UOG student’s documentary on a transgender woman’s journey wins film award

“Haven,” a micro-documentary made by Keanno Fausto while a student at the University of Guam, tells the story of a local transgender woman who overcame personal traumas to help her island prosper. (UOG photo)

The colors of Pride Month are particularly bright for Keanno Fausto, a communication alumnus from the University of Guam who recently won a national award for his documentary on a local transgender woman. Fausto took third place for his micro-documentary, “Haven,” at the 2021 Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts.

The festival is an internationally judged exhibition of faculty and student work. With over 1,300 entries representing more than 250 universities, Fausto’s film stood out from the competition, earning him a cash prize of $1,000 and a specialized screening of his film at the awards ceremony.

“This is the first time a UOG student has won a BEA award in the documentary category, as it is exceptionally competitive. We were up against top schools for journalism. Keanno did outstanding work,” said Raymond Anderson, UOG professor of communication.

The documentary features Lasia Casil, Guam’s first openly transgender senatorial candidate and founder of Guam Pride, an LGBTQ+ rights activist organization. It follows her journey and return to Guam after leaving the island to escape workplace discrimination as a transgender woman. Through a collection of personal interviews, archival footage, and direct cinema scenes, Fausto shares Casil’s story of overcoming personal traumas to help her island prosper.

Fausto was inspired to tell Casil’s story after hearing her panel discussion at a diversity and inclusion conference.

“What inspired me to learn more about her story was her perseverance to face the odds in order to help our island towards a more accepting culture,” he said. “I decided on this topic of transgender rights because it is a topic that is often not addressed locally.”

Having worked primarily on fictional stories in the past, documentary filmmaking was new territory for Fausto. He said his biggest challenge was overcoming the intimidation of having to accurately tell a person’s life story within the span of seven minutes.

“It served as a learning process — allowing me to not only develop my skills technically, but also learn about local issues that I was not previously aware of before. By listening to Lasia’s story and struggles from her personally, I learned that problems I saw on national news occurred here in Guam, too,” he said.

This wasn’t the first time Fausto received national recognition for his work. Two films he produced with fellow UOG students won Awards of Excellence at the 2020 BEA festival. His film “Left on Read” also received local recognition — winning the “Best Made in the Marianas” award at the 2019 Guam International Film Festival and “Best Narrative” at the 2019 UOG Film Festival.

Fausto graduated in May 2020 with a bachelor’s in communication and a concentration in mass media and journalism. He said he hopes to use the medium of documentary filmmaking as a platform to bring awareness to issues that are often overlooked in society.

His documentary can be viewed at www.bit.ly/HavenDocumentary.

(UOG Release)