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Film shares the inspirational journey home of Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s treasures

HONOLULU (February 14, 2017) – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) will host a series of free public screenings throughout the state in February and March for its film documenting the historic return of Chief Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s sacred cloak and helmet, which left Hawaiʻi more than two centuries ago.

The first public screenings will be held at Anahola Café, Kauaʻi, on Feb. 17 and at the Historic ʻĪao Theater, Maui, on Feb. 18.

“The inspirational film is a way for OHA to promote and share Native Hawaiian culture, as well as highlight the incredible things that can happen when people join together for a common purpose,” said OHA Ka Pouhana Kamanaʻopono Crabbe. “As more and more people watch the film, we hear their stories of how the film has inspired them to connect with Hawaiian culture by learning ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian history, Hawaiian feather work, family genealogy, and so much more.”

In 1779, during the season of Makahiki, Capt. James Cook landed in Kealakekua Bay on the island of Hawaiʻi. In a diplomatic gesture of goodwill, Hawaiʻi chief Kalaniʻōpuʻu gifted his ʻahu ʻula (cloak) and mahiole (helmet) to Cook. While Cook was later killed in Kealakekua on this day (February 14) in 1779, the chief’s cloak and helmet sailed to Europe with Cook’s crew, and ultimately ended up at the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

For 237 years, Kalaniōpuʻu’s belongings remained separated from Hawaiʻi. Then, in March 2016, through a partnership between OHA, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, Bishop Museum and with support from Hawaiian Airlines, these treasured symbols of mana and excellence in Hawaiian artisanship were returned to Hawaiʻi. It was a historic event that captured the attention of millions of people around the world.

Now, nearly a year after the cultural treasures were returned to Hawaiʻi, OHA is sharing a 25-minute documentary film called Nā Hulu Lehua: The Royal Cloak & Helmet of Kalaniʻōpuʻu. Produced by a team of indigenous filmmakers, the film tells the story of Kalaniʻōpuʻu and his mea kapu (sacred items), their amazing journey home and the cultural awakening that greeted them.

Nā Hulu Lehua chronicles a number of events inspired by the return of the items. At the celebration event at Bishop Museum on March 17, 2016, kumu hula Snowbird Bento and her hālau performed the hula manō (shark dance) that is believed to have been last performed more than 200 years ago. Scholar and kumu hula Pua Kanahele created an original chant for Kalaniʻōpuʻu to mark his return. And thousands have visited Bishop Museum, where the treasures are on display, to pay homage to the chief.

The documentary has received resoundingly positive feedback, with viewers saying that “I had tears rolling down my face” and the film is “full of mana.”

The public is invited to the free screenings happening in February and March. Each of the film screening events will include a cultural program and a question and answer session.

Schedule of screenings:

  • Kauaʻi – Anahola Café, Feb. 17
  • Maui – Historic ʻĪao Theater, Feb. 18
  • Hilo, Hawaiʻi – Hilo Palace Theater, Feb. 22
  • Kona, Hawaiʻi – Huliheʻe Palace, Feb. 24
  • South Kona, Hawaiʻi – Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park Amphitheater, Feb. 25

For these screenings, doors will open at 6 p.m., and the program will start at 6:30 p.m. Seating is first come, first served.

  • Oʻahu – ʻŌlino by Consolidated Theatres at Ka Makana Aliʻi in Kapolei, March 11.

For the screening at ʻŌlino, doors will open at 10 a.m., and the film will start at 10:30 a.m. Seating is first come, first served.

Those who are unable to attend the film screenings in person are invited to watch the film online and share their feedback at www.oha.org/kalaniopuu.

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