UPDATE (9/7/16): KS Hawaiʻi received an official notice that their film has been accepted and will be showcased at the 36th annual Hawaiʻi International Film Festival from November 3 - 13, 2016.
For the last five years, Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi high school students, teachers and staff have been producing a video that is featured during the Merrie Monarch festival. A series of teasers during the Wednesday night broadcast directed viewers to the Merrie Monarch website to watch the featured video in its entirety.
So many of the KS Hawaiʻi ʻohana are involved in the festivities throughout the weekend, but this video has become a key opportunity to share a legend from Hawai‘i Island with the world. It is another significant Hawaiian culture-based campus tradition that connects students to their kūpuna.
“ʻO Poliʻahu me Kūkahauʻula” shares the moʻolelo of Kūkahauʻula and Poliʻahu. The story takes place on Mauna Kea, in the winter, as the goddess Poliʻahu blankets Mauna Kea with snow. Attracted by her beauty, Kūkahauʻula shines through the harsh conditions to warm her heart.
Directed by senior Hunter Catton, filming this story in a sacred space required him to approach the project knowing there would be challenges and require a considerable amount of time.
Catton shared about the process making the film, “I think there isn't ever too much footage you can film for a movie because you never know what you might need.”
Working with video production kumu Nader Shehata, they had to secure the appropriate permits for filming on Mauna Kea. He had to be cognizant of the rules necessary for that space and sensitivities over where could and could not be filmed. But the end result was worth it.
“Knowing this is part of the Merrie Monarch festival makes me feel honored to be a part of something so meaningful for the Hawaiian culture,” said Catton.
Senior Kaluhikaua Kaʻapana, who portrays Poliʻahu, feels a sense of pride for her culture knowing this is reaching a worldwide audience. She recognizes the power of hula to be able to tell and share these stories.
“It's amazing to see the different moʻolelo being brought to life,” shared Kaʻapana.
“Being able to educate people worldwide about our culture and our history gives the feeling that we are really perpetuating our culture; especially coming from us, the younger generation.”
The experience of putting together the video allowed her to learn the story behind the video and get into the character of Poliʻahu. It also gave her a chance to reflect on all of the events that have transpired over the past year.
“I think what's special about it is after everything that has happened on the Mauna, it gives you a moment to step back and appreciate our kūpuna and their way of life.”
Senior Pila Chong was disappointed he didn’t know the moʻolelo before being involved in this project. Chong, who portrayed Kūkahauʻula, mentioned how being involved with something like Merrie Monarch could be scary, but how he is proud to represent his culture. Having the solidarity of his classmates to treat this project with the maturity needed allowed them to bond and create something special.
“I love how we were all able to come together and put our best efforts forward,” said Chong.
“It was a great experience for me. I was able to learn a new story about the history of our ancestors.”
Below, watch last year's film for the Merrie Monarch festival "A Ka Wailele ʻO Peʻepeʻe".