Vera Zambonelli, curator of the “Diversity in Place” film festival, is fascinated by constructed landscapes, or, as she terms it, “processes of placemaking” and the urban environment.

Our surroundings, after all, do bear meditating upon, as we all exist in architectural environments where we live, work and play.

Now a doctoral candidate in the University of Hawaii’s Urban and Regional Planning Department, Zambonelli has studied in places as urbanly diverse as Tokyo, Venice and New York City. She created the film festival while finishing up her master’s degree in 2009, as a way of sharing the visions of others.

The festival returns Saturday night, with a focus on “urban exploration.”


Where: The ARTS at Marks Garage

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Cost: Free

She chose entries primarily on a balance of filmmaking quality and story impact.

“People interpret their environments in different ways,” she said, “and the films are from amateurs, from professionals and academics.”

They include a meditation on an abandoned New Jersey paper mill; exploring well-hidden locations in old London; having a bitter coffee on a Damascus street; diving deep into a 2-century-old coal mine in Belgium; wandering the streets of Tokyo; grooving on the gleaming texture of underground trains, streetcars, buses and escalators; or simply gazing upon massive and incomplete public works in Italy. Nine of the 13 films are 10 minutes long or less.

U.K. film “Crack the Surface” and Belgian film “PhotoXplorers” are specifically about urban exploration, or, as some enthusiasts call it, “reality hacking.” It’s the practice, according to Zambonelli, of visiting places that we’re either not supposed to see or that we overlook, “a variety of hidden, hard-to-access, abandoned or simply unfinished places.”

As the submission guidelines state, the festival serves to “promote awareness and a critical outlook on how we, all of us, experience place so as to have a better understanding of how it works, affects people’s lives and people intervene in its making.”

“I’d love to keep it going many more years,” said Zambonelli, who has also established Hawai’i Women in Filmmaking, a Honolulu artists collective for female filmmakers.

– Burl Burlingame /


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