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Filmmaker preserves isle stories

By Gary C.W. Chun

LAST UPDATED: 12:05 p.m. HST, Dec 24, 2010


» Ann Marie Nalani Kirk's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.


Through her films and website, Ann Marie Nalani Kirk is providing a bridge for the kupuna of this island state into the 21st century.

The longtime filmmaker came into her own in 2010 first by co-organizing the 'Oiwi Film Festival at the Honolulu Academy of Arts that featured the work of local and native Hawaiian artists. Her own films, "Happy Birthday, Tutu Ruth" and "Homealani," were part of the festival, and she considers the making of the latter a personal high point in her life.

The story of the remarkable life of her late grandfather Oliver Homealani Kupau, Kirk said "in a way, I have to thank him in my meeting the academy's film curator Gina Caruso. Because of its success this year, the 'Oiwi Film Festival will be held every two years at the academy. It gives all us filmmakers a sense of empowerment because we now have a venue that will bring in an audience that wants to see our films."

Her documentary work also reaches into the Internet, as the oral history website Maunalua.net has been set up in response to the near destruction of the Hawea heiau located in the East Oahu region due to development plans.

"The website was set up to tell the long cultural history of the region. ... By sometime this month, we'll have short films up for viewing on the site of resident kupuna telling their stories." Kirk is also excited that this initial effort is leading to the setting up of other similar websites, the next being one for the Kohala area on the Big Island in May.


Every day through year's end, the Star-Advertiser will recognize people who changed Hawaii in 2010. Some are familiar names; others shunned the spotlight. But all made a difference. The winners were chosen by Star-Advertiser editors from nominations submitted by staff members and readers.


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Kirk also works as a director and producer for the Department of Education. As a followup to the series on maritime Micronesia, "Stories to Tell," she's currently editing a nine-part series she co-produced for its TeleSchool branch and the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program titled "Ke 'Imi No'i" about the history of Hawaiian language newspapers.

"Doing this kind of work is such a blessing," she said. "People have been so kind. I consider myself more of a story-catcher than a storyteller, because the kupuna I've talked to have told me that this is their way of honoring their ancestors as well."

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