An interview with filmmaker Randy
By Johanna Brown
16, 2007Faced with the option of starting a nonprofit,
or shooting a documentary, first-time filmmaker Randy Fermo "chose
to do a film."
The Other Side of Paradise "is based on my
first-hand experience with the homeless community in Hawaii,"
A native of the Philippines, Fermo received inspiration for The
Other Side of Paradise during his first trip to Hawaii in
2003. "I was at the food court at the Ala Moana Mall
an elderly woman was sitting next to me," Fermo explained.
She told Fermo that her family had thrown her out of the house and
she was homeless.
"I was shocked
The next day, I decided to investigate
homelessness in Hawaii."
Through his explorations, Fermo discovered homeless people living
on Waikiki and Ala Moana Beach; a stark contrast to the atmosphere
he expected to find in Hawaii. Through conversations with local
residents, Fermo heard stories about skyrocketing rent, a dearth
of affordable housing, low wages, and mass migration to the U.S.
mainland. "I learned that every homeless person in Hawaii has
a different story."
A few days later, Fermo had to head back to the U.S. mainland (at
the time he was a student at Ohio State University). However, he
couldn't forget the homeless images he saw in Hawaii.
"It is very hard to explain my attachment to the people in
Hawaii," stated Fermo. He returned to Hawaii in December 2003
for a six-month stay. During that visit he spent time "learning
more about homelessness [in] the Leeward Coast of Hawaii
trying to figure out the best way to help the homeless."
After brainstorming several possible solutions with
his contacts in Hawaii and in the US mainland, Fermo eventually
decided to shoot a documentary because of its ability to stimulate
"We felt that what we are doing has never been done before,"
explained Fermo. Fermo's goal is to have a short version of the
film completed in early 2008 "so that people can start speaking
[about the film]
We need to get a debate going."
For the past year and a half, Fermo and his team have been researching
and shooting footage for The Other Side of Paradise.
"The documentary will have interviews with members of the
local and academic community," explained Fermo. "We are
in contact with several Hawaiian communities in the mainland"
to discuss the relationship between migration and homelessness in
Hawaii, he added. Most recently, the University of Hawaii has endorsed
the film and given Fermo access to its archives.
Fermo is currently in Atlanta to garner support for his film. He
wants "to break through in the Atlanta film community because
we need everyone's help to finish our film."
In addition, Fermo has begun working on a new project. "The
Atlanta Homelessness Film Project is basically about finding and
telling various stories on homelessness," said Fermo, who is
trying to recruit a volunteer crew to film and interview members
of Atlanta's homeless community. He said he is "hoping to premier
the informative video at the Atlanta City Council
I wish to
give members of the homeless community an opportunity to showcase
their talents and give them hope."
This December, The Other Side of Paradise will go
into post-production editing. "The Other Side of Paradise
is not anti-tourism," Fermo makes sure to point out. "What
I would like to accomplish in this film is to have people understand
what the real Hawaii is like."
More information about The Other Side of Paradise
can be found at: http://myspace.com/braddahrandy.