“Pacific Islander” is an umbrella term that refers to any inhabitants or diaspora of the Pacific Islands. There are thousands of Pacific Islands, but Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia represent the three main regions. There are 1.4 million Pacific Islander Americans living in the United States of America and its territories, including Hawaii, Samoa, Guam, and many continental states. Pacific Islanders have shaped American history and culture through immigration, tourism, and cultural exchange, but also warfare, U.S. takeover of islands, and islanders’ resistance. This guide brings together a diverse group of documentaries, films, and educational videos that provide a glimpse into the many cultures and histories of the Pacific Islands and diaspora.
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Adapting to Climate Change in the Smaller Pacific Islands (2013, 43 mins): Climate Change is among the most serious challenges facing Pacific Island countries and territories. The small island nations of Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Federated States of Micronesia are no exception particularly with the impacts posed to their communities.
American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai’i (2003, 55 mins): For Hawaiians, the hula is not just a dance, but a way of life. Yet while most Americans know only the stereotypes of 'grass skirt girls' from old Hollywood movies and tourist kitsch, the revival of the ancient art of hula tells of the rich history and spirituality of Hawai'i. American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai'i discovers a renaissance of Hawaiian culture through music, language and dance as it continues to grow in California.
Daniel K. Inouye: An American Story (2003, 57 mins): A one-hour documentary about the life and times of Japanese-Hawai’ian U.S. Senator, Daniel Inouye. It is not only a biography of the influential Senator, but it is also the story of a generation that molded Hawai'i in the second half of the 20th century.
The Freedom Riders: Australian and American Civil Rights (2015, 15 mins): The U.S. Civil Rights Movement "Freedom Rides" used civil disobedience to great effect. They also influenced the Freedom Ride in Australia which involvedUniversity of Sydney students going by bus through rural New South Wales and challenging segregation in communities. This program explores the Freedom Ride as part of a wider push by Aboriginal Australians to engage in activism and social reform across the nation.
Kumu Hina (2013, 76 mins): Imagine a world where a little boy can grow up to be the woman of his dreams, and a young girl can rise to become a leader among men. Welcome to Kumu Hina's Hawai'i. During a momentous year in her life in modern Honolulu, Hina Wong-Kalu, a native Hawaiian māhū, or transgender, teacher uses traditional culture to inspire a student to claim her place as leader of the school's all-male hula troupe.
The Marshall Islands: Living with the Bomb (1983, 26 mins): The people of the Bikini Atoll were removed from their homelands as a result of American testing of nuclear bombs in the Pacific. They now live on another island, dependent on American food and support. They can never go back to Bikini Atoll because it is poisoned beyond the possibility of habitation. This film is a poignant, impressive study of a people whose culture has been vanquished.
O Le Tulafale (The Orator) (2011, 111 mins): The story of a man, Saili, who wants only to defend the honour of his beloved wife and be at peace with her. Saili is physically disadvantaged, with no great aspirations or expectations for himself and yet he is confronted with overwhelming adversaries and miraculously, through willpower, spirit, and love for his beloved Vaaiga, he becomes an unlikely hero at the end. The story takes place in a small village in Samoa.
Pacific Passages (30 mins, 1997): This documentary, crafted for Hawaii state-mandated seventh-grade classes in Pacific Island Studies, has received acclaim from a wider audience, receiving the Gold Apple Award for Educational Excellence. Narrated by a young girl of New Guinean descent, the film includes images of cultural artifacts from the collections of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum and the Honolulu Academy of the Arts, as well as footage of rituals and ceremonies showing how these artifacts are used all over the Pacific.
Pacific Warriors (2015, 95 mins): The tiny Pacific Island nations of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa reconnect with their warrior heritage and take on the giants of the rugby World Cup in this remarkable documentary feature uncovering the story of the greatest underdogs in professional sport. For the Pacific Islands the game of rugby has become the modern expression of their traditional warrior spirit.
Waikiki: Riding the Waves of Change (2007, 55 mins): Like hula, surfing was viewed as immoral by European missionaries to Hawai'i, so it had languished until the early twentieth century when the first tourist hotels appeared in Waikiki, and a small band of watermen began to earn their livelihood from surfing instruction and providing outrigger canoe rides for tourists. Award-winning documentarian Caroline Yacoe portrays the current Waikiki Beach Boys as preservers of surfing culture.
During Covid, only IU faculty, staff and students can borrow materials from Media Services with a valid IU crimson card. Face masks are required. Be sure to check with Media Services for hours. VHS titles are housed off-site at ALF, and can be requested via IUCAT. Suggested keywords in IUCAT: Pacific Islander* and topic. Limit to film & video, dvd/videodisc, Bloomington campus.
Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation (1993, 58 mins): Chronicles the history and condition of Hawaiians from their creation to the present, focusing on the overthrow of the Hawaiian government in 1893.
Boy (2013, 88 mins): The year is 1984, and on the rural east coast of New Zealand Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' is changing kids' lives. 'Boy' is a dreamer who lives with his brother Rocky and his Nan. When Boy's father, Alamein, returns home after seven years away, Boy is forced to confront the man he thought he remembered, find his own potential, and learn to get along without the hero he had been looking for. From the acclaimed New Zealand director Taika Waititi.
Dances of Life (2005, 57 mins): This performance documentary reveals the history and diversity of the Pacific Islands, a vibrant and complex region encompassing 25,000 islands spread over 10 million square miles of ocean in which 30 million people speak hundreds of different languages and dialects, through their dance stories, which for nearly 50,000 years have been an expression of Pacific Islanders' origins, their journeys, their struggles and their very existence.
The Haumāna (2014, 95 mins): Johnny Kealoha is the charismatic host of a struggling Polynesian luau show for tourists. To everyone's surprise, including his own, he is appointed as the successor to a high school hula class when his former Kumu Hula (master hula teacher) passes away. He becomes as much a student as a teacher through the demands of leading the boys to a significant hula performance and rediscovers the sanctity of the culture he previously abandoned.
The Insular Empire: America in the Mariana Islands (2009, 59 mins): Looks at the history of American involvement in the Mariana Islands and follows the lives of four indigenous islanders from the Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Moana (2017, 107 mins): A mythic adventure set around 2,000 years ago across a series of islands in the South Pacific. The film follows the journey of a spirited teenager named Moana as she meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui, and together they traverse the open ocean, encountering enormous fiery creatures and impossible odds.
Noho Hewa: The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai’i (2009, 82 mins): A contemporary look at Hawaiian people, politics and resistance in the face of the indigenous population's systematic erasure under U.S. laws, economy, militarism, and real estate speculation.
Standing on Sacred Ground (2013, 228 mins): Documents how indigenous peoples stand up for their traditional sacred lands in defense of cultural survival, human rights and the environment…In Papua New Guinea, villagers clash with a Chinese-owned mine. In Australia's Northern territory, Aboriginal clans maintain protected areas and resist the temptation of a mining boom. In Hawaii, indigenous ecological and spiritual practices are used to restore previously land used as a bombing range by the military.
Tuakiri Huna (White Lies) (2015, 96 mins): Paraiti is the healer and midwife of her rural, tribal people -- she believes in life. But new laws in force are prohibiting unlicensed healers, making the practice of much Maori medicine illegal. She gets approached by Maraea, the servant of a wealthy woman, Rebecca, who seeks her knowledge and assistance in order to hide a secret which could destroy Rebecca's position in European settler society.
Whale Rider (2002, 101 mins): The Whangara people believe their ancestor Paikea was saved from drowning by riding home on the back of a whale. The tribal group has since granted leadership positions to the first-born males, believing them to be descendants of Paikea. But then a young mother dies in childbirth along with her newborn male son. His twin sister survives and the little girl, Pai, is brought up by her grandparents. Learning the skills of chiefdom from her uncle, Pai shows that she possesses a natural leadership ability.