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Kayo Hatta: A Fishbowl and Some Dimes Film Project

Kayo Hatta (UCLA Film/TV/Digital Media) Faculty

From the late acclaimed Hawaiian filmmaker Kayo Hatta comes FISHBOWL, a vivid and funny account of growing up in Hawaii in the 1970s—when life was anything but “paradise.” Adapted from Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s first novel, Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers, FISHBOWL brings the book to life in authentic Hawaiian style.

Hilo, Hawaii, 1975. It’s Halloween and for 13-year-old Lovey Nariyoshi (Mie Omori) it’s a chance to be someone different.

In the classroom, Lovey is ridiculed by her teacher for using Pidgin English, a Hawaiian-style patois considered an inferior form of Standard English. Author Yamanaka uses the dialect of the plantation throughout the novel. “I love the realism and lyricism of that dialect,” said Hatta. “Instantly identifiable and expressive.”

As an outsider with an overactive imagination, Lovey is regularly bullied into silence by her nemesis, the smart and seemingly perfect Lori Shigemura (Jordan Mukai), the head of a popular girls clique, The Rays of the Rising Dawn. Rather than fight back, Lovey is prone to escape into fantasy where she turns into the bold and courageous girl that she wishes she could be.

On the way home from school, Lovey is betrayed by her best friend Jerry (Billy Lam), an effeminate boy whose dream is to become an honorary Ray of the Rising Dawn. Rather than sticking by Lovey, he abandons her in a weak moment and tries to entertain Lori and the Rays.

All is forgiven when Jerry dresses up Lovey as their singing idol, Toni Tennille. With the help of a curling iron, Jerry fixes her bad perm and, transformed, they become the dynamic singing duo The Captain and Tennille. Determined to win the $10 prize at the annual Halloween costume contest, they venture forth to the estate of the plantation owners.

But the evening quickly goes awry. When Jerry sees that another contestant will probably win the costume contest, he gives in to temptation and convinces Lovey to help him steal money and candy. In his excitement, he trips in front of everyone, his dimes and chocolates flying everywhere. Humiliated, Jerry flees the scene and Lovey follows.

Lovey angrily confronts Jerry trying to get him to return to the party, insisting they still have a chance to win. When he refuses, Lovey calls him a sissy. It is Jerry’s turn to feel betrayed and he runs home. Abandoned and at a loss, Lovey falls into one of her wishful fantasies where she imagines she’s won the contest and belts out to the startled crowd-—including Lori and her cohorts—a Hawaiian arrangement of the Captain and Tennille hit, “Love Will Keep Us Together.”

The next day in class, Lovey tries to help Jerry with a tough writing assignment. When Lori intercedes, Lovey is finally able to stand up for herself to Lori’s taunts. Even her teacher looks at her with newfound respect. At last, Lovey finds her voice and her self-respect.

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