Short film about Native Hawaiian tree snail to air Hawai'i International Film Festival

Nov. 6—Raised in Michigan and Vermont, Daniel A. Kelin II earned a degree in theater at the University of Vermont and then decided to continue his education at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Raised in Michigan and Vermont, Daniel A. Kelin II earned a degree in theater at the University of Vermont and then decided to continue his education at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

In 1987, Kelin received a Master of Fine Arts in theater from UH-Manoa and, degree in hand, was offered a part-time summer job with Honolulu Theatre for Youth. The job was extended for a year, and HTY then offered him a full-time job as education director, a position he has held for the past 35 years.

Kelin's contributions as an actor and playwright include starring as Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors " at Manoa Valley Theatre in 1987, and writing and starring in "Shipwreck'd on the Body Beautiful, or the Tats Dancing Man " at Kumu Kahua Theatre in 2019. Kelin wrote "Shipwreck'd " after reading Irish sailor James F. O'Connell's autobiographical account of being shipwrecked on the island of Pohnpei in 1828 and returning to "civilization " five years later covered with Pohnpeian tattoos. The show earned Kelin a Hawaii State Theatre Council Po 'okela Award for best leading male in a play later that year.

A news story about the extinction of a species of Native Hawaiian tree snail sparked Kelin's most recent project. "After the Endling " is a short film that uses shadow puppets to tell the story of Lonely George, the last member of his species, who died on New Year's Day 2019.

Kelin, 61, wrote, produced and directed the film, which premieres as part of the "Made in Hawaii Shorts 2 " program in the ­Hawai 'i International Film Festival. It screens at 6 p.m. Monday at the Kahala Theatre. The shorts program also can be viewed virtually from Nov. 14 to 27. For more, go to

For more information on "After the Endling, " visit.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you become involved or how did you discover the snails ?

I stumbled on the story of Lonely George (by accident ) ... and it was just an incredible story that blew up as a metaphor for the challenges to Indigenous populations. I thought I'd really love to tell the story in a way that's a little more artistic and engaging so I could reach populations that maybe don't get a chance to hear about this particular character or know much about the land snails.

Is there anything we can do to reduce the extinction ?

David Sischo, who is the director of the Snail Extinction Prevention Program, was a consultant on this. I think (supporting ) that program is certainly one of them. There's also a program at Bishop Museum. Those two programs are always looking for people to donate, contribute and support. In fact, the Snail Extinction Prevention Program is in the midst of building a new facility that's going to be set up so people can come into the building and look through glass windows to see the work going on with the snails.

What made shadow puppets the ideal medium for telling the story ?

This is what I wrote in my film proposal : "A shadow screen world can capture recognizable island imagery simultaneously in real and fantastical manners while allowing for, in fact requiring, the artists to break the boundaries of scope, size, perspective and movement. We will be able to present the vastness of a mountain vista at the same time as an intense close-up of an otherwise tiny pupu kani oe (Native Hawaiian tree snail ). It will invite viewers to sense the enormity of the tiny land snail's world and, more importantly, experience the dangers snails face, all within the space of a single leaf."

What is next for you now that the film is out ?

I'm working on a smaller set of films through an organization called Women of Vision, which is women from the Micronesian islands. I'm working with them to create two or three more informal, short puppet films that are going to be built off of stories they're sharing with me 'cause they look at it as a way to reach a younger population in a different medium. ... The stories are cultural folklore that each woman remembers from growing up or that one of their older relatives shared with them. They are a combination of cautionary tales and 'just-so' style stories that offer fantastical reasons for why certain islands are located where they are, or how a particular place became so foggy. These are not personal experiences ... rather traditional tales that the organization thinks will help their efforts to bring the tales to new generations.