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From Waiʻanae Heiau

Three short films produced by Waiʻanae High School juniors and seniors, aided by mentors from the Academy for Creative Media (ACM) at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu, recently received outstanding reviews. The films were screened at the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Forum at the East-West Center on January 26.

The forum, co-sponsored by UH West Oʻahu and ACM, is part of an effort by the Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation to help identify sites for possible designation as a National Historic Landmark or listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It brought to light how beautiful our backyard is,” said Waiʻanae High School student Austin Ibanes, part of a team that examined the importance of culture in exploring the Kūʻīlioloa Heiau at Pōkaʻi Bay, which once served as an navigation school. “It was just a great experience.”

Getting the younger generation involved

5 people sitting at a table on a stage and 1 person at a podium
Students discuss the making of their videos during a panel discussion. From left, Waiʻanae High School students Austin Ibanes and Nicole Tagalicud; UH West Oʻahu student/mentor Tancy Chee, Matsunaga Peace Institute Executive Director Maya Soetoro-Ng, UH West Oʻahu student/mentor Kevin Bechayda. Standing at lectern UH West Oʻahu Chancellor Maenette Benham.

The Youth Video Project was championed by UH West Oʻahu Chancellor Maenette Benham as a way to get younger generation students involved, and have them explore what they considered important places. Waiʻanae High School’s Searider Productions was enlisted to provide the talent, and community leaders were recruited as special mentors to discuss the projects with students, including Matsunaga Peace Institute Executive Director Maya Soetoro-Ng, UH Professor Davianna Pōmakaʻi MacGregor and Polynesian Voyaging Society Education Director Miki Tomita.

“They’re doing incredible work and they’re telling incredible stories,” said Josiah Endo, an ACM student mentor who also works as video services manager for Searider Productions. He said seeing the students’ work was inspiring. UH West Oʻahu students Kevin Bechayda, Tancy Chee and Mendi Cui also served as mentors.

Telling incredible stories

What consisted of sense of place was tough for students to define, but perhaps Waiʻanae Strong filmmaker Amee Neves summed it up the best by explaining sense of place is different for everyone and is not an actual place. “It’s in the heart,” she said.

The videos

  • Honouliuli—An exploration of the World War II internment camp at Honouliuli by students Julia Forrest, Makana Allen and Jordyn Gerard Watkins-Oka. “Something as terrible what happened to those Japanese Americans should never happen again,” said Forrest. Watch the video.
  • Waiʻanae Heiau—Besides focusing on the Kūʻīlioloa Heiau and the Hōkūleʻa, this video provided remarkable drone shots of Waiʻanae. Produced by Austin Ibanes, Tyler Bright and others. Watch the video.
  • Waiʻanae Strong—A presentation that notes Waiʻanae’s sometimes poor reputation, but shows the label ignores the positive aspects of the community. The film focusing on sense of place was made by Nicole Tagalicud, Jayden Kepoo Caspino, Amee Neves and Brayzhelle Williams-Quitog. Watch the video.

“They had very important stories to tell,” said Soetoro-Ng said during a panel discussion, noting her involvement left her feeling hopeful. “Hawaiʻi has so much to give.”

Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation Executive Director Kiersten Faulkner said the Youth Video Project was done as a pilot program, but most likely will be continued and expanded.

—By Greg Wiles

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