COURTESY PACIFIKA FESTIVAL
Mama Lydia Hale and Eddie Kamae's documentary, "Words, Earth and Aloha: The Sources of Hawaiian Music," will premiere in New York Saturday.
Festival delivers Hawaii to Big Apple
This year's Pacifika event focuses on two isle filmmakers
Unless Dad will let you borrow the keys to the Learjet this weekend, you'll likely miss one of the better film festivals about Hawaii. That's because the annual Pacifika Festival is held in New York.
It's under the aegis of the Hawai'i Cultural Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Hawaiian culture outside the islands, with offices in Honolulu and New York. Should you run across hula dancing or slack-key picking in Central Park, chances are the cultural foundation is involved.
This year's Pacifika -- at the Cantor Film Center on East Eighth Street, the New York University Tisch Film & Television Theaters on Broadway, with workshops at the American Indian Community House, also on Broadway -- revolves around prolific Hawaii filmmakers Eddie and Myrna Kamae.
It opens Friday with the Kamae's new "Keepers of the Flame: The Legacy of Three Hawaiian Women," followed by Kaliko Palmeira's biography of his father, "Steven Mai'i." If you're lucky enough to be there, don't skip the post-screening party with music by Palmeira, Mai'i and Kamae, plus various Hawaiian grinds.
"We were so honored by having Eddie and Myrna Kamae come to the festival, we wanted to honor them right back," says Janu Cassidy, the Honolulu office director and a co-founder of the cultural foundation.
Saturday and Sunday see the New York premieres of three documentaries, featuring "Words, Earth and Aloha: The Sources of Hawaiian Music" by the Kamaes, about the roots of Hawaiian music and culture, plus Hawaii TV veteran Phil Arnone's "Duke Kahanamoku: Hawai'i's Soul" and "Eddie Aikau: Hawaiian Hero," about the two famous Hawaiian watermen.
The Kamae-a-rama winds up Sunday night with the showing of Kamae's autobiographical "Sons of Hawaii: A Sound, a Band, a Legend," about his groundbreaking musical troupe, plus signing of Kamae's book, "Hawaiian Son: The Life and Music of Eddie Kamae." The after-screening party features food from L&L Barbecue, so it's just like home.
COURTESY PACIFIKA FESTIVAL
Iolani Luahine's story is told in "Keepers of the Flame: The Legacy of Three Hawaiian Women," one of the films to be screened at the Pacifika Festival in New York.
Home is the theme, particularly when you're away from it. Cassidy said "New York City has every nationality in the world represented -- except for Pacific islanders. The foundation was created to boost awareness of Pacific cultural identity. But in the beginning it was mainly a reason for native Hawaii people in the tri-state area to get together and bond and network."
Audiences come from as far away as Boston and Florida, said Cassidy, and the foundation makes it a point to poll audiences about their desires. Being a kind of overseas cultural attaché for Hawaii -- instead of a tourism marketing outlet -- has also attracted non-Hawaiians to the events.
"In New York City, Hawaii is still thought of as a pretty exotic place," said Cassidy. "We get a fair number of people coming into the festival who are planning to visit the islands and want to know more about native Hawaiian culture."
Although organizations such as Quiksilver and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs help underwrite the events, "we're not heavily funded," said Cassidy. "We do some begging! But a lot of it is thanks to the kokua of our board members. I just wish we could do more than we're able to do at the moment."
More than a dozen other Pacific-themed films will be shown as well, including Heather Haunani Giugni's "Aloha Live: On the Road With Willie K and Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom," Robert Pennybacker's "Dreams of a Pagan Tattooed Savage" and Kathryn Xian's "Hawaii Slam: Poetry in Paradise."
Those tired of sitting and watching have the option of attending workshops such as a block-printing class by artist and author Caren Loebel-Fried ("Hawaiian Legends of the Guardian Spirits"), plus a Maori dance workshop courtesy the Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre of New Zealand, and a slam poetry reading following the "Hawaii Slam" film.
If you're in town, skip those expensive Broadway blockbusters: Admission to "Pacifika" films is $8 to $10. Call 212-966-3378 or visit Hawaiiculturalfoundation.org.