Produced by the ʻAha Pūnana Leo
Directed by Nā Maka o ka ʻĀina
E Ola Ka ‘Olelo Hawai’i celebrates the efforts of a people determined to save their native tongue from the brink of extinction.
One hundred years ago, the American-backed Republic of Hawai’i banned Hawaiian as the language of instruction in the schools. As island children were systematically punished for speaking Hawaiian, the number of native speakers dropped precipitously over the following century. Since the early 1980’s, however, the effort to revive the language has grown, until today there are twenty-one Hawaiian language schools throughout the islands with over 1,000 students.
This video presentation tells the story of how a small group of scholars and native speakers struggled to bring back the language that their ancestors were forced to give up.
In the program,
- we see young language immersion students overflowing the visitors gallery at the state House of Representatives, chanting a message of alohato the lawmakers below;
- we experience for the first time in a hundred years, the sounds of the native language in public, as families celebrate La ‘Ohana, Family Day, at Kapi’olani Park;
- on a Moloka’i excursion, we bump along on a horse-drawn cart with a group of exuberant pre-schoolers singing He Hawai’i Au Mau a Mau (“I am Hawaiian forever and ever”)
- in a high school on the Big Island, we hear the sound of the pu (conch shell) signaling the end of class instead of bells; and an elementary school class on Kaua’i chants outside the classroom door a request to enter and receive knowledge;
- in Washington, D.C., we see two Hawaiian women reminding a congressional committee that proposed legislation establishing English as the official language of America would disregard the first peoples of the land;
- we witness the passion of University of Hawai’i college students rallying for more courses in Hawaiian, one of the two “official” languages of Hawai’i;
- under the stars at the Waikiki Shell, we feel the pride of parents and grandparents as they watch their keiki (children) walk on-stage, chanting the language of their ancestors.
Featuring: Larry Kimura, ‘Ilei Beniamina, Kauanoe Kamana, Namaka Rawlins, Pila Wilson, Hokulani Cleeland, Joseph Mahi’ai, Elizabeth Kauahipaula, ‘Opu’ulani Albino, Lolena Nicholas, Alohalani Housman, Bonnie Kahape’a, Lilinoe Wong, Kaho’okele Crabbe, Na’ilima Gaison, Keonaona, ‘Elama Kanahele, Kekoa Roback, Ki’ope Raymond.
Narrated by Kalena Silva. Music by Keola Beamer.
Produced by the ‘Aha Punana Leo, with Lilinoe Andrews as coordinating producer. Directed by Na Maka o ka ‘Aina.
Length: 28 minutes
Hawai’i Public Television, September 1997
Hawai’i public access channels
Free Speech TV
Silver Maile (Hawai’i Filmmakers Award)
Hawai’i International Film Festival
Best Documentary Under 30 Minutes
Best Global Indigenous Award
Dreamspeakers o Alberta, Canada