Film premier: Award-winning Mermaid’s Lament, filled with UH Hilo talent, sets sail to debut at Palace Theater

The independent film Mermaids’ Lament, the story of two women who find strength in each other despite their personal struggles, is chock-full of UH Hilo talent from cast to crew.

Woman rises up to the surface of the water.
In a still from the film Mermaids’ Lament, Dayva Summer Escobar plays Oee, the mermaid. Escobar is an alumna of UH Hilo with bachelor’s degrees in both communication and in gender and women studies, with a minor in performing arts (2021). (Photo credit: Liz Saras)

By Susan Enright.

Mermaids’ Lament, a film directed by GB Hajim and filled with the talent of faculty, students, and alumni from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, will make its Hawai‘i Island premier on Friday, Nov. 17, 7:00 p.m. at the Palace Theater in Hilo. A second showing is scheduled in Kona on Nov. 25, 7:00 p.m. at the Aloha Theater.

Justina Mattos pictured.
Justina Mattos

Crafted and filmed entirely on Hawai‘i Island, featuring a local cast and crew, the story features Dr. Nell Jamison, a brilliant yet tormented psychiatrist whose world is upended when she encounters Oee, a young woman who fervently believes she’s a mermaid. Jamison is portrayed by Justina Mattos, an associate professor of drama at UH Hilo and Oee is brought to life by Dayva Escobar, a UH Hilo communication and women’s studies alumna.

Actor defending herself with a bat.
In a still from the film Mermaids’ Lament, Justina Mattos plays therapist Nell protecting her new friend Oee. (Photo credit: Tween Sea and Sand, LLC @2021)
Two actors in a pool.
The film Mermaids’ Lament stars UH Hilo alumna Dayva Summer Escobar (at left) who plays Oee, and UH Hilo Associate Professor of Drama Justina Mattos as Oee’s therapist, Dr. Nell Jamison. (Photo credit: Ronn Murray)

The film’s director, Geoffrey B. Hajim, known as “GB,” is a professional filmmaker who lives in Pāpa‘ikou on Hawai‘i Island. Over his 25-year career, Hajim has completed over 150 projects from television spots to the first feature film in the Hawaiian language. He has taught film at Hawai‘i Community College and worked with drama students who have gone on to study at UH Hilo.

Critically acclaimed

The film had its world premiere in Hollywood at the Dances with Film Festival this summer, earning a nomination for Best Feature Film.

Recently, it showed in London at the Big Syn, the world’s biggest sustainability film festival, sponsored by UNESCO, as it serves to enlighten, inspire, and entertain while addressing critical societal issues. The film won Best Feature Film at the London event.

The film’s mesmerizing underwater scenes plunge viewers into the enchanting marine world.

According to a press release, the free-diving sequences “beautifully convey the serenity and liberating essence of harmony with the ocean, emphasizing the significance of environmental stewardship. Oee’s unwavering belief in her mermaid identity underscores the fundamental need for self-acceptance, mental well-being, and the recognition of one’s true self by others.”

Mermaids underwater.
The film’s mesmerizing underwater scenes plunge viewers into the enchanting marine world. (Photo credit: GB Hajim)
Catherine Becker pictured
Catherine Becker

The film is currently undergoing adaptation into a novel by Catherine Becker, an associate professor of communication at UH Hilo.

“The novel will delve deeper into the story and offer valuable resources for navigating trauma and preserving our oceans,” says Becker, who also appears in the film as a mermaid.

The director Hajim, along with Becker, Mattos, and other island cast and crew, will be present at the Hilo and Kona premieres. As part of the Hilo event, a silent auction will feature two sets of mermaid fins and other items, with proceeds benefiting the Palace Theater.

See more at the Mermaids’ Lament website and on the film’s Facebook and Instagram.

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Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.