Lahaina: Waves of Change

Waves of Change


In 1999, Hawaiian music legend and documentary filmmaker Eddie Kamae visited the West Maui town of Lahaina, only to find that Pioneer Mill, the center of Lahaina’s sugar industry. was closing down. Eddie knew that this signaled the end of Lahaina’s plantation era. a simpler, more innocent time that he remembered fondly from the childhood summers he spent in the area visiting his grandmother. He knew that a change as momentous as this needed to be documented so he filmed the last harvest, the last cane burning, and the final days of operation at Pioneer Mill. The time Eddie spent in this old Maui town also revealed many treasures from the past, both historical and personal. This documentary is dedicated to Shigesh and Sue Wakida, whose love for the children and Lahaina live on.


“This story is told in an intimate, highly personal style that is the hallmark of all Eddie Kamae’s films”
– Mark Vleth, Lahaina News




‘Newtown’ filmmaker Kim A. Snyder to appear at March 14 Indie Lens Pop-Up

PBS Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking will co-present a screening of the acclaimed documentary, Newtown, on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 6:30 – 8:30 pm at PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road in Honolulu.


Newtown filmmaker Kim A. Snyder is scheduled to appear for a Q&A after the screening. The event is part of “Indie Lens Pop-Up,” a film screening series that brings people together for community-driven conversations about documentaries seen on the PBS series Independent Lens.


There is limited seating available. Those interested in attending should RSVP online at or by phone at 808.462.5030.

Kim Snyder, documentary filmmaker, Manhattan, UWS, New York, NY. Photo by Stefano Giovannini


About Newtown: On December 14, 2012, a disturbed young man committed a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that took the lives of 20 elementary school children and six educators. Newtown, filmed over the course of nearly three years, uses deeply personal, never-before-heard testimonies to relate the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history. Through interviews with parents, siblings, teachers, doctors and first responders, Newtown documents a traumatized community still reeling from the tragedy, fractured by grief but driven toward a sense of purpose.

Nicole Hockley, mother of a Sandy Hook victim, and first responder Sgt. William Cario, embrace after the 2012 tragedy that left 20 schoolchildren and six adults dead.


Newtown premieres on Independent Lens Monday, April 3, 2017, 9:00-11:00 pm on PBS Hawai‘i.



The Hawaiian Room


The Hawaiian Room, located in the famed Lexington Hotel, was an oasis of Hawaiian culture and entertainment in the heart of New York City. Between 1937 and 1966, hundreds of dancers, singers and musicians from Hawaii were recruited to perform at the entertainment venue. In this documentary, filmmaker Ann Marie Kirk shares interviews with over 20 former performers who speak candidly and fondly of their experience at the historic nightclub, and the culture shock of going from Hawai‘i to New York City.


Upcoming documentary revisits New York’s Hawaiian Room

PBS Hawaii


In The Hawaiian Room, filmmaker Ann Marie Kirk interviews more than 20 performers who worked at the New York nightclub, which showcased Hawaiian entertainment for nearly 30 years.HONOLULU, HI – A documentary that will air on PBS Hawai‘i this month will take viewers back to The Hawaiian Room, an oasis in New York’s Lexington Hotel that showcased Hawaiian entertainment from 1937 through 1966. PBS Hawai‘i Presents: The Hawaiian Room makes its broadcast premiere Thursday, January 19 at 9:00 pm on PBS Hawai‘i.


In The Hawaiian Room, filmmaker Ann Marie Kirk interviews more than 20 performers who worked at the New York nightclub, which showcased Hawaiian entertainment for nearly 30 years. Photo: Hula Preservation Society Photo Collection


The tropical and glamorous ambiance and décor of The Hawaiian Room was largely informed by Hollywood’s fantasy of an island paradise. Filmmaker Ann Marie Kirk says that despite the glossy surface, the performers offered an honest representation of Hawai‘i.


“Many of them were trained by prominent kumu hula of the time,” Kirk says. “[Authenticity] still ran through everything that was done at the Hawaiian Room.”


The Hawaiian Room examines how, in the mid-20th century, the Hawaiian culture was represented to the world – a topic that remains a hot one. Kirk says Hawai‘i has moved past exaggerated representations of its host culture, but says “there’s still lots more work to do.”


“The authentic representation of Hawai‘i and Hawaiians can be tricky waters to navigate,” Kirk says. “It’s not a bad thing, just tricky.”


For this film, Kirk interviewed more than 20 former dancers, entertainers and patrons of The Hawaiian Room. She was surprised by the courage of the young performers – many of them females in their teens and early 20s – who relocated to New York from Hawai‘i. For many of them, it was their first time outside of the islands. “They had no ‘ohana in New York City,” Kirk said. “Yet, they created an ‘ohana in New York City with the Hawaiian Room.”


Kirk says that The Hawaiian Room is a story that “could have been easily lost.”


“Many people don’t know the significance of the Hawaiian Room and of the Hawaiians who performed there, and I think they should,” Kirk says. “It’s an amazing story.”


Download this Press Release


For questions regarding this press release:

Contact: Liberty Peralta


Phone: 808.462.5030


PBS Hawai‘i is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and Hawai‘i’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i to the world. | | @pbshawaii


Heather Haunani Giugni


Heather Haunani Giugni is a longtime filmmaker whose passion for preserving Hawaii’s stories culminated in the establishment of ‘Ulu‘ulu, the Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive at the University of Hawaii – West Oahu. The archive is named after her father, a longtime aide to the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye. Because of her father’s career, Heather’s early life was split between the multi-cultural world of Hawaii and the racially divided world of Washington, D.C. Heather’s latest project, the television series Family Ingredients, premieres on PBS stations across the U.S. in the summer of 2016.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Dec. 25 at 4:00 pm.


Heather Haunani Giugni Audio


Download the Transcript




When we were in Virginia… as a family, there were these men that were in a truck, and uh, they reached over and spit at us. That was a really int—I didn’t know at the time what they were doing. I thought it was such an odd thing. But um, you know, years later, I—I thought about that.


Did your family talk about it right after that?


You know, my parents just totally had to ignore it and move on. But it—it completely was related to the fact that my father was one color, and my mother was another, and we were in the State of Virginia, right across the Potomac.


Her early life was split between two worlds…the multi-cultural world of the Hawaiian islands, and the racially-divided world of Washington DC in the 1960s. She saw the power of government and politics firsthand, and also saw the power of traditional stories of Hawaii. Heather Haunani Giugni…next, on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou…I’m Leslie Wilcox. Heather Haunani Giugni has a reputation in Hawaii as being a behind-the-scenes starter of great ideas…ideas like a television news segment delivered in the Hawaiian language…or an archive to preserve the moving images that visually tell Hawaii’s history. Her father, Henry Giugni, was a long-time aide to the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye, and former Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate. You may have seen some of the programs and documentaries that Heather has produced…shows that tell the stories of Hawaii and our diverse cultures. This “starter” began her life in Pearl City in central Oahu.


You’re hapa. Your family has mixed blood. You’ve got Hawaiian on both sides; right?




Tell me about your family.


My family; my mother is—um, was Muriel Roselani Giugni. Her name was Austin, and she was brought up on the um, Pearl City—Pearl City Peninsula, as was my father, whose name was Henry Kuualoha Giugni. And his father came from uh, Napa Valley. He came across when he read a little classified ad in the San Francisco Chronicle that they were building Pearl Harbor. So, he jumped on a ship and came over, and met my pure Hawaiian grandmother, and … they had two sons. And one of them was my father.


Many people who are hapa, especially in earlier years, talk about being conflicted—who are they really, which side should they pull, and people react to them differently, based on the … the mores of their particular culture. Did you go through any of that soul-searching about, Who am I, what side do I pull?


My parents—you know, I lived in uh, a fabulous household where um, I don’t think we were really given—I know we weren’t given a blue ribbon or a pink ribbon, and—or we weren’t given a color ribbon. You know, we just lived in a community that shared food, and um, and joy. And uh, and there was no um, issues about … what ethnic group we were from. Having said that, uh, it was clear in uh, my family’s history on um, my mother’s side that they married out early from the 1880s, um, Europeans. So, uh, the color faded quite rapidly in that generation. My mother had blue eyes, blond hair growing up. My father, on the other hand, um … was half-Hawaiian and half-Italian. So, um … I was brought up in a very multiethnic neighborhood, um, considered hapa. I was brought up during the 50s and 60s in a time when um … there was a lot of change going on, but uh … I think hapa wasn’t a bad word; it was what I was.


That followed on the heels of those times when so many Hawaiians wanted to be Western. They felt like, We’ve got to do away with our language, it’s time to join the US. The US and the American Way.


Um, well, I don’t think my father could deny the fact that he has brown skin and uh, Hawaiian features. So—and uh, and I think he was very proud of being Hawaiian. But my grandmother, who I never knew, she uh, passed away before I was born, um … was a very strong woman, from what I understood. She was a principal at Pearl City Elementary, among the uh, many Hawaiian women that were principals during those years. I think that she wanted the best for her son, and she um, she … chose for him to learn the new—the new uh, culture.


Well, what about you? Part-Hawaiian from Pearl City, a very Japanese American neighborhood, going to Kamehameha Schools. What was that like for you?


I loved Kamehameha Schools. I—um, I always um, aspired to wanting to uh, to attend that school. It was just one of the schools that I thought had the coolest kids [CHUCKLE] at the time, when I was younger. Um, I w—I just—I just loved the Big K.


A lot of people were surprised that you attended Kamehameha Schools. Because … light skin.


Well, I don’t know. I mean, I never thought about that, uh…


Did you get teased at the time?


Oh, you’re brave—you are ruthless. [CHUCKLE] No, um, uh, yeah, okay, I got—I got a little bit teased. It was—uh, but you know, it’s—it’s part of high school. Truly, I had the best time. The best time. I c—count myself extremely lucky and extremely fortunate. And I was a boarder, which meant that I had an opportunity to um, know um, people from the neighbor islands during a time when uh, their parents still worked at the sugarcane mills or the pineapple fields. Lanai was one of my favorite, favorite islands. When I uh, first met Lanai in—I think I was sixteen or seventeen … I um, fell in love with that island.


What family brought you in?


The Richardsons. Oh, Mina Morita; Hermi—Hermina Morita.




She was um, a classmate, and invited me over and uh, her family adopted me there. And it was truly a magical time; magical. They uh, still lived in their original uh, cowboy little uh, plantation homes up at Koele Ranch, with horses surrounding the place, the smell of kerosene lamps and um, pancakes in the morning, and going riding into the fields. It was just … a really fantastic time.


Heather Haunani Giugni’s comfortable life at the Kamehameha Schools and in Hawaii would soon be reshaped. Her father, after a number of law enforcement positions, found his calling as an aide-de-campe to the man who would become one of America’s most influential lawmakers. This job, which would turn into a life-long allegiance, took the Giugni family, including Heather and her three sisters, to the seat of power of the United States of America.


My father um … uh, who uh, was … um, first a policeman, and then uh … a liquor inspector, um, uh, gravitated toward uh, politics. And um, and … met Inouye, Dan Inouye, uh, was uh, impressed with him, and uh, and decided to follow him on his journey in life. And that’s when we ended up in Washington, DC in 1962.


What did he do in Senator Inouye’s office?


Oh, he did—you know, he started off as um … uh, as a young man as uh, the Senator’s driver, secretary, assistant, go-to boy. You know, everything. You know, he started off doing whatever the Senator needed to win. And um, and was extremely supportive and loyal, I think… he just really believed in the man, and uh, and just uh, hooked his little caboose up to, you know, the Senator’s … journey, and followed him to Washington, DC, where he continued as an assistant, uh, continued always as a driver until my dad became too sick. You know, when—uh, I think when they actually first arrived in Washington, DC, my parents were around thirty-six years of age. I think that um, uh, my mother never imagined uh, a—a longer stay than six years, and uh, they both passed away there in their eighties. So, that’s a pretty long run. And my father remained his driver until he couldn’t drive the Senator anymore. But um, he also went up the ranks as uh, Chief of Staff and um, and administrative assistant, and then eventually became sen—Sergeant at Arms.


Now, how does a half-Hawaiian, dark-skinned man like your dad, where did he go?


You know, I think he navigated his way fairly well in that situation. Um, he was well-liked on Capitol Hill.


He was a larger-than-life personality—




–wasn’t he?


Yeah, he was. He was—uh, definitely, he had friends um, that … you know, that—in the uh, garage basement that would only wash the senators’ cars, his car was—would always get washed first. And yet—uh, an—and he had uh, friends in high places. Uh, uh, he was close to um, many senators that um … uh, that he respected greatly, from both sides of the aisle.


And when anyone describes your father, they talk about the f—I think the first descriptive they use is, loyal. And I would have to say, looking at his record, that he was loyal to a fault. Because he did get in trouble for accepting campaign contributions from people that he probably shouldn’t have accepted them from.


Well, you know, that was just post-Watergate. You know, and um, and—when they changed the rules. And I guess my father did not get that uh, rule change. [CHUCKLE] The memo on that. You know, it’s hard to like, change habits, you know. Uh, so um … uh, I think that was the uh—you’re talking about the Gulf Oil uh …


I’m talking about just—several incidents of—one was with …






Yeah; that was that five thousand dol—yeah, yeah. This is uh, um … you know, it was just uh, uh … that was just a matter of um … I wouldn’t say miscommunication; it was just not um, um … being able to remember to hand the receipts in, and keep the receipts, and that kind of thing.


But he took responsibility for it, and—


And people said, you know, he would do anything for Senator Inouye.


Well, he believed in the man.




So, um, that’s a good thing.




An—and he believed in uh, the Senator uh, doing good things. How many people can say that they were with a person from when … from their late twenties until, you know, eighty? That’s a pretty remarkable … uh, length of time to be with somebody, and continually uh, believe in the person.


In 1962, life in Washington DC was quite different from what it is today. The Civil Rights Amendment, which bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, wouldn’t be passed for another two years. The first black President was still 46 years in the future. For a mixed-race family, accustomed to the loving arms of Hawaii, the nation’s capitol could sometimes be an uninviting place. And for a young girl from Hawaii, the dichotomy between Hawaii and Washington DC could be disconcerting.


So, let’s talk about, yeah, experiences on both sides of the big pond.


Yeah. So, we um, went up to … we followed the Senator to DC in ’62. My father had gone up first to look for a place to live. Uh, it was um, not as easy, because uh, he was still a man of color, and um, while my mother was part-Hawaiian, she was a very light-skinned Hawaiian, so she was considered Haole visually. And uh … and when we arrived up there, he—my dad had already um, secured a house in Maryland. It was in a Catholic neighborhood, and uh, I remember that specifically because … everyone there was Catholic. It was such an interesting uh, division. You know, there were so many different divisions; by color, but also by religions.


Was there a color prohibition—


Well, it was—


–in your neighborhood? That was the law, right? Um—


No, there was no c—we were in Maryland, so my parents um, looked—you know, my father looked in Virginia, but he realized that uh, there’s a law that you cannot live in Virginia um, if you are mixed race.


Isn’t that amazing that in your lifetime, you were a little kid then, that that law was present?


Yeah; I know. Well, also, the Civil Rights Act hadn’t been written, so there were toilets for Black people, and toilets for White people.


I did have another experience when I was child at this Catholic school. And I’ll never um, forget this, because uh … we were—th—the nuns were preparing us for the first two Black children to enter our school. And they had us in the auditorium, and told us, you know, to act normal or whatever they were doing. And meanwhile, I was thinking, Who is coming from Mars? You know. [CHUCKLE] I mean, it was like one of these situations.


Because it was not a big deal to you if somebody was of another—


No, I didn’t—


–race was coming


No, I didn’t understand um … the way they were prepping and—uh, uh, for us … who these two children were, you know, that we were—that we were supposed to be acting normal about. And so, these two children showed up, and I looked at them, and they looked just like my father. And I called my mom up and said … I don’t want Daddy to pick me up today.




‘Cause clearly, you know, it was a—uh, a very racist uh, community and it was shocking to see … to go to a place where there was—the pe—that parents taught their children to hate.




It just—


Especially when you’re making trips back and forth to Hawaii, and there was not this kind of …




–racial charged …


No; there—




M-hm. And we would—and my parents uh, were very committed to making sure that if we had—uh, if we were going to school on the East Coast, um … at—at every vacation, we would all be sent back to Hawaii. And—and vice versa. So, my parents made a huge commitment to keeping us connected to Hawaii. So, we never felt, ever, disconnected from our home in Hawaii.


Growing up in Washington DC gave Heather Haunani Giugni the opportunity to witness historic events in the 60s that changed our nation. She marched to protest the use of nuclear weapons, and to support gay rights and abortion. At age 18, she was a young delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention. These causes and events shaped her sense of responsibility to make the world a better place. Her Hawaiian roots gave her a direction in which to focus her advocacy.


I was living in DC at the time of the Watergate hearings, and I snuck into the hearings all the time. It was pretty amazing, uh, to uh, to—to be part of um, those—uh, that event. I also uh, was affected by a lot of things that needed change. So, I spent a lot of my time on the National Mall protesting, while uh, the Senator and my father were behind the Italian marble watching, [CHUCKLE] watching these protests. So, I had uh, a few um, uh … uh, disagreements with my father over dinner… but I … y—you know, I loved him an—and uh, he really was my hero in so many ways, and uh, and one of the things I’m proudest of him, of many things uh, is the fact that he uh, marched in Selma, Alabama with Martin Luther King in those years. So, that was pretty phenomenal.


In 1981, after earning a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, Heather Haunani Giugni came home to Hawaii. She worked for awhile at KGMB News, which, at the time, was by far the number one news station in Hawaii…a great opportunity for a budding journalist. But a career in news was not quite what Giugni saw for her future.


You worked at Bob Sevey’s old newsroom.


Bob Sevey’s with you, at KGMB News.




One of the good things. [CHUCKLE]


And yet, you didn’t stay in news. I mean, that was sort of the piko of the time, because of the … all of the opportunity to do good and to do well.


You know, I—I came back from DC, ‘cause I wanted to um … I came back ‘cause of my grandmother. I wanted to be with my uh, family um, before … people passed away. And uh, the news uh, was a great um, job, but I really cared about my community, and I really cared particularly about my Hawaiian community, and um … had the opportunity to create uh, programming for and about Hawaiians.


Heather Haunani Giugni was on a mission. She launched “Enduring Pride,” a magazine program by and for native Hawaiians. She co-produced the documentary, “One Voice,” bringing the story of the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest to the national public television audience. At the time of our conversation, in summer of 2016, she had produced 10 live broadcasts of the famed Song Contest. Giugni was instrumental in the inclusion of Hawaiian language segments in local television newscasts. Then Governor Abercrombie appointed her to the Hawaii State House of Representatives in 2012. And with Hollywood producer Chris Lee, she is a driving force behind Uluulu: The Henry Kuualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawai‘i.


And presently, uh, the uh, Moving Image Archive is uh, is something that I’m extremely proud of—


Which you are cofounder of.


Yeah; I’m one of the founders. But, you know, uh … there’s so many founders of that uh, archive. You know that archive was an idea that came around thirty years ago, maybe more, uh, of different um, librarians and archivists that wanted to save our moving image. The whole idea is to create it so that it’s available for public access, or otherwise, poho if it’s stuck in uh, a can or, you know, in uh, in a case, and nobody can ever see it. I mean…we’ve lost a lot … over the last forty years, but we’ve still gained a lot. And uh—


A lot of what?


Films and videos have disintegrated or been lost, or people have thrown them away.


I remember your coming to give a talk to a group I’m part of, and you just fired everybody in that room up, because you talked about the daily disintegration of film and videos, and family documentation that’s, you know, moldering under beds somewhere and in closets. And you had everybody just ready to go home and look under the bed, and into their closets.


Some people have. Some people have. We’ve gotten fabulous material. I mean … this is the best deal in the century. You give um, the archive your precious material, you still get to own the copyright of it. The archive finds the grant to have it transferred to multiple formats, then preserves it and servers not just here on island, but on the mainland, in the salt mine as well as in another facility, so it’s backup. And uh, and so, you have this historical preservation of an entire community.


What are the most amazing things you have seen … coming to you in this media archive? I know you have just … cans and cans of film, and all kinds of tapes of different vintages.


Okay; so every wo—every collection is my favorite collection. So we have just received your collection at PBS, so it’s pretty fantastic. So, thank you very much. It’s all about the future. Future curriculum, future education. And um, we have uh, collections from Eddie and Myrna Kamae, uh, um, as well as the Don Ho collection. Um, just received the KITV collection. We have al—KGMB’s collection was the—was the anchor.


Hello, I would have run for this if I knew what you got. You got all this office space…


But Senator Inouye’s collection … because of obviously my personal interest, is pretty fantastic. I see my father in uh, in his late twenties or early thirties, um, driving Miss Daisy [CHUCKLE] around. Which is the Senator and his wife.


I’ve been a fireman…a policeman…a liquor inspector…I started out as a messenger with Senator Inouye. A secretary…a driver…and he gave me an opportunity to get ahead. To study, and to learn…


And it’s fantastic, because it—it’s footage that, you know, that hasn’t been seen since 1958, 59. It’s just fabulous stuff of Nanakuli, and um, electioneering. An—and—and that’s what’s so fabulous about this footage, is that it’s not just about seeing people’s families, but it’s about seeing what they’re wearing, what they’re eating, what the landscape looks like.

I’m very into kakou. And I just really am a believer in that. And um, and this uh, this archive is about our community.


In 2013, Heather Giugni started one of her more ambitious projects. She gathered a 100% local production crew, added local chef and restaurateur Ed Kenney, and proceeded to tell the stories of dishes that our local heritage is based upon. At the intersection of food, family, culture and history is “Family Ingredients.”


[Video footage of “Family Ingredients”]


“Here we go . . . poisson cru.”

“Mmmmm . . . .” [laughter]

“I don’t have to fake it. It’s soooo good.”


Family Ingredients. I mean, this is an amazing, what we think here will be a phenomenon because of the combination of culture, genealogy, all kinds of history, food.


Yeah. Everything is an extension of … my belief system, and what I care about, my core, um, which is my community, my Hawaiian community, um, Hawaii. And everything starts there, and everything that I’ve done is related to that mission. And so, this is just um, part and parcel of that. In Family Ingredients, I just use food as chum to tell the story.


It’s not a food show, per se.


No, not at all. You know, we come from all different places, and so, it reconnects us to family and histories that we’ve either forgotten or never known, or—are reconnecting with.


And a lot of times, you know, we know the foods people bring to potlucks, but we don’t know the histories behind them.




And they’re so elemental and you know that they came from another country, but they’re as close to you as anything could be.


It’s the plantation story, you know, when all the workers um, came together and they’d s—all have their ethnic foods, and then they’d just all throw it into one pot. I mean, it was the invention of saimin; right?


And it’s very hard to get a show on a national network. And PBS is an especially demanding provider. So, you went and you presented this, and actually have a national series on the PBS network.


You know, I actually wanted this to be part of the PBS family. Um, I wanted it to be part of your family here at PBS Hawaii, because it helps uh … it helps all of us. Um, and then, uh, and of course, on the national scene, I wanted um, it to be a calling card to everyone around the globe about who we are and what we profess.


At the time of this conversation in summer of 2016, Family Ingredients was set to premiere on PBS stations across the nation. Heather Haunani Giugni, who as a girl was exposed to racial discrimination and to multi-cultural harmony, set a table for all races, cultures and people. Family Ingredients is the stew of Heather’s life experiences in Washington DC and Hawaii, seasoned with her love for Hawaiian culture, and served in a bowl of her passion as a filmmaker. Mahalo to Heather Haunani Giugni of Aiea, for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit


I would tell young filmmakers to become a dentist. [CHUCKLE] Get that house, and then use those extra funds to build and create anything you want. I just—it’s a hard, hard road.


And do you love it?


I love it. I love it because it’s—uh, it’s uh, about my community, and that’s what I care about.


Seeds of Hope


Hawai‘i Island filmmaker Danny Miller’s documentary tells the story of Hawai‘i’s return to local and traditional methods of growing food. Through the voices of farmers, teachers, industry experts and community members, it covers traditional Hawaiian agriculture, pressures of urban development, the plantation legacy and solutions to the state’s growing food insecurity.


Little White Lie


Filmmaker Lacey Schwartz grew up with two loving Jewish parents. When she discovers that the man she’s always assumed was her father is not her biological parent, she unlocks a powerful family secret about her real father’s identity. The film is a moving look at the legacy of family secrets and the healing power of truth.


Can a Film Inspire Change when Change is Tough?

Can a Film Inspire Change when Change is Tough?


Leslie Wilcox, President and CEO of PBS HawaiiCan storytelling profoundly touch lives? Here at PBS Hawaii, the answer is a resounding yes. Belief in the power of storytelling to educate, and a conviction that education can transform perspectives and even lives, are the underpinnings of everything we do here.


Now here comes an independent Hawaii film that is a great example of storytelling meant to inspire and motivate – with the goal of improving public education. Matthew Nagato’s film, ʻike – Knowledge is Everywhere, shares intimate stories of efforts that are working – of real students, educators and advocates in Hawaii who are listening to community needs, who aren’t letting commonplace conflicts over resources and policy stop them, and who are collectively taking action.


“I think people are hungry for this type of storytelling… It’s hopeful and positive. It’s about what’s going right, not what’s going wrong,” Nagato says. His previous film, ola – Health is Everything, about another complex subject, health care in Hawaii, was well-received and also featured individuals making a collective difference.


On Thursday, September 24, at 8:00 pm, we are proud to present the statewide television debut of ʻike (which means knowledge). Stay with us for a live local discussion afterward, on Insights on PBS Hawaii, at a special time, 9:10 pm.


Many people already have seen this film in groups large and small. That’s because the filmmaker has taken it out for about 50 free community screenings on different islands, and he has invited attendees to express their thoughts.


Ken Hiraki, President of the Public Schools Foundation of Hawaii, has eagerly gone to seven community screenings and each time, he told me, the film has moved him to tears. And it has galvanized him to work with his organization to establish a Summer Scholars program at Waipahu High School.


Says film director Nagato: “I do see people take action as a result of a screening. They’ve said, ‘Let’s put down our shields and reach out to someone to work with, to partner with…and let’s develop something.’”


He believes firmly that “small, incremental changes overtake the problem at some point.”


We hope that you’re able to watch Matthew Nagato’s humbly provocative film on PBS Hawaii on September 24. He’ll be on hand for the live discussion to follow. We invite you to get involved by calling in, tweeting, or emailing your comments and questions.


A hui hou (until next time),

Leslie signature



Ty Sanga



Original air date: Tues., Jun. 14, 2011


Up and Coming Hawaii Filmmaker


On this episode of Long Story Short, Leslie Wilcox talks with Ty Sanga, an up and coming filmmaker. After leaving a career in the visitor industry, Sanga struggled to find the right calling to share and convey Hawaii’s unique culture. The University of Hawaii ethnic studies program introduced him to the power of film documentaries to communicate a personal vision.


Sanga is a graduate of the UH Academy for Creative Media and received his MFA from Chapman University. His Hawaiian language film Stones was recently honored by the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 2011. His graceful depiction of a Hawaiian legend illustrates his authentic voice and visual style.


Ty Sanga Audio


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That’s the reason why I became a filmmaker. Because we saw other people telling our stories, and not right. They just mess it up, or tear it apart, and they put their own twists into what they think is local or Hawaiian, and just kinda butcher everything. So with the medium and how much it’s changed, and made it more accessible for us, it’s given us the ability to give us the voice, and put the power within our hands. And that’s been what I’ve been kinda stressing through all my films.


The vision of young Hawaii filmmaker, Ty Sanga, next on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. The Sundance Film Festival, the nation’s preeminent showcase for independent filmmakers, recognized Hawaii filmmaker, Ty Sanga, in January of 2011. His short film, Stones, became the first all Hawaiian language film to be screened at the festival. Ty, along with his brother, was raised in Hawaii by a family whose heritage reflects our community’s ethnic diversity. His mother, Trinidad, is a first generation immigrant of Filipino ancestry. His later father, Gilbert, was of Hawaiian-Chinese descent. Lauded for his use of the camera, and his ability to convey the Hawaiian experience through the medium of film, Ty Sanga’s quest to find his calling started by knocking on doors to make hotel room service deliveries.


We lived in Houghtailing, Kalihi area. And my mom and dad constantly worked quite a bit. I mean, a lot, a lot. They were both working in hotels, especially my aunt. So many times, me and my brother, whenever they would work, and it would be holidays, we would be sent up to the mainland where my mom’s family is. So we kinda lived this, dual life of Hawaii and LA, and just the experience of what California was like. Well, it rose my awareness to what local is. ‘Cause my cousins, a lot of times, they would tell me I speak way too much Pidgin. And I never really understood what Pidgin was, until they exposed to me that we’re not really speaking English. To be honest, I never knew I was even speaking, quote, a different dialect, or a different language. I thought I was just speaking English. On my mom’s side, everyone’s second generation Filipino. So when they moved up to LA, they pretty much more assimilated into American culture. They actually gravitated more towards Mexican culture, because there was no other Asians that looked like them. And many times, my cousins, and they’re very strong-willed too, and they’re very, like, This is how we should act as Americans. And only until I got into college or past that, especially when I got exposed to ethnic studies, I started realizing the differences within our cultures, and then how much I represented more of a, quote, unquote, local culture than a mainland culture. Most of that actually happened, that prejudism happened when I was in college, when I went for my master’s program in Chapman University.


What happened?


Pretty much every year, on the dot, like I would get pulled over by a cop. And they would always confuse me as some Latino guy. Well, I don’t know what he wants. I guess ‘cause back in the days, my head was shaved bald too. And so that didn’t really help. But, I got pulled over quite a bit. I’d be walking to school, and my school was in Chapman University, so it’s a very conservative white community, which is in Orange County. And that first year, I’d walk to school quite a bit, ‘cause I didn’t have a car yet. And the cop car would go around the block, come back again, and stop up right next to me, and he’d be like, What are you doing? And I would tell him, I’m going to college. I mean, I’m walking to my school. And he’s like, Let me see your ID. And he just gave me the runaround. And then he’d just drive off, and that would be it. Every year, it’d be the same thing too. ‘Cause sometimes, the next year, I’d work, like, when working on a film, you’re working on it like for long hours. And sometimes I would come home at three in the morning. So I would leave school at three in the morning, and I would get pulled over, and then he would run my license plate and everything, and it would be the same questions as well. It’s like, What are you doing out, why are you driving around, what do you do? And it’s just like, what’s going on? Stuff like that never happened to me here in Hawaii. But now that when I moved to the mainland, I realized that there’s this divide of, like, I’d never been exposed to something like that. I’ve always read about it when I was studying ethnic studies, but I’ve never been actually exposed to that type of prejudism.


Filmmaker Ty Sanga’s parents shared their values of hard work and education by demonstrating their strong work ethic, and by using their hard earned wages for their son’s private schooling. His father impressed upon Ty the importance of his Hawaiian heritage. When Ty was an eighth-grader, his father died of an illness. His mother continued to provide for her children’s educational opportunities.


And that’s the reason why she always pushed about us just education in itself, and how it helped propel you within the society and within life. Especially ‘cause then, I think her highest was high school, and that was it. And then she went straight into a service-oriented job, working in hotels. But from there, she worked her way all the way to the top. But then, she didn’t want us to go through that type of struggles as well, so me and my brother went to—


Was it a real scrimping, saving thing to put you and your brother through private school?


Yes, it was. I mean, it was the beautiful thing and I think that’s the thing about the first generations too. Like those type of parents, that they don’t want to let their children know how much they have to sacrifice for it. ‘Cause they want… the reason why they come to American is ‘cause they want a better life for their children. So when that happens, which is almost like a negative effect to it to an extent, is that they never expose them to all the hard work, and what they have to go through, sometimes. And that’s the reason why some of the children of them feel so privileged that they demand these type of things, and why isn’t my mom giving me all this type of stuff, when we’ve been always having that since we were children. So it’s interesting that my mom tried to, quote, unquote, spoil us. But like, I think my dad and my auntie them guys kinda kept us really grounded in that sense of like, who we were, and then what we needed to do. And then, like, that you also … I think that’s what I loved my dad about. ‘Cause then like, he never, like … he instilled that really hard work too, on top of that.


And he was also in the hotel business, right?


Yeah, he was. It’s funny, ‘cause then he was actually the manager of my mom. I think that’s how they first met. And then he ended up going into engineering, ‘cause then he switched positions afterwards. And then my mom ended up rising up into manager. But, I always saw it all the time, that they constantly, constantly worked a lot. And I appreciated that quite a bit. ‘Cause, I mean, it’s not like we were latchkey children, but then I understood what they were doing. I don’t know, it’s just kind of a weird thing to say. I understood the sacrifices they were really making for us.


You went through three Catholic private schools.




Before getting to UH. And when you were in UH, did you have a sense of where you were going? I mean, usually, the first two years are deciding on a major. How’d you do there as far as deciding?


I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I definitely knew I didn’t want to start working right away. So I mean, school was the easy transition. And when I went to school, it was I think I first started out in ICS.


ICS is …


Computer science. I loved computers a lot back then. And then I realized, like, Ww, I don’t really don’t like doing math. But then, which is funny, ‘cause my next transition from there was business, which is like another version of that. And then that, I just lost interest in. I mean, but it just felt like every one of my friends was going into business too, and it just seemed like that’s what you needed to do, ‘cause then everyone wanted to be successful. And then that didn’t go so well, and then I went to hotel management, and that’s kinda where I ended up sitting for a bit, actually. ‘Cause then while I was going into TIM, I started working at Ihilani, and then that’s … so it’s almost like a circle with my mom and my dad, and my aunts them all worked in hotels, then I started working in hotels at the same time as well. Just felt like a natural progression, actually, for me. I realized if I was gonna work so much at something, for so long, I would rather have it something a little bit more meaningful for me. I mean, I loved the hotel industry, and especially since, for me, I saw it as a way to become an ambassador to cultures that have never been exposed to Hawaii. Especially when I was in room service, like a lot of the times, we had easy access with the guests, and we talked to them frequently while we were serving them, or while we were doing certain things. And then they would ask us all these different questions of like, Where do I go from here?, and like, How do I say this Kalanianaole? You know, all of these different things. And it felt nice. But it didn’t feel worthwhile. And then, so, I just started going back to school. ‘Cause I didn’t really know what I wanted to do still back then, so I just started focusing more of my—like I was still taking TIM courses, but I was signing up mostly for ethnic study courses. So I think at the same time with ethnic studies, I was doing literature as well.


So you were just following what you were interested in.




You didn’t have a grand plan?


No. I mean, ‘cause then by that point, I was already in college for like fours years, I think. And the reason why I started taking a lot of ethnic studies is ‘cause they focused more on social services. ‘Cause then, when I was a high school student, I used to volunteer quite a bit, actually, with American Red Cross, with all these youth environmental programs. So then it kind of fit more along the lines of what I wanted to do, actually.


You were looking at some of the more marginalized people in society too, right?


Yeah. I mean, well, that’s ‘cause it finally opened my eyes in regards to who we were as a culture, and as a society. I mean, I always felt strongly about being proud to be from Hawaii. They justified it through ethnic studies. And even through my literature classes. ‘Cause when I took this course by … it was a short stories course, by Mike Kuleloa, and he introduced us to a lot of like local short stories. And oh, that just … and that’s where I found this, like, Chris McKinney, and Lois Ann Yamanaka, and like Lee Tanouchi. And then like, everything that my mom them was saying, and everything that my cousins them were saying on the mainland, that oh, you should get rid of that local culture, ‘cause you need to be more American and stop speaking Pidgin, and then these writers and these ethnic studies courses made is proud to be who we were, and be respected for it too. Especially like Chris McKinney and Lee Tanouchi, they demanded to be respected for being local and demanded to be respected for speaking Pidgin. So it just blew my mind, and then I just started diving more into those type of things. And then through ethnic studies, I got introduced to documentaries. A lot of it was like the Maka O Ka Aina stuff, which it dealt with a lot of like the land issues, and then people getting displaced. Like Hawaiians being displaced from their lands. Powerful, powerful images of Hawaiians getting arrested, and crying, and getting locked into cars. And then just like they’re destroying their buildings. And it’s so funny, ‘cause then, I can’t even pinpoint what the docs were called, but it just hit me so strongly. And then, next week, we’d watch another documentary in another course, where John Okamura would show us like, Asian Americans fighting alongside of African Americans during like the Black Power movement, and how like our cultures were moving on the same trajectory as them, we just wanted to get acceptance. And it blew my mind knowing that, ‘cause we grew up knowing how powerful the African American movement was, but then realizing that Asians were a part of that movement as well, and how much that they tried to accomplish just in regards to acceptance. I was never exposed to that growing up. I mean, we were never exposed to that at all, actually in Hawaii, nonetheless, where we’re considered the majority. It was a huge effect into who I was as a filmmaker. ‘Cause then, they started giving me the realization that we have a stronger voice that no one else has ever heard.


The University of Hawaii’s Academy for Creative Media provided Ty Sanga with hands-on experience in filmmaking. He produced several award-winning short narrative films that reveal a social awareness nurtured through his ethnic studies experience, and a keen eye for the nuances of local culture.


I got into film because of documentaries, but then I’ve never made a doc since then, I think. I think the first assignment I did was this piece called Passive Voice, and it dealt with the connection between this older generation and the younger generations, and the responsibilities that we need to give for the older generations.


I love the title, Passive Voice.


Yeah. And especially ‘cause in the our Asian culture, we’re very like, yeah, it’s very passive aggressive sometimes. You never say anything, but that something’s brewing within it. That generation, they’ve sacrificed so much for us to exist. And it’s sad sometimes, when people like kinda toss them off to the side, and they’ve … the reason why we’re here is because of them. So that story, Passive Voice, was kinda like my nice little homage to them. There’s two characters, a granddaughter, and then a grandmother. But the granddaughter was like, she’s in college, so the whole entire story is about her, her responsibility to go home, go over Grandma’s house and take care of her. And then, the whole story is just about realizing how important that was in regards to connecting with your elderlies. I don’t know, I just was dealing with these different types of themes back then. I was trying to do interesting things because I was inspired by different filmmakers in that, like, [INDISTINCT] technique. And I didn’t really know what I was doing about it, but I was just like, all right, I want to just explore and test things out. And, thankfully, I think it won, actually, at the Olelo Youth Exchange. Where everyone else was doing all these flashy, like one thug beating up another thug, and stealing goods, and it was like very—



Yeah, Tarantino-esque, and I guess I was dealing with drama stuff and emotional local stuff.


How flexible were you if things didn’t go your way?


You know what you want, but then sometimes certain limitations show you that you can’t achieve it. So you still ultimately try to achieve your goal, and you try to work around it, or work within the problem. Because like usually, any limitation is just an opportunity for more creativity.


What was your next film?


We all had to pitch stories, and then that was the story that I knew, ‘cause I worked in the hotel industry. But I associated it with like, a hula girl coming from the Big Island, moving to Hawaii. Just that thin line of like, what is considered as commercialization versus what is considered like culturally acceptance. Yeah, and like, being true to your culture, and being commercialized.


A lot is left unsaid, but it’s understood.


Yeah. I think I forced things too much back then. ‘Cause I’m not gonna lie, it was definitely like, it was derivative of my ethnic studies courses, where I wanted to impact people as much as those films impacted me. So I think sometimes I tried to be … we call it metafive, in Chapman, which is like it’s bigger than a metaphor. You’re hitting the audience over the head, when it shouldn’t need to be anymore by that point. ‘Cause like you said, it is understood.


You know what it reminded me of? I have to share this with you, because Malcolm Naea Chun shared it with me. It’s a quote from Mary Kawena Pukui. And she said, Do you believe I’m wearing a kukui lei? It’s Hawaiian in looks. It’s plastic, made in Hong Kong. That’s what’s become of a lot of our beliefs.


M-hm. Yeah. The commercialization of our culture. I’m super grateful I went through that process of making this film, because then it also opened my eyes to the complexity in regards to our society of like, how much … I mean, even the older generations grew up living like hapa Haole hula, and being a part of that society too. I mean, to be honest, it’s derivative of who we are today as Hawaiians, practically. I mean, many of those things, you can’t really pull apart, because it’s almost connected. And then, like, if we say you get rid of like all of the stuff in the luau’s and everything like that, you’re practically saying that you’re losing … everyone their jobs as well as the Hawaiian. So and it’s so weird, ‘cause in so many of them, they’ve dance hula within the luau’s, but yet at the same time, they go to the halau’s on the weekends. So it’s this two worlds that they live on. And it’s interesting as a filmmaker, I didn’t really find that until I started digging deeper and exploring it. And I think that’s the beauty of me like, becoming a filmmaker now. ‘Cause then you start discovering things that I’ve never been exposed to. I wouldn’t have been on that journey unless I started it. Like, I mean, finding these things out unless I went on this journey. So, yeah.


So did you resolve after that one, I’m gonna be less … preachy?


Yes, definitely. I mean, you learn to finesse things, and you learn to like, How do you convince the audience about what your story’s gonna be about, and not be hitting them over the head and it’s like putting a little sugar into the medicine that they’re gonna taste, and how it’s gonna—‘cause once you get to that point, then how is it gonna resonate with them afterwards. Yeah. So it’s a balancing act. And I guess I’m still trying to deal with it today. Yeah. 10G. [MUSIC]


Follow the Leader deals with like, acceptance, actually. It’s more about acceptance and friendship. And also, prejudice within our cultures, and in society, really, of like local culture. When I went to St. Theresa and St. Anthony’s, we used to collect all our basketball cards growing up. And I used that as a parallel too in regards to like, in basketball and like especially back then in the 90s, like the White players weren’t the great basketball players, and Michael Jordan and all those guys were all the main. And these were the stereotypes that we knew. And then that story dealt with stereotypes as well. It’s about finding companionship between two kids that just wanted to be accepted within their little group that they’re existing in, their little microcosm of this basketball collecting world. [CHUCKLE]


You have such a good ear. Because I never collected baseball cards, never was in that mom & pop store, but I feel like I’ve been there. I feel like I’ve bought from that very same lady—


That’s so funny.


—who was at the counter.


I mean, all my movies come from my everyday life, and from what I’ve experienced. I wanted to film the actual story that we used to collect basketball cards in, and that story was gone. And it’s just like another form of like why I tell stories, ‘cause like all of our stories are gonna disappear.


After earning a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Ty Sanga left for California to attend graduate school at Chapman University’s Film and Media Arts Program. For his graduate thesis, he chose to write and direct a story loosely based on the Hawaiian legend, Na Keiki O Na Iwi, as written by Frederick Bruce Wichman. It depicts a couple who are the last of the ancient Mu people living in isolation, and struggling with whether to accept newcomers. It was this film, titled Stones, that brought him back to the islands, accompanied by a contingent of Chapman students, to shoot the film on location.


There’s always those stories of like the people that go to the mainland, and they never come back, or they go to the mainland and they fail at it. I mean, like, a lot of my friends actually went to graduate school or even just undergrad, and they go to the mainland, and they’re like, I get homesick, I miss Hawaii so much, I want to go back. A lot of my heart was in Hawaii that when I went to the mainland, I didn’t want that to happen to me. So I kinda closed that door. So maybe I almost slammed that door. So when it was time for me to do my thesis film, like oh, god, that story just haunted me every night, actually. ‘Cause then it reminded me of like, I guess just my whole experiences, wanting to be a filmmaker.


Wanting something that you thought you might not be able to have?


Yeah. Well, even just in regards to Hawaii. ‘Cause it’s like I missed it so much. And then like, I guess it’s one of those things. So hence, I changed the legend quite a bit. I mean, like, we adapted the legend. I called up Buddy Wichman and we talked stories with him, and I adapted it more into a different version.


So this is the Mr. Wichman who lives on Kauai, and who’s written books on legends.




He’s considered just a wonderful expert.


Yeah. Yeah.


And was this a Kauai-based legend?


Yeah, it’s the legend where when you’re heading out to Kalalau, then you see the stones out there. So yeah, it’s the stone colors. And then actually, that’s when you know you’re heading into Kalalau, ‘cause when you see those. I wanted it to be kinda my story of my struggles of what I was dealing with during that time, actually. So the story is really, really different, actually. The only thing that’s the same is the sacrifice that gets made at the end of the movie. Definitely, it’s about love, and then loss of love, and then sacrifice. At the same time too, it deals with cultures colliding. And it’s all about acceptance. I mean, like just separation. ‘Cause then, like many a times, like there are the Mu that lives in the valleys, and then they shun themselves away visitors coming to the island. Actually, you know, it’s moving into the island. ‘Cause a lot of the stories that we found, I mean, it’s so interesting when I was like reading, doing my research, it’s just like many of the legends were about the Mu migrating away from Hawaii. So we got pieces and pieces from there, bits and pieces from there, and then I definitely tried to—wanted to make sure that this is my own personal story.




Our main character is the female—




Nihipali, where she living in the darkness, and then through this journey, she kinda becomes enlightened. And it’s so funny that all of the antagonists are male characters, even for the villagers’ side. The fathers, and her husband, they impose this kind of like closed-minded roles onto them, the females. On the flipside, like the light becomes like death. When the sun comes up, it’s death for them, and for her. So the whole, entire, her life would be in a dark world, yet she’s able to see everything. So we wanted the audience to be kind of—we played with different techniques. One of our biggest influences was Pan’s labyrinth and how they messed around with colors and lighting. ‘Cause it also deals with the fantasy world, and the reality. And then like, that was another way for a Western audience to understand what kind of story we’re telling. When you close yourself off from so much, for so long, you lose what really is important in your lives. And for him, he was just so very like one-sided, and narrow-minded. And then for the wife, she was willing to move on and move forward. And sometimes, if you stay stagnant, it’s almost like it’s another form of extinction. And then that’s what ends up becoming. So it’s a tragedy. I’m not gonna lie, the story is tragedy. But it hopefully has … hopeful messages within it. Yeah. I definitely think my first biggest responsibility is to make it specifically for Hawaii. But then, like, when I do that, like I mean, I already know it becomes universal for everywhere else. And it’s because of what you talked about also, because of making it very like three dimensional, and because of just digging deeper into things, and not making things so surface level, and talking about it up here, like just getting it so that everyone else understands from here, from Hawaii to like, DC, or Wisconsin, or wherever they’re from, you know, it’s gonna resonate that way. Yeah.


Told with cinematic grace, Stones was one of only eighty-one entries chosen from sixty-five hundred to be showcased at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. In 2011, Ty Sanga teaches screenwriting at the Academy for Creative Media, and works for a production company, all the while shaping stories for inspirational and thought-provoking films about, and for Hawaii. Among his projects is a documentary in the works about Hawaiian community leader, Myron Pinky Thompson. Mahalo piha, Ty Sanga, for sharing your long story short. And, thank you for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.


For audio and written transcripts of this program, and all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit


Especially when I was growing up, my mom never wanted me to … she wanted me to get rid of the Pidgin, she wanted us to, like, wear our shoes, stop running around barefoot or slippers, start wearing nice collared shirts. So then, it trained us, like, to … we know when to turn it on, and we know when to turn it off. Or actually, to just feel more comfortable in your environment, I think that’s kind of where I learned. It’s almost like survival skills, that when I get placed into an environment, I kind of adapt to that culture.