This month, Cinema Asian America presents, in collaboration with Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC) a special focus on films and stories from the Pacific Islands. With perspectives from Maori, Hawaiian and Samoan communities, this collection of films explores the cultures, histories and communities of the Pacific.
PIC was established in Honolulu in 1991 to help “support, advance and develop Pacific Island media content and talent that results in a deeper understanding of Pacific Island history, culture and contemporary challenges.” It is one of five National Minority Consortia who fund and provide culturally diverse programming to PBS.
In the past ten years, PIC has provided more than $5 million in production funds for Pacific Islander films, many of which have gone on to screen widely at film festivals and on public television. This includes the documentary “Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings” which last week won the prestigious Audience Award at the Gotham Awards.
This month PIC presents four canonical Pacific Islander documentaries for free on Comcast Cinema Asian America. These include:
• One Voice, Dir. Lisette Marie Flanary
Glee, island-style! The story of the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest in Hawaii, in which elected high-school students lead about 2000 of their peers in singing Hawaiian music in four-part harmony. The documentary charts the experience through the eyes of the song leaders, who prepare for the event throughout the school year.
• Skin Stories, Dir. Emiko Omori
Tattoo artists and men and women with tattoos describe the art (and an art it definitely is, they insist), and what it means to them. Tattooing began as “the regal cloth of the Samoan spirit,” one artist says. The hour traces the tattoo in Samoa back 2000 years (where it’s called “tatau”), and also visits New Zealand (“moko”), Hawaii (“kakau”), and the mainland U.S., where “the regal cloth of Polynesia has become a patchwork quilt,” says narrator Luana Busby-Neff.
• Dances of Life, Dir. Catherine Tatge
A performance documentary celebrating the native dances of Pacific Islanders. Says a choreographer on Guam, “We’re telling the world: This is what we are.” The hour also features troupes from New Zealand, Palau, American Samoa and New Caledonia. Some works are traditional, others reinterpretations of traditional dances, but all represent “our way of carrying our culture into the future,” says narrator Keisha Castle-Hughes, the Maori actress who starred in the movie “Whale Rider.”
• Then There Were None, Dir. Elizbeth Lindsey
The impact of outside influences (dating from the 18th century) on Hawaiians and their culture. Archival photos and films trace the effects of the arrival of foreigners; U.S. annexation of the territory; and a subsequent military presence.
For more information on PIC and details on its current slate of documentary films, please visit: http://www.piccom.org/