Filmmaker’s Statement

“Shaka, A Story of Aloha” started as a passing curiosity. Then a friend introduced me to Kupuna (elders) in La‘ie who told me a story on the origin of the Shaka. It turns out that the Kupuna kept much of the story secret for a century as they didn’t want it inappropriately commercialized. But given advancing age and a generation that consumes stories via digital media, they asked me to share their story.

So in May 2019, I took a film crew to La’ie to capture oral testimony of the Kupuna. My only intent at the time was to preserve historical content so others could tell the story. After the shoot, I was so moved by the interviews that I wrote a treatment (a story summary). It sat on my desk for over a year until a chance meeting with Kamehameha Schools prompted action. KS said the story needed to be told, that I should do it and they would provide the funding necessary. I agreed to do the story on the condition that they also provided cultural experts and they did.

Once in production, alternative origin stories came to light while evolution themes became increasingly deep. We decided to present all credible findings and let audiences decide for themselves which version they liked best. It became a “who dunnit” that travels over 110 years through time through a melting pot of groups around the globe. Thus what was initially seen as a 20-30 minute documentary, became a feature-length story.

Produced by a Nonprofit

The film is produced by ID8, a Honolulu-based 501C3 nonprofit organization. In addition, top-level producers/artists have volunteered to participate in the project with no equity. These include Executive Producer Bryan Spicer (director/producer Hawaii-Five-O, Magnum PI), Grammy-nominated Music Director Henry Kapono and myself as Executive Producer/Producer/Writer. Additional volunteers include Associate Producers Sean Morris, Jill Kuramoto, Ryan Ozawa, Rob Webb, Rebecca Teresia, Minette Lew-McCabe. Volunteer Cultural Advisors include Robert “Lono” Ikuwe, Manu Boyd and Hailama Farden.

Utilizing Hawai’i Talent

The production team (paid living wages) is built from local talent from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Academy of Creative Media Program.  These include native Hawaiian Director Alex Bocchieri ’12, Cinematographer Kristle Backe ’18, Editor Shaun Oliquiano ’17, Assistant Editor Sara Brekke ’26 and Coordinator Eve Ordinario ’26. Dozens of other local Hawai’i crew members are included in the production under this production team.

60+ Expert Interviews

Many ask “who’s in the film?” Credibility counts as does factual evidence. We’ve treated this project like a court case, presenting direct and expert testimony, while leaving out hearsay anecdotes. Over a 4-year period, we conducted 60+ interviews including Joel “Baldy” Apuakehau, Charles Bargas, Todd Bradley, Cy Bridges, Renee Cabrinha, Wally Camp, Jack Cione, Kathy Collins, Benjamin Dela Cruz, Frank Delima Jr., David Espinda, Joyce Fasi, Charles Fasi, Mike Foley, Victor Foniomoana, Gen. Kenneth Hara, Karl “Kini Popo” Hebenstreit, Fred Hemmings, Robert “Lono” Ikuwa, Mona Kahawaii, Henry Kapono, John “Keoni” Kauwe III, “Unko” George Kahumoku, Maria Latu, Brook Lee, Jeff Livingston, Vonn Logan, Kekela Miller, Riley Moffat, Jon Nouchi, Vernal Pratt, Harold Pukahi, Laverne Pukahi, Bob Sigall, Bryan Suzuki, Willa Tanabe, George Tanabe, Rev. Ryoso Toshima, Leroy Transfield, Paul Udell, Caroline Vargas, Michael Victorino, Isaiah Walker.

From to Education to General Release

while we started with education in mind, interest in the story has been so great that we are compelled to seek commercial release to foster the mission of sharing aloha through the Shaka. Interestingly, Anthology Research donated an omnibus study that found 91% of Hawai’i residents don’t know where the Shaka came from, but 87% were highly interested in seeing a movie on the subject. Thus our goal is to visit film festivals and gain a distributor to push the story to the world, whether in cinemas, online and/or broadcast stations.

Aloha from Hawai’i to the World

In the end, no matter what origin story you believe, by all accounts the Shaka originated in Hawai’i and is symbolic of the Aloha Spirit. As such, this film is relevant to a world in need of hope, inspiration, happiness and peace. And it has now re-focused our nonprofit on building “Project Shaka,” a movement to share aloha around the world through the Shaka. We’re honored to have been entrusted with this story and hope that you’ll join us in sharing Aloha through the Shaka.

Steve Sue, Shaka Film Producer

Steve Sue

Producer/Writer “Shaka, A Story of Aloha”

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