Maui Arts & Entertainment

Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi Students Produce Film to Keep Hōʻike Tradition Alive

March 26, 2021, 6:00 PM HST
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Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi students produced a one-hour feature film after the forced cancellation of its live annual Hōʻike performance. The film, ‘Eleau premieres on April 2 and follows the story of Kahalaopuna, the rainbow goddess of Mānoa and her fateful tragedy with love. ‘Eleau translates to “period of darkness.”

Image courtesy of Kamehameha Schools.

When challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic forced the cancellation of a campus tradition, a handful of KSH haumāna decided to put their creativity to the test, turning the usual live Hōʻike performance into a one-hour feature film.

A senior legacy project, ‘Eleau’s cast and crew consists of nearly two dozen seniors and juniors who worked on all aspects of the production – scriptwriting, directing, mele composition, costume design, filming, editing, acting, choreography, dancing and performing the student-composed soundtrack – many for the first time. The film was shot on location at King’s Landing in Keaukaha and in a haumāna’s backyard in East Hawai‘i island.

“Our goal for this project was not only to bring the stories of our ancestors to life, but also to show to our lāhui and community that even during these dark times, we are able to come together while separated to bring life to such a powerful and educational story,” said KSH senior Aleah Kay, who stars as Kahalaopuna. “Not only that, but we wanted to inspire our underclassmen to create their own hōʻike, as we are.”

Jason Aiwohi-Tomlin, who plays Kahalaopuna’s betrothed, Kauhi, said in the spirit of ‘Eleau, this project was a turning point for them. And, in alignment with their campus’ ‘Ōiwi Edge identity, they had to find ways to go from what was normally an in-person performance to a platform integrating Hawaiian culture and film in a way to reach a wider audience.

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“We all came from different backgrounds and everyone brought their talents to the table. It was basically us figuring out where everyone fit and how to work together.” Aiwohi-Tomlin said. “In the end, we came together and we all learned why we had different roles. This project pushed me.”

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Performing arts kumu Herb Mahelona said that the COVID-19 restrictions enabled these seniors to break out of their comfort zones and work beyond the limits of their creativity.

“This year was difficult because the work wasn’t face-to-face. It was difficult, for example, for them to come up with ideas. This project taught them not only to create but to adapt,” Mahelona said. “They epitomize what it means to be student leaders.”

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