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Watch This: Kapaemahu


One of the best animated short films we saw in 2020 was Kapaemahu. Shown at many festivals including Annecy, Ottowa International Animation Festival, Manchester Animation Festival and Tribeca, the film made the 2021 Oscar shortlist for Best Animated Short, although ultimately it missed out on the nomination

Kapaemahu is a film that is firmly rooted in Pacific Island culture and is designed to spread awareness about the history, culture and mythology of the native people of the region. It's co-produced by Kanika Pakipika with Pacific Islanders in Communications, with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and written, directed and produced by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson. The animation director was Daniel Sousa.

Narrated entirely in a native Hawaiian dialect, it recounts the legend behind four monumental stones that can be found on  Waikiki Beach. The mythology says that the stones were imbued with the power of four travellers who brought the healing arts to Hawaii from Tahiti. 

The four healers were "of dual male and female spirits" an indigenous transgender identity that according to Wong-Kalu  "was once respected but now more often a target of hatred and discrimination.

This makes Kapaemahu a film that is very relevant to two issues that are very much at the forefront of current popular discourse: racial/cultural and LGBTQ+ equality. The film has been nominated for 35 awards so far and won 22 of them- including several at LGBTQ+ focused events.

The short boasts an absolutely gorgeous animation style, with a brilliantly simple style that is influenced by ancient indigenous art, combined with more modern influences. A mix of hand-drawn and computer-generated 2D animation is utilised to create a seamless whole. Along with the narration and the music (which incorporates native chanting) it creates a wonderful sense of immersion in the culture that will transport you to another time and place.

If Moana made you curious about Pacific Island culture and history then Kapaemahu will give you a much more authentic window into this world.

Watch the full film on its website, here


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