I AM KANAKA, 15min., UK
Directed by Genevieve Sulway
Despite a dark history, a local Hawaiian hero fights to save his culture by teaching language, sustainability and life skills to disadvantaged kids.
Get to know the filmmaker:
What motivated you to make this film?
Ironically, I was on the island of Kauai with my film crew to shoot another film that was unexpectedly cancelled. I'd spent my own money flying the crew and I to Kauai and now we had no film. We just happened to be on a beach that day after we got the news about the cancellation, and I noticed this guy out of the corner of my eye in the distance. He was teaching a group of kids how to use an outrigger canoe. There was something about him that drew me closer. I went over and asked to be introduced and that was it. Kaina Makua was immediately interesting, compelling, inspirational, funny, smart and above all compassionate about teaching these kids. As an outsider from Australia, I felt genuinely welcomed. Kaina invited my film crew to come and watch his team compete the next day in an outrigger race, which led to another day at his farm and this short documentary "I am Kanaka" was born. As the story unfolded, I was keen to make this film short in length and 'family friendly' so everyone could watch this. They could learn about Hawai'I and Kaina's program.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
I started with two weeks of filming for "I am Kanaka" in 2018 and then finished it completely in Nov 2022. The story took lots of twists and turns and the film title changed many times during 5 years before ending up in its final current format and title.
How would you describe your film in two words!?
What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Funding this on my own was probably the biggest obstacle. This film cost me less than £7000 in total. Also it took several screenings for me to realise that the audience wouldn't understand the true significance and importance of Kaina's non-profit program without including the real history of Hawai'I at the start of the film. It was a fine balance including enough detail of Hawai'i's tragic past alongside the positive story about Kaina and "Kumano I Ke Ala" – all within 15 mins.
What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Feedback videos are so helpful. They help the filmmaker understand what resonates in the story with the audience. They liked the beautiful cinematography and the comments about Hawai'I history still surprise me every time. The real history of Hawai'I is not taught in schools or is in the public eye and this is disgraceful. Indigenous cultures are disappearing all around the world. If they are lost, it is forever.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I originally trained at Drama School in Australia as an actor in 1990's with Hugh Jackman and was lucky enough to work for 10 years professionally in TV and Film. I came back to the industry at 50 years old and decided to become a producer/director and went to film school. It was funny being the oldest person in my year. Some students were half my age. I learned editing on the job as I was living in Turkey during Covid and it was faster for me to edit the film myself the way I wanted it and then hand over to the finishing editor in the U.S for the final touches. Now I am 100% set on making this my full-time career.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Cinema Paradiso – if you haven't seen it. Do yourself a favour. It won an Oscar.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
Please add Director Q&A via zoom to the festival next year. This idea works really well and helps connect the filmmaker with the audience after the screening of our films. The audience asks fantastic questions.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
Great platform and easy to navigate.
10. What is your favorite meal?
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I am in post-production right now on my next short documentary called "Mind over Muscle" about a normal guy in the UK who decides to train and step on stage in the competitive world of body building and see if he can win.