Hawaiian wake-up call
By T. Ilihia Gionson / Ka Wai Ola
You know that feeling that you get in your na’au when you drive past ‘Iolani Palace or when you hear Kaulana Nā Pua? That chicken-skin feeling that comes over you and lets you know that your kūpuna have been disturbed? That intrinsic sense that wrong has been done?
Noho Hewa: The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai’i captures that feeling on film.
The film – the first feature-length project by filmmaker Anne Ke’ala Kelly – opens with a kanikau, or chant of mourning, after a fire sparked by Army munitions destroyed sacred sites and habitat for endangered species in Mākua Valley, O’ahu. The dirge sets the tone for the next 70 minutes, a stark reminder of the continual desecration of Hawaiian land and displacement of Native Hawaiians in the homeland. Auwē.
Five years ago, Noho Hewa began as a project looking at the militarization of Hawai’i. “But as a Hawaiian, I don’t look at anything as separate issues. Our collective issues are one narrative,” said Kelly, whose film premiered at this year’s Louis Vuitton Hawai’i International Film Festival and won the Halekūlani Golden Orchid Award for documentary feature.
Complete with interviews of noted Hawaiian scholars and activists and footage of various gatherings, arrests, protests and evictions, Noho Hewa touches upon military training on sacred grounds, the displacement of iwi kūpuna in the name of development, the fight for self-determination, homelessness and other symptoms of the imposition of foreign desires on native lands and people.
Noho Hewa is, depending on your awareness of the struggles facing our lāhui, either a crash course in modern Hawaiian history or a wake-up call to take action.
It’s a step in the right direction that more people are being exposed to the issues facing our people and our ‘āina. The more people know about something hewa, the less likely it is to happen again. Not without a fight, anyway.