Leanne Kaʻiulani Ferrer, executive director of Pacific Islanders in Communications, died Aug. 12.
Information about the cause of death and Ferrer’s age was not available.
“Words cannot sufficiently describe what she meant to all of us as a tireless leader, advocate, friend and family member,” said the organization’s executives in a joint statement. “She’s touched innumerous lives in immeasurable ways as she’s supported and contributed to the independent filmmaking world and in day to day life.”
“Leanne treated all the people in her life with compassion and understanding,” said CPB President Pat Harrison in a statement. “Her extraordinary contributions to Pacific Islanders in Communications, the BIPOC community and to public media will continue to inspire us all. We offer our sincerest condolences to Leanne’s family.”
Leslie Fields-Cruz, executive director of Black Public Media, said in a newsletter that Ferrer’s death “has hit me, my colleagues, and others in the public media community so hard.”
Fields-Cruz said she met Ferrer at an American Public Television conference and developed a friendship.
“We had so much in common — we were both mothers and wives, and we were both committed to advancing the voices of our respective cultural groups,” she said. “In recent months, Leanne and I discussed the seeming changes in the public media system, the impact of the Beyond Inclusion movement, and our plans for how to use the recent increase in support from CPB to strengthen our organizations’ ongoing work of advancing the voices of BIPOC creatives.”
Ferrer, a filmmaker, told the Sundance Institute in May that two short films she produced were funded by PIC in 2000 and 2001. She joined PIC in 2008 as a program director and created the national public television series Pacific Heartbeat, which is distributed by APT. She was promoted to ED in 2014.
Ferrer told Current in February that new funds from CPB that were administered this year would help expand programs, create new content and build training sessions and mentorships that can help filmmakers.
“It is most critical to keep supporting content creators in telling Pacific Islander stories,” Ferrer said in the interview with Sundance. “Without storytellers, we can’t continue to preserve our heritage through the language of multimedia.”
Ferrer said that among the films she had worked with during her tenure, she was proud of Kapaemahu, a PIC-funded film that was the first Indigenous animated short to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Before joining PIC, Ferrer worked for Disney Films and PBS Hawaii. She was a fellow for the chief executive program at National Arts Strategies and a juror for the Festival International du Film Documentaire Océanien in Tahiti. She was also board president for Hawaii Women in Filmmaking.