HAWAII INT'L FILM FESTIVAL
"Keepers of the Flame," by Myrna and Eddie Kamae, above, details the cultural contributions of Mary Ka-wena Pukui, Iolani Luahine and Edith Kanakaole.
Film honors keepers of Hawaiian arts
In Eddie and Myrna Kamae's latest project, "Keepers of the Flame: The Legacy of Three Hawaiian Women," the filmmakers honor three women of the 19th and 20th centuries who kept the Hawaiian arts alive despite colonial occupation and what historians in the documentary allude to as "cultural persecution."
"Keepers of the Flame: The Legacy of Three Hawaiian Women"
Part of the Evening of Hawaiian Film & Music showcase
Screens 6:15 p.m. Thursdayat Hawaii Theatre, along with "Aloha Live: On the Road with Willie K and Amy Gilliom," and performances by the Sons of Hawaii and Gilliom
The combined artistry and "aloha" of Mary Kawena Pukui, Iolani Luahine and Edith Kanakaole "helped to revive the flame of traditional Hawaiian culture -- a flame that had almost died," says Kamae in his introduction to the film.
Each woman in her individual way -- Kawena as a translator and author, Luahine as the recognized "high priestess of hula" and Kanakaole as a songwriter and educator -- planted seeds that would blossom into the Hawaiian renaissance.
"Keepers" honors these Big Island-born women through words from their families, students and protégés, historic photos and film footage, and comments from cultural experts.
These devices weave through the documentary as the women's family histories are detailed and their own stories are told from childhood to adulthood, when they fully felt the impact of their dying culture.
Hawaiian culture and its practices were disappearing, barely kept alive in rural areas where Hawaiians practiced such "pagan" activities as hula and speaking their native tongue.
Especially effective in illustrating Western influence on the culture is archival footage -- in comparison with often redundant historical narration, which in some places bogs down the stories with perhaps too much detail.
But the viewer cannot help but be touched by the three women's influence on the Hawaii of yesterday and today.
"These three women ... kept a culture alive. How would today's world be different if these women wouldn't have done the work that they did?" says Kamae. "Young people have a tendency to follow what is happening now and forget ancient things."
"Keepers" is the eighth and latest film in the "Hawaiian Legacy Series," and it's fortunate that it upholds these enduring biographical legacies.