Hawaiian animated short, Kapaemahu, created quite a stir at the 93rd Academy Awards this year, as it became the first ever Native Hawaiian film to clear the first round of voting and become an official Oscars shortlist of 10 films in the ‘Animated Short Film’ category. This amazing work is now evolving into other formats including a children’s picture book, immersive multimedia exhibition, and documentary film, all exploring the rich history brought to life by the animation.
“When I decided to tell the story of Kapaemahu in animated form, it was the best way I could imagine to express my understanding of this legend from a cultural point of view. It’s exciting now to see that vision expanding, delving deep into history and bringing it into view on multiple platforms that have the capacity to reach so many new and different audiences. It will be transformative,” said director-producer Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a Native Hawaiian who is herself a mahu (transgender).
The picture book on Kapaemahu will be published by Penguin Random House in a large format aimed at children and parents. Richly illustrated by animator Daniel Sousa, it is the first-ever bilingual book in the ancient Niihau form of the Hawaiian language. It is expected to be on bookshelves by early 2022.
The book tells the indigenous legend of how four extraordinary individuals of dual male and female spirit, known as mahu, brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaii.
“Kapaemahu is a monument to an indigenous Hawaiian legend and a classic in the making,” said Kokila Penguin Young Readers imprint editor Namrata Tripathi.
The animated legend will also be the centerpiece of an immersive multimedia exhibition at the Bishop Museum, the largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific culture in the world. Occupying the entire 8,500 square feet Castle Memorial Hall, the exhibition will feature 30 foot tall replicas of the four transgender healers standing in front of glowing facsimiles of the stones dedicated to them on Waikiki beach.
An animated timeline will document the suppression and resurrection of their story, and the work now being done to restore the stones as a permanent monument. The exhibition is scheduled for June 2022.
Also, PBS will premiere the feature documentary The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu on Pacific Heartbeat, bringing this hidden Hawaiian history to life for millions of viewers across the U.S.
“Given the limited distribution opportunities for animated shorts, we think Kapaemahu is an interesting model for different ways to increase reach and marketing,” film’s co-producer Dean Hamer said in an official statement.