Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Home RSS

Ho‘okele Wa‘a: Turning the Canoe

Award-winning Maui documentary navigates a course for a sustainable future.

October 21, 2010
Trisha Smith

It may be difficult to imagine a time when the people of the island truly utilized and respected its plentiful resources, and worked together to maintain essential cultural and natural treasures for future generations.

Although the pertinence of sustainability is evident to everyone and continues to gain momentum in this isolated island community, we still have a long way to go. While some “talk the talk” of conservation, perpetuation and simplistic living, the members of the University of Hawai’i Maui College’s Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM), the isle’s community sustainability groups and others “walk the talk” while striving to educate everyone to do the same.

On Saturday, Oct. 23, Upcountry Sustainability (US) will host a special presentation on “Cooperatives” and a screening of the SLIM production, Turning the Canoe, at the the Ha‘ikū Community Center from noon to 5 p.m. (To learn more about SLIM, visit

Article Photos

This documentary looks to Maui’s past to help create its future, highlighting some of the isle’s leaders in the field of sustainability and restoration, including the brilliant Dr. Art Medieros of the Leeward Haleakalā Watershed Restoration Partnership (LHWRP).

“We support anyone and anything that will further our ability to become more self-sufficient as an island, and we’re proud to provide a free screening of this inspiring film, as it essentially makes our point,” said US President Melanie Stephens.

The group, which holds monthly “Community Living” events, focuses this month on how “the addition of the cooperative model to the sustainability movement will help ensure economic stability for the people of Maui.” Guest speaker Steve Phillips, president of West Maui Sustainability, will lead a “Cooperatives” presentation at 1 p.m., followed by an open discussion. The film will be presented at 3 p.m.

“Upcountry Sustainability invites anyone with good ideas, knowledge and programs to share,” said Stephens. Their mission, she said, is to share educational and cultural knowledge, and promote sustainable practices—“not come together to be a part of a group,” but put practices in motion.

Backed by the generous support of several local businesses and educational groups, and produced by former SLIM Executive Director Alex de Roode, Ho‘okele Wa‘a features interviews from those leading the efforts to protect Maui’s environment and includes rare footage of unique natural resources on Maui.

Viewers were moved during its 2010 Maui Film Festival world premier, earning the production the prestigious “Audience Award” for the “Best Documentary Made in Hawai‘i.”

“This was such an inspiring film to be a part of,” said Director Danny Miller, a Pahoa resident on Hawai‘i Island, who has made award-winning productions for over 25 years. “I am honored to have met so many incredible people on Maui doing so much to make Maui a sustainable model for the entire planet.”

Co-produced and written by esteemed Maui professor and Archaeologist Dr. Janet Six, the film examines what the future holds for our isolated paradise and asks important questions, such as, “Is the continued depletion of our isle’s natural resources inevitable or do we have an opportunity to change course?”

From the restoration of the ancient kalo lo‘i (taro patches) and native forests to recent technological breakthroughs in renewable energy, this film showcases those who are “creating real sustainable solutions and a vision of hope.”

“By juxtaposing traditional Hawaiian ways of understanding and sustaining our island environment and the latest sustainable technologies and practices here on Maui, Turning the Canoe promotes the use of culturally appropriate, holistic approaches to sustainable living for the world,” said Dr. Six last summer.

“The message in this movie is how Hawai‘i can be such a model of sustainability for the world, and we already are ‘turning the canoe,’” said’s Angie Hofmann, who appears in the film. “The youth is rising up and feeling the kuleana of the ‘āina and acting on it!”

Experienced environmental researcher and doctoral candidate Jennifer Chirico was appointed as SLIM’s new executive director in August when de Roode left Maui for a Mainland position. She said she sees the film—and others SLIM plans to produce—playing a crucial role in the early education. “A chief focus of this film is that it will serve as an educational tool in classrooms,” she said.

Due to funding from a Hawai‘i Community Foundation Pikake Grant, copies of the DVD will be distributed to public and private schools across the state. Producers are targeting the film for a national television broadcast as well.

“The kids are the future here—the leaders of tomorrow,” said Chirico. “It’s essential to ingrain the importance of renewable energy and sustainability into them early on.

“It’s vital our schools present this education as a common part of their knowledge,” she said. “And then they can continue to expand to protect the future, guiding an exciting new direction for Hawai‘i—‘turning the canoe’ in a sense.”

Visit for more information about ordering your copy of Ho‘okele Wa‘a: Turning the Canoe. The DVD is available for $20 (plus applicable fees), and will be shipped as available. Proceeds benefit SLIM.

View this remarkable documentary this Saturday afternoon, Oct. 23, at the Ha‘ikū Community Center. The event opens at noon with a potluck lunch. Guests are encouraged to bring locally grown vegetarian items and their own utensils and dishes.



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web