COURTESY A2 MEDIA AND CHINA LIGHT
"Finding Sandalwood Mountain" producers Greg, right, and Fawn Andermann with the late U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong, one of the pioneering Chinese leaders whose story is told in the documentary film, screening tomorrow on PBS Hawaii.
‘Wake-up call’ for isles in film
The making of the documentary "Finding Sandalwood Mountain" was to be an end in itself, documenting the history of the Chinese people in Hawaii.
"Island Insights: Sandalwood Mountain Special"
Airs at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow on PBS Hawaii
"Finding Sandalwood Mountain" follows at 8:30 p.m.
But along the way, the film's producers, Greg and Fawn Andermann, realized the film could be a wake-up call for the descendants of the earliest Chinese settlers, prompting them to look to the motherland for the sake of Hawaii's future.
The documentary, initially screened during community events, will make its television debut on PBS Hawaii at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow. Leading into the broadcast will be an hourlong live panel discussion with call-ins from the viewing audience. This program, hosted by PBS Hawaii President Leslie Wilcox, will feature China experts, community leaders and Greg Andermann, who will discuss Hawaii's future relationship with China. The "Sandalwood Mountain Special" on "Island Insights" will air at 7:30 p.m.
Beginning with roots in China, the documentary tells the stories of people like Chun Ah Fong (Hawaii's Chinese merchant prince), Sun Yat-sen (the father of modern China) and Hiram Fong (the first Asian U.S. senator), examining the social impact of Hawaii's Chinese immigrants and their descendants.
Most viewers look at such documentaries as feel-good, nostalgic pieces, but Andermann sees it as a "soft wake-up call" for people in Hawaii to begin preparing for what he describes as "the New Asian Century."
"The sun is setting on the West and is rising in the East," he said. "China is fast assuming the role of the new dominant player in world affairs, and how we in Hawaii interact with China will shape what Hawaii becomes.
"China is going to eclipse the United States on all fronts, and we have the opportunity to engage China in a positive way, but what are we going to do here? It's always hard for us in Hawaii to move quickly, but if we don't do it, we'll be playing catch-up for the next 10 years."
His aim is to have the documentary viewed by every student in Hawaii, as well as our currently Japan-oriented visitor industry, in preparation for an influx of Chinese tourists in the coming decade.
While other states have the ability to move more quickly on welcoming Chinese visitors, Andermann said Hawaii has some advantages.
"Hawaii's Chinese population is not high, but its influence is great. Other states don't have the cultural awareness we have. They don't have the ready-made sensitivity to Asian cultures that we do here, and what we have to offer is the aloha spirit and tolerance for everyone in the world."
The documentary also makes a pitch to send our students to China for higher education.
"Let them be brave, let them be bold," Andermann said. "Let them do what their great-grandfathers did to better their lives.
"Ultimately, our overall goals should be to prepare the people of Honolulu and Hawaii at large for our future roles with modern China," he said. "Likewise, audiences in China will find a real impetus to consider Hawaii a major destination site for international relations, business development and eco-cultural tourism. I think it does have to be a two-way street.
"China has grown up very fast as a nation, and they're very aggressive as a nation," Andermann said. "I think Hawaii can be in a position to influence the moral and spiritual latitude China can use in approaching the rest of the world. It would be good to bring them to Hawaii, put a couple of mai tais in their hands and start talking."
DVDs of "Finding Sandalwood Mountain" will be available soon and can be ordered online at www.sandalwoodfilm.com