By Jessica Peterson
“Invest in the people. There is no trick to it,” says filmmaker Don Muña. “You don’t have to manufacture a look and feel. Give it to the artists. They’re doing and they’re driven. They’ll give you the most bang for your buck.”
Muña showed his film “Talent Town” to an audience of 30 friends and a few members of the media at Cars Plus tonight. The intimate event precedes the official premier of the island-made film at Guam Art Exhibit (GAX) on July 3, 2014.
“Talent Town” is a documentary about Guam artists and musicians. Written and directed by Don and his creative partner and brother Kel Muña, the film contains unflinching interviews about the frustrations of making a living as an artist on Guam. The film features interviews with dozens of local musicians, painters, tattoo artists, and fighters — some of whom have day jobs as teachers, politicians, lawyers, reporters, and the like. The Muña Brothers are well-known on Guam as the creators of the Guam International Film Festival (GIFF) which is in its third year.
“This is the first film in a documentary form that’s been done by locals that talks a lot of crap about ourselves and the island,” says Don Muña. “Kind of like the talk that you have at the BBQ that usually never leaves the circle, but we have the trust from these artists that we won’t exploit them.”
With the exception of politicking, it is rare for Guamanians to be publicly critical of their elder leaders in the media, government, and education system. “Talent Town” bravely documents the undercurrent of frustration among Guam creatives.
Some of the artists in the film turned up at the screening, including KUAM reporter Krystal Paco who revealed that she all but quit performing music because it didn’t pay the bills. “We get paid in good vibes,” she says in the film. “Being a reporter is the closest I can get to performing,” Paco revealed at the screening.
“Talent Town” also profiles artists who have left Guam and made a name for themselves in the Mainland, such as Pia Mia, Marko Germar, Leo Babauta, Perry Borja, and even the film’s producer J.D. Iriarte.
Don Muna is candid in his characterization of local artists as lazy and unorganized, but also blames policy makers and government agencies as stingy with the purse strings and the support. “Being from such a small place we don’t know how to break out from the confines of our small island.”
“Movies have a purpose. The entertainment industry in Guam is worth peanuts. Corporates businesses rely heavily on media and production and art and artists don’t get a single cent.”
“Talent Town” addresses the identity crisis that Guam has in promoting itself as a destination. Long promoted as a poor man’s Hawaii, Guam has long catered to Japanese visitors, but as their arrival numbers dwindle even Guam Visitors Bureau General Manager Karl Pangelinan admits that it’s time to shift the focus. Pangelinan, who is interviewed in the film, is portrayed as both a supporter and an antagonist of the creative community.
“We’re so darn diverse. We’re Chamorro; we are American. We don’t know what we want to be,” Muña says.
“I was hoping that art could be the one thing the community would get behind because it could benefit everybody,” says the filmmaker. “Let’s sell Guam as a player in art and film. It fits the bill for everything.“
The Guam Guide was in attendance and extended an invitation to all the artists present to submit their works of art to be featured on the site. The open call is extended to the first 25 Guam artists to create an artist’s page on The Guam Guide that will be promoted to all its readers. Learn more about the open call and how to participate.