WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - KEZIA SALANOA
SAMOAN / SWISS / ITALIAN
Talofa, Bonjour! My name is Kezia Salanoa, I’m 22 years old and I come from Samoa. I was born in Switzerland. My dad is full Samoan from Falefa and my mum is afatasi Swiss and Italian. I am the second of three girls and I am currently living in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Most FAQ is do you wish you grew up in Europe? And honestly, no. Im so thankful to have been raised in the Samoan culture and environment, not neglecting my palagi side (which I love just as much), I just love that I have the fa’a Samoa with me anywhere I go. I guess I can say I have the best of both worlds.
My parents met in Honolulu, Hawaii through YWAM (Youth With a Mission) they were both in missions ministries helping with the Hawaiian community, the homeless and users. After a few months and mango picking, they fell in love. They got married in Switzerland and had my older sister and I before deciding to move to Samoa for good. I can honestly say that I had an amazing childhood. My parents were no longer with YWAM but still had their ways of getting involved, we’d almost always host different DTS (Discipleship training Schools) teams from around the world and I fell in love with the idea of being a part of that when I grew up, so YWAM was always something I knew id be a part of- Which lead me to where I am now, studying film with the University of the Nations (YWAM Uni)
What do you love about film making and what drew you to this career path?
I discovered that I had an interest in film during my last couple years of high school. I was drawn to special fx makeup, visual fx and art design. The idea of being able to create a whole world from your imagination and bringing it to life drew me in to this whole idea of studying film even more. When I was a kid, I was very sensitive with what id see. Any film that had anything a little too graphic or realistic would keep my up at night. Id analyse every little detail that it’d get anxiety attacks, not a great time in my life. But after some prayers from my family around the age of 16 I started to analyse films with a completely different outlook which then became more of a passion thing. I loved films. That was it for me. I knew I wanted to be a part of that world and be able to create my own. I first heard about the school of digital filmmaking through a family friend and loved the fact that it was an intense three month course with a three month internship and not 3 years of my life in school.
How important is it to bring a Pasifika perspective to what you do?
The world is moving at such a fast pace that now almost anything and everything goes, especially in the film industry. Cultural and gender diversity in film only became a thing a couple years ago because people started saying something about it and I’m glad that it made changes, its nice to see all cultures represented on and off the screen. It’s great and really encouraging for a small people group! But at the same time now that I’m actually a part of this world I don’t know how great it really is. Will my films be judged on how good my work was or the fact that I am a single, young, polynesian/european female?
I joke about it a lot with the other staff members, to have me as the face of their films so that we have more chances of being accepted and winning at festivals. Not saying that I’m ungrateful for the changes this world is fighting for, but I don’t want to have my career handed to me just because of what I am. Growing up in Samoa I was always reminded that good things really do come to those who work hard and my parents were the perfect example of that. They moved to Samoa with little to no money, not knowing what to do. So they started making soaps in our kitchen. They had no idea where it was going to take them but they kept on going and eventually after 7 years of tries and fails we finally established our business. And I’m so proud of them for that, and I’m glad I grew up in that environment. That if you want something, work hard until it happens. And with that I want to show my Pacific pride through hard work and not have it handed to me.
What have been some of your most challenging and some of your most rewarding moments on your journey so far?
Most Challenging? The will to sit and write. Writing a script let alone coming up with ideas for a film is not easy at all. I currently have 3-4 different script concepts and my biggest challenge right now is trying to figure out how to finish at least one. You can call it a writers block, or just a lack of motivation and creativity. Either way, its difficult and definitely challenging. At the same time I want to go out and explore this beautiful island, people watch, experience the aloha culture and get lost in the fantastical reality of everyday Kona. And I think thats exactly what filmmaking is, being able to tell a story from the experiences and journeys we go through. Wether it be a simple day in the life of a complete stranger or an exhilarating day of spontaneous adventures and unexpected road blocks, stories are everywhere, its sitting down and writing that’s hard. But I gotta love it!
Most rewarding? Being on a set. Whether its mine or someone else's, to me its the most rewarding thing. Its definitely been the times I’ve learnt the most and have learnt to appreciate the art of filmmaking.
What is the best piece of advice you've been given?
Be so good at what you do that they cant ignore you.
What do you love about being a Pacific Islander today?
I love that I can identify in the uniqueness of our culture. Even though I’m on another island there is still that culture of respect and hospitality amongst the locals. Every new quarter when the schools are being welcomed into the university the Island Breeze ministry, which is a pacific island cultural dance group, welcomes the new students with a Hawaiian protocol, they get debriefed in the do’s and dont’s of the culture, the respect you need to give to the land, properties and people. My favourite part is when they explain the meaning of Aloha- breath of Life- and when you welcome and greet another like the Maori hogi you breath life into one another, acknowledging the importance of each others being. And to be able to share that with europeans, north/south americans, Asians and africans its a beautiful thing. It makes me appreciate my pacific heritage.
What or who inspires you in your creativity?
I cant say that there is a specific thing or person that inspires me.
Sometimes I get inspired by laying on my bed, dreaming or just being in silence, and there are other days where I’d be out and about people watching, creating little stories of certain situations that I see throughout the day. Lately I’ve been inspired through little spontaneous adventures id find myself in, and I think using personal experiences definitely helps with my creative process.