An Ocean of Stories from the Pacific Islands and Beyond


Photo courtesy of Noah Media Group

The tenth anniversary season of Pacific Heartbeat offers a centerpiece for API Heritage Month in May.

After a decade on the air and more than 40 original films from across the Pacific Islands region, Pacific Heartbeat is set to deliver its tenth anniversary season to a growing audience eager to celebrate the unique culture and heritage of the Pacific Islands and their diaspora.  

Pacific Heartbeat is an anthology series that provides viewers a glimpse of the real Pacific—its people, cultures, languages, music, and contemporary issues. From revealing exposés to rousing musical performances, the series features a diverse array of programs that will draw viewers into the heart and soul of Pacific Island culture.

“The Pacific Heartbeat series provides an authentic glimpse into the history, culture and contemporary life of the Pacific Islands, and makes these stories widely  available to U.S. viewers on PBS and online,”  said Leanne Ferrer, Executive Director of Pacific Islanders in Communications. “And our tenth anniversary season exemplifies the intimate and compelling gaze of our communities.”

Photo: News Ltd/Newspix

The season begins with The Australian Dream by Daniel Gordon, telling the story of sports legend Adam Goodes and the abrupt end to his career in the Australian Football League (AFL). Goodes’ love for the sport is an homage to his Indigenous culture, which created the first football game known as Marn Grook. But when he objected to racial abuse from fans, an all-too-familiar experience for Indigenous athletes, Goodes became the target of a sustained booing campaign that drove him from the game. His story raises critical issues of race, identity, and belonging in contemporary Australia.

Photo courtesy of Vea Mafile‘o

For My Father’s Kingdom by Vea Mafile’o, is a deeply personal documentary driven by Mafile’o’s Tongan father Saia. Pensioner Saia Mafile’o’s dedication to raising large amounts of money for Misinale (an annual church donation celebration) upset his children and splintered his marriage. In examining the pain this caused her Kiwi/Tongan family, Vea raises thorny questions about the relationship between money and the church in Tongan culture. She returns to Tonga with her father and siblings, for Saia’s college’s 150th anniversary, to attend the Misinale and learn why the financial sacrifice matters to him.

Photo courtesy of Mitchell Hawkes

In Stan, by Mitchell Hawkes, New Zealand Idol Stan Walker was born with a gene that gave him—and most of his whānau (family)—cancer. The film Stan documents his tumultuous journey through recovery from a surgery that removed his stomach. He leans on his mom, his faith, and his Māori culture to cope. But the fate of his family’s health and the future of his singing voice weighs heavily on Stan’s mind. In an intimate look at health and healing, Stan invites the viewer in to contemplate their own relationship with their body.

Photo courtesy of Lisette Marie Flanary

Finally, Tokyo Hula by Lisette Marie Flanary crowns a trilogy of films about the legendary dance and spiritual art form. Tokyo Hula explores the phenomenal popularity of the hula dance in Japan from both Native Hawaiian and Japanese perspectives. An estimated two million people dance hula in Japan – a figure greater than the entire population of Hawaiʻi. With more people dancing hula in Japan than in Hawaiʻi where the native art was born, this explosive growth has created a multi-million dollar industry based on culture as a commodity. Through interviews with Hawaiian master hula teachers and Japanese students, Tokyo Hula asks important questions about what happens to culture when it is exported.

Encore presentations of Lisette Marie Flanary’s previous two films in this hula trilogy—

Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula and American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai‘i will have encore presentations in July 2021.

Pacific Heartbeat feature films are accompanied by an in-depth discussion guide to help audiences more fully access the stories and their locations. From discussion questions to historical background information and links to more videos and articles online, this professionally developed companion resource from Impact Media Partners helps to make Pacific Heartbeat an educational and cultural asset for all communities. 

Pacific Heartbeat is presented by Pacific Islanders in Communications in partnership with PBS Hawaiʻi, and is distributed by Boston-based American Public Television (APT) and broadcast nationally on WORLD Channel (distributed by APT in partnership with WGBH & WNET), in addition to hundreds of scheduled broadcasts on local PBS stations. Films are selected each year from among numerous submissions, including projects funded by PIC with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Photo courtesy of Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking

Pacific Heartbeat’s showcase of feature length films is complemented by its online companion series, Pacific Pulse, which presents award-winning short films from across the region. In 2021, Pacific Pulse will offer all-new line-ups of great online shorts in March and August.

In March, Pacific Pulse will present Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i—a new collection of six short films profiling top women filmmakers from the Hawaiian Islands. Reel Wāhine will premiere in March as part of PIC’s celebration of Women’s History Month.

 “Each film features an accomplished Hawai‘i filmmaker recounting the challenges and triumphs of her life and career in just eight minutes,” said Leanne Ferrer, Executive Director of Pacific Islanders in Communications. “Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i  is a short film series that seeks to address gender inequity in the film industry by documenting the real-life stories of Hawai‘i women filmmakers who have made it possible to tell our important local stories through film.”

Produced, filmed, edited and directed entirely by local women filmmakers in Hawai‘i, these six short films profile the women who helped build the independent film industry on the islands and who are now working at the top of their fields. Producers Shirley Thompson and Vera Zambonelli grew the idea for the series after years of working for gender parity and equity in the film industry.

Ferrer added, “Whether it’s feature length content for the heritage month in May, brand new shorts available online throughout the year, or an anytime-is-the-right-time exploration of the beauty and majesty of the Pacific Islands, our signature series and other curated content are here to enrich the public television experience all year long.”