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Ua Ao Kaiwi‘ula celebrated Hawaiian language, culture and wayfinding. This year’s collaborative event included a student film festival to feature the next generation of creators sharing our language and culture through visual storytelling. Winning filmmaker Dustin Kealoha (third from left celebrated with event emcees Lilinoe Kaʻahanui and Melelani Pang, actor Kekoa Kekumano, his mother Jamie, VP of KS Kapālama Middle School Kēhau Glassco and local filmmaker Ty Sanga.

Ua Ao Kaiwi'ula celebrates language and culture, creates pathway for student filmmakers

Aug. 5, 2019

Contributed by Ben Balberdi

Kamehameha Schools and Bishop Museum partnered to present the second annual Ua Ao Kaiwi‘ula – an event celebrating Hawaiian language, culture and wayfinding through cultural and film.

This year’s celebration on the museum’s Great Lawn on July 26 featured a student film festival to showcase the growing pool of homegrown talent perpetuating the culture and language through film, a mākeke featuring products made in Hawai‘i and mea‘ai from popular food vendors within KS’ Kona, O‘ahu Region.

“Ua Ao Kaiwi‘ula brings the community together to celebrate and experience the Hawaiian culture and language,” KS Kona, Oʻahu Regional Director Hailama Farden said. “Sharing our mo‘olelo (stories) is vital in connecting us to our past as we advance our lāhui forward. The student film festival showcases the next generation of storytellers who are preserving our history, culture and language through film.”  

Of the nine submissions received, three films were selected as finalists: “Clean Water” by Maria Angst, Kaeya Cummings and Isaiah Sahagun of Moloka‘i High School; “Maunawila Heiau” by Huki Plunkett and Hiwa Walker of KS Kapālama Middle School; and “Salt to Street” by Dustin Kealoha of KS Kapālama Middle School.  

Kealoha and his entry “Salt to Street” earned both the “Filmmaker Award” and “People’s Choice Award.” The short film, which was also his eighth-grade capstone project, features the Kaka‘ako street art scene and its depiction of the area’s mo‘olelo and rich history.

“It was a great opportunity to be a voice for Kakaʻako and its stories so that it can be passed down to future generations,” said Kealoha, a KS Kapālama freshman. “I wanted to focus on the evolution of Hawaiʻi but also show how we are still grounded in our history and culture.”

With the win, Kealoha now has the opportunity to learn from members of the 2019 ‘Ohina Filmmakers Lab – a fellowship of local filmmakers and screenwriters working locally and in Hollywood. His winning film will also be featured during Consolidated Theatres’ and ‘Ohina’s Hana Hou Picture Show – a retro film series held monthly at Ward Theatres.  

“I’m looking forward to gaining experience from ‘Ohina’s fellows. Pursuing a film career allows me to do something fun and creative, while still perpetuating my culture,” Kealoha said.

The night was capped off with appearances by two young Native Hawaiians already creating buzz in the film industry. Local filmmaker Ty Sanga presented his film “Hae Hawai‘i” during the event and shared words of wisdom with those in attendance.

Sanga was joined by actor Kekoa Kekumano, a 2016 KS Kapālama graduate who has had roles in “Hawaii Five-0,” “Hae Hawai‘i,” and most recently as the 16-year-old Arthur in “Aquaman.”

“To ensure our vision of a thriving lāhui, it is imperative that we collaborate with others in our community to serve more Hawaiian learners,” Farden said. “Partnerships like Ua Ao Kaiwi‘ula creates opportunities for our keiki to flourish and explore their potential as the future leaders who will help restore our people.”

To view the final entries, visit the Ua Ao Kaiwi‘ula event page on Facebook.

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