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Student-made movie 'Meta Hawaii'

A short film directed by a BYUH student starring Kap Te'o-Tafiti amasses international success

Jonas Weitzel at the premier of Meta Hawaii at the BYUH Auditorium on May 14

During a question and answer session following the premiere of "Meta: Hawaii," regisseur and BYU–Hawaii student Jonas Weitzel shared his project was inspired by the relationship with digital devices. "The idea … that you are so involved with your social presence …everything that you do… is kind of your own world, a virtual world."

As of July 15, 2022, the short film has already been selected for six different international film festivals, according to its official Instagram page. It has been selected for the Best Student Short Finalist category in the Brazil New Visions Film Fest and will be screened in Los Angeles this year in the Independent Shorts Awards as a finalist, says the page.

Weitzel, a sophomore majoring in communications from Germany, held a premiere at the McKay Auditorium for his short film, “Meta: Hawaii,” on May 14, 2022. The actors and actresses in the film, including Polynesian Cultural Center Senior Cultural Ambassador Kap Te’o-Tafiti, as well as friends, students and families of the performers, attended the premiere.

Inspired by a journey of uncertainty

The short film looks at the questions, “Would you spend all day in virtual paradise? Which adventures would you go on? What kind of person would you be? Would you even want to go back to reality?” according to Weitzel’s official website

Glasses that actors wore in the short film, Meta Hawaii

Weitzel said he developed the story from his journey of coming to Hawaii and his relationship back then with his iPhone. Due to the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic, his plan to move to Hawaii right after getting married to Freedom Weitzel was discouraged, he explained.

Having travel restrictions between borders, he said he and his wife moved around between five to six Airbnbs and hotels before eventually arriving in Hawaii. He described his experience as, “I felt like I didn’t have my home in some sense.”

He explained how during his travels in the United States, he found his iPhone as an object that provided him a sense of security, a safe place he knew super well, like a “back pocket.”

“The [smart phone] is no longer just a device, but it has really [become] our identity,” said Weitzel. He explained he reflected on the idea of someone submerging into this digital world and getting distracted from things that matter most in his film “Meta: Hawaii.”

After going through all the challenges and arriving here in Hawaii from Europe, he said, “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s so beautiful here. I love it ... It felt really like a dream.”

He explained the scenes, sequences, images, and sounds in the movie are all inspired by the real-life beauty found in Hawaiian nature. “I just want to mention that it is supposed to be edifying, beautiful and uplifting for everybody.”

Aspiring actors

Britni Hull, a junior majoring in biology with an emphasis in marine biology from California, said she participated in the filming. “I think to me, the message was about really being able to find yourself and find the things that you love and get away from all the crazy stuff in the world. And that is where you find peace and you find yourself and are able to live life to the fullest,” said Hull.

Jonas Weitzel and some of the cast members of Meta Hawaii at the film premier on May 14, 2022.

Austyn Eugenio, an aspiring actor from Hawaii working at Kualoa Ranch, who was also in the film, said he saw Weitzel taking clips all around the island and putting them into one film as if trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle.

“With one-piece… you have just that. But then if you put it all together with the audio and great editing, you have a great 20 minutes. So, seeing my friend being able to accomplish that … is pretty cool. Pretty proud of him,” said Eugenio.

During the Q&A session, Weitzel shared he is planning to participate in 100 global short film festivals and asked the audience to follow “Meta: Hawaii” channels on social media for support. •

For those interested in watching the film, follow social media channels to access updates.,