Big Screen Stories Of Overcoming

By Scott Nishimoto, VP Workforce Development & Community Relations, Abilities Unlimited

Dawna Zane was a senior at Kalani High School when it happened. A car accident left her with complete paralysis from her chest down. Since the accident, she has redefined herself as one of Hawaii’s top wheelchair athletes and a tireless advocate for individuals with disabilities.


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Scott Nishimoto

Gabe Cabagbag is an accomplished wedding video-grapher and photographer. When asked to provide me with a bio, Gabe modestly stated that he is “a lover of travel, film and sushi, constantly inspired by passionate people.”

Normally, these two individuals never would have crossed paths. But last year, for the inaugural Abilities Unlimited Film Festival (AUFF), this unlikely pair came together to inspire a community, create powerful social change, and win first prize in the process.

Gabe masterfully told Dawna’s story through a painful, yet uplifting 10-minute film. Dawna courageously opened up and allowed us to feel what she felt through her accident, recovery and her new life with a disability.

Their film was one of eight amazing short films featured at last year’s AUFF. A standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 guests packed into Park Restaurant, leading Abilities Unlimited to find a bigger venue this year.

In stepped Consolidated Theatres Ward Stadium 16, which generously donated the use of its 490-seat auditorium for this year’s AUFF. Gabe and five other local filmmakers will screen new short films focusing on individuals who have persevered through Parkinson’s, strokes, intellectual disabilities and blindness.

While the proceeds of AUFF will benefit Abilities Unlimited, a local nonprofit whose mission is to build inclusive communities that empower individuals with disabilities, the event is much more than a fundraiser. AUFF was created to inspire the community to employ individuals with disabilities, offer these individuals meaningful opportunities in the community, and treat these individuals with respect and equality.

The second annual AUFF will be held at Consolidated Ward Wednesday, April 22. Doors open at 6 p.m. Please support Abilities Unlimited and email Scott Nishimoto at or call 532-2119 for tickets: $10 presale, $12 at the door. Visit for more information.