“Mele Murals” – Film Reco

I went to the Gene Siskel Center last night to see Matt Yamashita’s “Sons of Halawa” which was a beautiful story about the continuity of tradition in Molokai, Hawai’i. (See my previous post.) Also watched Tadashi Nakamura and Keoni Lee’s film “Mele Murals” which I loved. Hip-hop meets indigenous Hawaiian spirituality. This film was beautiful and honest. Two artists, Prime and Estria, teach students at Waimea charter schools how to paint murals. At the school, students are learning Hawaiian language – to read and write in it – as well as their history. They also learn hula. For someone like me, a Filipina American, this is beyond amazing. It brought tears to my eyes to see the love with which this school treasures Hawaiian language, music, dance, and stories. But here’s the thing. To the kids in the film, who were brought up with hula and all, they seemed…a bit bored. Like they needed a new way forward with their culture, a way to make culture their own. It reminds me of what’s happening with Pinoy kids and tinikling in America – mixing the power of hip hop into our traditional dances. Culture is a living, dynamic thing. And, from what I am seeing, when kids can make it their own, they can relate. It goes deeper.

The other thing that was breath-taking to me about both films is that it shows Hawaiian spirituality with such love. Christianity and indigenous spirituality side-by-side. This was not the point, necessarily, of either of the documentaries. But it struck a chord with me because so much of indigenous spirituality in many cultures, including Filipino, is based on the love of nature, the spirit(s) of nature, respect for the land and the water bodies. When the communities in both films, “Sons of Halawa” and “Mele Murals” engage more deeply with their indigenous traditions, the result, for them, seems to be joy and peace.

Mahalo, salamat, and thanks to the film-makers Matt, Tadashi, and Keoni for bringing their stellar documentaries out into the world!