Jennifer Akana Sturla's Hawaiian roots influenced much of her formative years as she vacillated between her life in the San Fernando Valley and that of her maternal grandparents in Hawai'i. As her career in television and film began to take shape, she found herself drawn to the stories from her native Hawaiian heritage and decided to bring them to life in her films.
Her current project, Bruddah Iz, is a documentary feature film about the late Hawaiian singer-songwriter and activist Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole, better known as “Iz”. His medley, Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World gained worldwide popularity since its release in 1993 and has been featured in many feature films. Jennifer was drawn to Kamakawiwo‘ole’s story not only because of her native Hawaiian heritage but also because of his message about bringing about social change. As he wrote in one of his songs, “The life of this land is the life of the people… to care for the land is to care for the Hawaiian culture.” Jennifer points out that “there are many people who are familiar with his music, but few who know that he was the voice of the Hawaiian people.” This past summer, Jennifer successfully raised over $50,000 on a kickstarter campaign to help fund the production. “I was thrilled that several of my friends from Highland Hall - many of whom I haven’t seen in years - contributed to the campaign.”
After graduating from Highland Hall in 1990, Jennifer earned a BA in literature from UC Santa Cruz and then attended USC’s School of Cinema & Television. Jennifer’s USC graduate thesis film, Kamea, won top prizes at several festivals including Best Short at the 2004 Hawai‘i International Film Festival and still airs on television in Hawai‘i. Jennifer has since spent 19 years working in film and television – on both large studio films and smaller independent productions, as well as scripted and reality television.
Jennifer says that her Waldorf education continues to influence her life. “I am grateful for Waldorf education, to have been exposed to such a wide variety of so many things over the course of 11 years. I believe that the all stories, art, music, and the holistic approach to all fields surely helped shaped me as an artist and probably in ways I don't even know. Filmmaking is so massively interdisciplinary and I can't even imagine how I'd go about it without a sort of innate familiarity with all the related elements, without the confidence to jump in there and take on the unknown and unexpected constantly coming at you. And in this day and age, who wouldn't be grateful to have had organic gardening before it was fashionable?”
To learn more about Jennifer Akana Sturla visit:https://vimeo.com/jakanasturla