Four Years Strong: Just another GIFF story

I wrote this when I got home that final night but decided to wait a little bit, until some of the hype died down (and later forgot when I was playing catch up). I don’t know if it’s from nostalgia because I’m graduating soon or what but with the boys in the states touring for Talent Town, I decided to post it now to give them something to cry about. 

“You know, we just put out our volunteer form onto the website. We hadn’t even gotten funded yet and there was this person who just wouldn’t leave us alone. Just kept e-mailing us!”

I was 15 when Shiro’s Head went into production and that same year, I had a teacher (who I had the year after) who 1. knew my love of film and 2. knew the brothers. Years later, he sent me a link to the festival website. “Check this out,” he wrote. It was a month before graduation and at the time I believed I was destined for a life outside of this island. Still, I took the plunge and sent in that form, sending me for an adventure that has yet to end.

“Our first ever volunteer,” Don kept saying over the mic when we did our intros. And maybe that isn’t anything to you. But to us — at least to me—, that’s everything. I’ve been graced with the honor of watching GIFF grow from passing free tickets out in the mall food court to packing people into a theatre dangerously close to becoming fire hazards. I’ve been in the front line and I’ve been behind the scenes. It’s brought me learning experiences that I wouldn’t have gotten any where else — experiences that only come with giving the proper care to the festival to flourish into what we dream that it will be.  For the last few years, I have given every September to it, not out of obligation but out of love. Love for film, love for the brothers and love for the Guam International Film Festival itself.

So before I begin my post-GIFF rituals (which involves slipping into footie PJ’s, lathering on chapstick and drinking a gallon of water because even with water bottles attached to my hand I can’t seem to stay hydrated at this fest), I’d like to make a couple of shout outs.

To the sweet, golden haired woman who I’ve never gotten the name of: I remember that bright orange shirt you wore the first time I met you. I can’t forget your excitement and smile on your face with those tickets in your hand. You told us you’d get a VIP pass for 2012 to make sure you didn’t miss out, and I jumped for joy that next year when I found that you did. Your support for this festival has been phenomenal. It warms my heart to know that you save a special spot for us every year. Thank you. And I hope you’re enjoying your retirement.

To past, present, and future staff-monkeys: Through the slave driving and the panic-stricken looks as I hyperventilated about the fire hazard we were about to cause, you’ve stood strong and I could never have been more grateful for every one of you. Thank you all for falling into step with me, reminding me to eat and doing what you can to make my job easier every year. I hope that you will continue to support it in any way that you can, it deserves each one of your winning personalities. Future staff-monkeys: I can guarantee you that you will never regret a day here. Even if it’s just taking tickets, the people you will meet and the experiences you will have and the films you will see go unmatched. Smile with shiny teeth,  hustle hard and do everything you can to make sure everyone who comes across you feels welcome.

To Donnie & Kelvin:  I can barely express how grateful I am to what you — us and everyone — has created so this will remain short. Through all the stress, tears, laughter and 32 kinds of crazy, I could never emphasize enough how much GIFF has given me. If you aren’t already, remember to be proud of what it is giving not only to the island, but to the rest of the world.

To the rest of this amazing island I call home: You must remember this. This festival is not ours, it is yours. We are here to give you something that you can be proud of, so that you can say “heck yeah, I’m from Guam”. Own it. Take responsibility for it and help us to nurture it because it needs you just as much (if not more) as it needs us.

During the fest, someone asked me what my favorite year has been and I honestly didn’t have an answer. I responded that I loved each year for an extremely different reason. Each year was unique with its own personality, its own kind of crazy. It was the equivalent to choosing your favorite child. And the best part? It’s only just beginning.


One thought on “Four Years Strong: Just another GIFF story”

  1. After coming off of a back-numbing 14-hour plane ride, followed by a 3-hour drive with jet lag led by loopy GPS directions, no sleep for the past 30 consecutive hours (really, no lie), dehdrayted, malnourished hypoglycemic and holed up in a seedy motel where the first thing that greeted me upon turning on the lights was a cockroach and the second was a questionable man and woman couple in the hallway, in a town full of strangers while missing my 15 year-old’s championship cross-country meet and my 5 year-old’s soccer games, all while experiencing major technical difficulties with my movie screening equipment, I have almost forgotten why I was here. Almost – even for a brief moment – regretted it.

    And then I read your post. I was quickly reminded that all of my troubles weren’t troubles at all. They were blessings. And it’s because of you. AND #TEAMGIFF AND my family AND all of those on Guam and beyond who appreciate and support all that we have done and all that we continue to do. And by ‘we’ I mean all of us. All of us crazies. Maybe one day sooner than later I might stop all of this creative nonsense and happily join the ‘normals’ of society. But until then, I can’t. The fire still burns to keep pressing on. And I have you to thank for that. We couldn’t have done it without you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Ruzelle. You are a true blessing – and God knows – one in a million. We love you forever. Now dance, my monkey, dance.


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