He answered the phone and said yes when internationally renowned photojournalist Catherine Bauknight called, but it didn't take long for videographer/editor, Mark Alexander, to realize the documentary "Hawaii: A Voice For Sovereignty" was more than a job. Alexander is the president of LA/OC Chapter of MCAI and the CEO of Alexander Video Productions.
It became a "topical, important and timely" project and a chance "to make things right before they become permanently wrong," asserted Alexander.
The film is a source of professional pride and a call to conscience for the man who also serves as volunteer videographer and photographer for the San Dimas Sheriff's Mountain Rescue Team and owns Alexander Video Productions and Verdict Videos.
Bauknight, one of five international journalists who risked their lives by physically covering the Tiananmen Square massacre, is an internationally acclaimed for her work in Time and Newsweek magazines, the New York Times and exhibitions in the United States, Africa, Asia and Europe.
She produced the documentary detailing the history, impact and continuing struggle of indigenous Hawaiians to regain land literally stolen from their ancestors by American colonial and corporate interests who took possession of their lands and displaced them, starting in the late 19th century.
Alexander was well aware of her reputation and didn't hesitate when Bauknight asked him to serve as editor and writer on the massive Hawaiian project. He became so immersed in the documentary's production, Bauknight gave him co-producing credit.
He calls the documentary a "wake-up call for people on the mainland and in the world."
The film has won best environmental film and best documentary awards at the New York International Film and Video, Maui Film and Red Nation Film festivals, New Zealand's Maori Film Festival's Mana Warrior Award and Berkeley Film Festival's Allen Willis Documentary Award.
It also received critical and audience accolades during screenings at the United Nations Conference on Indigenous Peoples held in Geneva, Switzerland and the premiere at the Washington, D.C. Capital Building sponsored by now Hawaiian Gov. Neal Abercrombie.
Although it specifically addresses the issue of sovereignty for indigenous Hawaiians, the documentary raises concerns about development encroachment and corporate greed that negatively impact indigenous and aboriginal peoples everywhere, Alexander said.
When President Bill Clinton signed the apology resolution to indigenous Hawaiians for stealing their land, it gave activists "something to grasp on to and bring the movement to world attention," Alexander said.
Bauknight had already proven her mettle as a journalist in Tiananmen Square "who literally had bullets flying around her," Alexander said. "She's a blue-eyed blonde from North Carolina who built up the trust of indigenous Hawaiians by developing relationships with people, listening to and documenting their experiences and giving international voice to heart-breaking stories of real people."
He bought into Bauknight's idea of "not just complaining about what had happened, but talking about what's happening now and stimulating international dialogues about cultural and language retention, land recovery and self-sustaining environmental, economic and agricultural industry issues."
Activists in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement have worked diligently and in relative obscurity to recover land and preserve culture for many years. The documentary includes five years of interviews with and footage from a wide range of Hawaiians, including college professors, impacted farmers, movement activists, political leaders and "houseless" Hawaiians living on the beach because they cannot afford homes despite the fact they're working two to four jobs to make ends meet.
"Initially it was just a gig, but within a week it became a passion project," Alexander recalled.
"This struck me as a work that would allow me to impact a culture, spawn debate and stimulate action. That has definitely been the case because everywhere the film is screened, it's to standing-room-only audiences. And people stay around after the screenings to find out more and to volunteer to do more."
What happened in Hawaii can be compared to what happened to Native Americans in the United States, he felt. This documentary - which also includes performances and comments by world-renowned Hawaiian guitarist Willi K, folk and musical icons Charles Ka'upu and George Kahumoku and slack-key guitarist Cyril Pahinui - "gives us the chance to make things right before they become permanently wrong," Alexander noted.
The 54-year-old videographer was born in Pasadena and raised in South Pasadena. His father, Robert Alexander, was a Sheraton Hotel executive and mother Mary Alexander was a Sheraton secretary.
After his parents gave him an acoustic guitar for Christmas when he was in third grade, young Mark decided he would become a rock-n-roll star. He also wasn't shy about singing and frequently sang in church.
When their parents died during their childhood, Mark and his sister Ann were raised by their maternal grandmother Mae McHugh. Music became an emotional outlet and later a job. He played guitar in bands for several years and added electric bass, keyboards, electric guitar, drums and songwriting to his musical repertoire.
When he and his wife, Yardhouse Restaurant corporate supervising bookkeeper Claudia, married in 1983, Alexander felt it was time to focus on business rather than music. He remembered his teenage fascination with television production crews at the Rose Parade and combined art and technology for 22 years as an editor and executive in Burbank-based video production companies.
Like his parents and grandmother, he and Claudia "stayed out of our children's way and let them decide what their professional pursuits would be." Son Robert is a recording technician. Daughter Stacey is a Cal State Fullerton art major.
Alexander founded Alexander Video Productions in 2005 and Verdict Videos in 2010. His international work includes a documentary on Brazil's acclaimed mixed martial arts master and Ultimate Fighting Championship athlete Vitor Belfort.
In 2005, he became the rescue team videographer "because I have tremendous respect for the men and women who voluntarily risk their lives to save others."
Alexander also produced and updated the National Association of Search and Rescue's Hug-A-Tree children's safety education program video and handout materials with a Disneyland Community Cast Fund grant obtained with the help of Disneyland employee and rescue team volunteer Kim Sims. This project was coordinated by rescue team member Greg Anderson.
By Imani Tate, Staff Writer, Inland Daily Bulletin
Created: 08/18/2011 07:03:38 AM PDT http://www.dailybulletin.com/pomona/ci_18706758?source=email