La Verne alumna makes the cut in film festival

Rebecca Bravo
Staff Writer

This year’s Honolulu International Film Festival has accepted a film made by University of La Verne alumna La Verne resident Jennifer Hoge and two University broadcast faculty members.

Hoge’s documentary, “Damien Making A Difference God Making a Saint,” was one of the 41 films selected from several hundred submissions from all over the world.

Shane Rodrigues, University of La Verne radio/TV operations manager, served as director of photography on the project and Michael Laponis, professor of communications, served as sound engineer and narrator of the film.

“I never expected this to happen,” Hoge said. “It sounds cliché but it’s like a dream come true,”

The documentary is based on the story of Saint Damien of Molokai, a Roman Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who helped the people of Molokai with leprosy.

Hoge and her sister Stephany Reh wrote the screenplay by using publications and readings of Damien’s journals and letters he kept while he served the people of Molokai.

Hoge was inspired to film this documentary after Father Michael Barry, a member of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, asked her to make the film. His request came last year shortly after Father Damien was recognized as a Saint.

The film started as a personal favor and now has turned into a success story. It is being used by Catholic churches in their teachings. Although Hoge graduated from the University of La Verne in the 1990s, she has remained in contact with the University and in particular the Communications department.

“Jen’s a good friend of mine and I liked the project. Even though I’m from Hawaii I got to learn more about Father Damien and his history and legacy,” Rodrigues said.

“I don’t just say yes to any project. I was interested in this project because I’ve worked with Jen before and she’s fun to work with and I’m inspired by Father Damien and his work,” Laponis said. “This also gave me a chance to do more voice over work and get a chance to network and get more jobs.”

George Keeler, chairman of the communications department of the University of La Verne encourages alumni to keep students and staff involved in their projects and achievements.

“This is a case where students become teachers and teachers become students. This video has been shown at the Vatican and has made her a local hero and she included us,” said Keeler.

The Film Festival will take place the last weekend of April at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort and Spa in Honolulu where a screening of the chosen entrees will be shown over the course of two days.

“This is a great way for directors and the crew from the films to network with others and make those contacts,” said Mya Boty, spokeswoman for the Film Festival.

After her success of being accepted to the Honolulu Film Festival, Hoge hopes that a production company will pick up the documentary. Hoge would also like to sell the documentary worldwide, particularly in Belgium, the birthplace of Saint Damien.

Rebecca Bravo can be reached at

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