PBS Hawai‘i is partnering with The Hawaiian Legacy Foundation to present a televised and online film festival, The Films of Eddie and Myrna Kamae, From the Heart. This showcase will feature all 10 award-winning documentaries in Eddie and Myrna Kamae’s Hawaiian Legacy Series, released between 1988 and 2007.
This past March, ‘Ulu’ulu Moving Image Archive completed a project preserving and making accessible production materials, raw footage and interviews from Listen to the Forest, one of the films from the documentary series. In total we have digitized 84 tapes from this title.
Our Archives Project Assistant, Hoku Ka’aha’āina, was tasked with creating descriptions of the files. Below she discusses her experience and highlights moments captured by Eddie and Myrna Kamae that is now preserved for future generations.
Some people believe that they can choose their own fate and control every aspect of it. Some find that their path has been chosen for them. Others discover that life is made up of a collection of uncanny little moments that help guide them in their life’s work. Eddie and Myrna Kamae are two such people who fall into this last category with their creation of The Hawaiian Legacy Foundation.
Weaving together the knowledge of kupuna, the stories of the land, and the voices of the Hawaiian people; The Hawaiian Legacy Foundation produced a wealth of documentaries dedicated to preserving Hawaiian culture. In an effort to make the entirety of that wealth available to those who seek it, The Hawaiian Legacy Foundation has donated the raw footage (over 400+ tape’s worth!) of all their documentaries to ‘Ulu’ulu to house and digitize its materials.
As for my part in the process, I worked primarily with Listen to the Forest, a program dedicated to the first Hawaiians: the flora and fauna of this land. Luckily, I began my work just after all the digital files had been created and returned to ‘Ulu’ulu, so my first experience in archiving was rather enjoyable. After briefly checking the digital files for quality control, my next job was to watch and create descriptions for each file. This meant giving a 2-3 sentence summary of the content, noting any places or people shown in the video, and assigning subject tags for every file. I also chose a section of the video that would be used as a clip on ‘Ulu’ulu’s website.
Watching all the footage has been an incredibly enlightening and gratifying experience. Ever since graduating from high school, I’ve always only been home in Hawai’i in passing, on my way from one moment in life to the next. Now that I’ve taken up residence a bit more permanently, my experience with watching Listen to the Forest really spoke to me. It reminded me of who I was as a Hawaiian, while also bestowing me with new knowledge and the curiosity to learn more. In a few weeks, a kupuna told me stories about the Kumulipo, the creation. Academic experts informed me about the lives of happy face spiders. The Sons of Hawaii taught me the lyrics to a song about a flower that the birds love to feast on. I visited islands I had never set foot on. With so much going on, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement that each contributor brought to the project.
Some of my personal highlights in the Listen to the Forest include watching footage of birds such as the `i`iwi. I’ve never seen or heard one in person before, so I was happy to see and hear it crank out its raucous song.
Speaking of birds and songs, before The Sons of Hawai`i starts playing “Sweet Hāhā`aiakamanu” in one video, Braddah Smitty cracks a joke about needing to make sure they tune up well because the birds will know if they sing and play off-key. I giggle a bit every time I think about that, but it must be true. Have you ever heard a bird sing out of tune before?
Another favorite was Pualani Kanaka`ole Kanahele chanting the Kumulipo out on the lava fields. I enjoy seeing colors brighter than real life, so the vibrancy of my video player was set high when I first started watching the footage. The atmosphere was dark, and the sky was stained red, and there Kupuna Kanahele was, donning her kīkepa and haku lei. I was wondering what she could be chanting out there, what message could deserve such a background, and then when I listened closely to the words, that was when I realized that it was the Kumulipo. It was perfect that they could get such a great shot of nature that truly looked like the creation of the world to reflect the chant.
Now that I look back at some of my favorites, I feel like I should’ve included deeper ideas, more about nature conservation and culture and less “I liked this because it sounded nice/was funny/looked cool.” But on closer inspection, all of my picks include music and song, whether it be produced by bird, stringed instrument, or through a person’s voice. Music is a huge part of Hawaiian culture, and I’d like to think that that was the reason why I was drawn to those moments. With Eddie’s lifelong experience with music, I’m sure the Kamaes crafted their documentaries with exactly that in mind.
In the end, I’m very proud to have worked on creating access to materials from The Hawaiian Legacy Foundation. I believe that it has become a part of my own collection of uncanny little moments that will help guide me in my life’s work.
In conjunction with PBS Hawaii’s film festival, for the first two weeks of April, ‘Ulu’ulu will be playing recently digitized footage from Listen to the Forest in the exhibit space. Please be sure to stop by or contact us to request the footage in full!
You can view clips and request full streaming access through our website.
More resources will be added, so always check back!