Enriching America’s cultural landscape with Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander voices through the tradition of storytelling

Photo courtesy of Justyn Ah Chong

The twelfth season of Pacific Heartbeat offers an exciting new line-up of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander programs for the month of August.

After more than a decade on the air and more than 45 original films from across the Pacific Islands region, Pacific Heartbeat is set to deliver the twelfth season of this signature documentary anthology series. This season’s offering includes four new episodes that showcase the diversity and complexity of the contemporary Pacific Islander experience through rich and impactful stories about the people, ecology, and advancements from Hawai‘i and Tahiti. Previous seasons have touched on the people, places and cultures beyond Polynesia, including Melanesia, Micronesia and Australia.

“As we launch our 12th season of Pacific Heartbeat, we look forward to sharing the beauty, intricacy and diversity of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander people to the American public,” said Cheryl Hirasa, Executive Director of Pacific Islanders in Communications. “We are committed to connecting this cultural diaspora to our community and neighbors across the country and slowly shift the narrative away from stereotypical tropes for Pacific Islanders in mainstream media.”

Photo courtesy of Justyn Ah Chong

The season begins with OLA HOU: JOURNEY TO NEW YORK FASHION WEEK by Justyn Ah Chong, telling the story of Native Hawaiian fashion designer Sharayah Chun-Lai and her out-of-the blue invitation from the world-renowned Runway 7 to showcase her brand, Ola Hou Designs, at the prestigious New York Fashion Week. She and her supportive family are tossed into a fast-paced world of planning, preparation, and runway readiness to bring the spirit of the Big Island to the magic of the Big Apple. Woven into the fabric of Ola Hou Designs is a story of resilience, family, and all the things it takes to make a dream become reality. Join the journey as Sharayah puts it all on the line to bring Ola Hou Designs to the New York runway.

Photo courtesy of Liz Barney and Alison Week

ISLAND COWGIRLS: TWO PORTRAITS OF PANIOLO, by Liz Barney and Alison Week, highlights two Hawaiian cowgirls (paniolo) who have dedicated their lives to caring for their family ranches. On the northwest side of Hawai‘i Island, as La‘i Bertlemann prepares to graduate from high school, she must make a difficult decision whether to stay home in Hawai‘i and continue her family tradition of land stewardship, or to leave. Meanwhile, on the south side, Lani Cran Petrie is at a crossroads as she continues to plan for the future of her ranch while faced with the uncertainty of the state-held lease of the land expiring soon.

Photo courtesy of Daniel A. Kelin II

Hawai‘i’s native snail species play significant roles in its ecosystem and Native Hawaiian culture, yet they face increasing threats and are rapidly disappearing. This episode includes two films that explore this largely unknown and complex world, encouraging us to reflect on our relationship with the natural world and show us that even the smallest species are worth saving. In KĀHULI, by Chris A. Johns, cultural and scientific experts guide us through what stands to be lost if Hawai‘i’s snails go extinct. AFTER THE ENDLING, by Daniel A. Kelin II, takes us on an experiential journey through the world of shadow puppetry.

Photo courtesy of Babel Doc

Although only 20, Vahine Fierro is undaunted by the Teahupo‘o wave, considered the most dangerous in the world. In DAUGHTERS OF THE WAVES, by Sébastien Daguerressar and Lisa Monin, Vahine surfs as no other Polynesian girl has ever surfed. In Tahitian culture, riding the waves is an ancestral activity from which women had been gradually eliminated, but now surfing is open to women, just in time for the Olympics. Coming from an entire family of surfers, Vahine and her two sisters hope to make a living with their passion and travel the world.

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 (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.

Hirasa added, “Pacific Heartbeat was co-created by Leanne K. Ferrer, our late Executive Director. I’m honored to continue her vision through our series to support content and human talent that work together to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander experience with stories rooted in cultural knowledge and wisdom that has sustained our communities and helps to build a stronger future for all.”