multi-camera entertainment directors. His projects include THE NZ MUSIC AWARDS, X FACTOR, NEW ZEALAND'S GOT TALENT, and concerts for Ed Sheeran, The Topp Twins, Shihad and Lorde.

In New Zealand, Te Awarangi ‘Awa’ Puna is an openly transgender Maori teen attending her final year at Kapiti College in Wellington, New Zealand. This documentary follows her journey from male to female as we see the support of her family and the hurdles she must overcome.

This film is available to watch on KCET beginning June 8. Click here to learn more.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    39 minutes
  • Director
    Mitchell Hawkes
  • Cinematographer
    Bevan Crothers
  • Editor
    Justin Hawkes