Page 25

The Life

Documentarians Joan Lander and Puhipau – Photo by Carl Viti, courtesy of Honolulu Advertiser



The experience led him to study “the true history of Hawai‘i,” which included the fact that Sand Island was actually ceded government lands belonging to the Hawaiian Kingdom. He became involved with the production of “The Sand Island Story,“ a documentary produced by Victoria Keith and Jeremy Rochford of Windward Video, and edited by Joan Lander. Born in 1947 in Cumberland, Maryland, Joan was working at the time with a Honolulu video company called Videololo. Helping to edit the Sand Island documentary, she met Puhipau, and after “The Sand Island Story” aired in 1982 on PBS stations throughout the U.S., they joined forces to form the independent documentary team Nā Maka o ka ‘Āina. Together, they are realizing the power of video to educate and spread awareness of the plight of Hawai‘i’s first people, the kānaka maoli. After requesting an interview, I wrote to Joan and Puhipau with a few questions to begin our conversation. Their provocative responses were so clear, concise and personal that we at Ke Ola magazine chose to print their responses verbatim, to preserve the edge and clarity of the filmmakers’ perspectives. Marya: What one incident led each of you respectively to focus so purely on being the filmic eyes of Hawai’i Island? Joan and Puhipau: Actually, we do not focus just on Hawai‘i Island. Oftentimes our subject will be something broad like “native birds” or “ahupua‘a” or “Hawaiian language” or “Hawaiian sovereignty,” and we will explore those subjects on several of the islands. We have also done production in Australia, Vanuatu and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). However, we have a special aloha for Hawai‘i island. Puhipau’s ‘ohana is from Keālia, Kona. He was born in Hilo and spent his younger years in Keaukaha. When Joan first moved to Hawai‘i in 1970, it was to this island. We met in 1982 while both of us were living in Honolulu and, after having a home base there for many years, we moved back to Hawai‘i Island in 1995.

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o carry on traditions, some people sharpen their tongues or sharpen their pens. Others sharpen their spears. Joan Lander and Puhipau of Nā Maka o ka ‘Āina — “The Eyes of the Land” — sharpen their focus, creating no ordinary picture show. With unflinching devotion since 1982, the couple’s award-winning Na‘alehu video production company has produced more than 90 documentaries that focus on the land and people of Hawai`i and the Pacific. Ranging from “Contemporary Hawaiian Artists and Islands at Risk: Genetic Engineering in Hawai’i” to “E Ola Ka ‘Olelo Hawai’i (May the Hawaiian Language Live)”, their films have screened at festivals from Berlin to Japan, Canada to New Zealand and won recognition from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Hawai`i International Film Festival, National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival, Earthvision (Santa Cruz), ImagineNATIVE (Toronto), the Aotearoa Film Festival and the Berkeley Video & Film Festival. While most of their films have aired on broadcast television in Hawai`i, several have been broadcast throughout the U.S. on PBS stations. Perhaps their bravest and most controversial film is “Act of War - The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation,” a documentary first broadcast in 1993 on Hawai’i Public Television during the centennial year of the overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani— a landmark year in the Hawaiian movement for sovereignty and independence. Puhipau, born in Hilo in 1937 to a pure Hawaiian—kānaka maoli—mother from Keālia, Kona, and a Palestinian father, lived with 100 other Hawaiian families on Sand Island in Honolulu. In 1980, the State of Hawai‘i charged the Hawaiians with squatting on public land and evicted them, tearing down and burning their homes. Armed police arrested those who chose to resist. Puhipau was among those charged with “obstructing government operations.”

September-October 2011