The Disney film Moana stirred up some controversy, particularly about the size of Maui demi-god Moana and Pacific Island stereotypes. I finally had time to see the film over Christmas, and saw that it was truly created in the spirit of Disney’s previous films. I had read about efforts by producers to be culturally sensitive and accurate, but there were obviously limits to what they were willing to do. It was a beautiful film, and served as a reminder that there's a need for a handbook about Hawaiʻi for media producers. The film also highlights the need for Native producers and storytellers to “own” their stories.
Hereʻs what’s coming: A Hawaiian Handbook for Media Protocol is in the works to educate local and non-local producers of media about how to be culturally sensitive. Spearheading the effort are Donne Dawson, State Film Commissioner, and Heather Haunani Giugni of Rock Salt Media and UH West Oʻahu, The digital handbook will also provide a curriculum for educators and media students of all levels — secondary to university.
Its purpose is to help media professionals better understand Native Hawaiians their home in an attempt to encourage producers to move beyond stereotypes about vacations and surfing culture.
The Hawaiian Media Makers Conference (Nov. 2, 2016), which brought together Native and non-Native media makers from Hawaiʻi and elsewhere, provided a place for media professionals to build partnerships and “revolutionize Hawaiian media for a global audience," according to the conference website. "It will empower all Hawaiʻi-based media makers to take pride and responsibility for the accurate portrayal of our host culture.”
“This will be a compelling document and open eyes,” Dawson said at the conference.
“Who owns our stories?” was an important message from the conference — a way to encourage cultural authenticity and empower Hawaiians to write and produce their own stories.
The inspiration for the Hawaiian handbook has been The Brown Book: Māori in Screen Production, produced to facilitate relationships between Māori and non-Māori. The Hawaiian handbook will cover the history of Hawaiʻi and key Hawaiian values and principles, such as pono, mālama ʻaina and kuleana.
It will have a section on navigating cultural protocols, such as chant, blessings, genealogy, and a kiss on the cheek.
Information was gathered from scholars, kūpuna and kumu, such as Beau Bossett (Native Intelligence: Why We Need Native Producers; Paoakalani Declaration; UH Manoa Associate Professor Ty Kawika Tengan and others).
The handbook will also include a directory of contacts in Hawaiian culture, language and history, music & entertainment, media/film/video industry and government.
Pacific Islanders in Communication is also involved in the project and the conference
Pacific Islanders in Communication is also involved in the project and the conference.