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PREL’s E Ho‘omau!™ film series comes to TV

Honolulu, Hawai‘i—Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) has produced the animated short film series E Ho‘omau!, an innovative approach to teaching 4th graders science and literacy, specifically developed for Native Hawaiian students.

E Ho‘omau!(to preserve; to learn from the past and perpetuate the good) is a culturally rich curriculum development project funded under the Native Hawaiian Education Program of the U.S. Department of Education.

The project, which includes three animated films with accompanying text materials, was inspired by traditional Hawaiian stories: Why Māui Snared the Sun, The Menehune and the Birds, and Pele Searches for a Home.

Each curriculum component includes an animated short film, 18–20 minutes in length, a graphic novel that tells the story in pictures and words, three science textbooks based on 4th grade science and literacy standards, and a teacher’s guide. E Ho‘omau!materials will be made available to the Hawai‘i Department of Education, as well as to the public online.

The stories incorporate Native Hawaiian legends, language, and cultural references to supplement 4th grade science and literacy curricula. For example, students will learn about geology related to the story of Pele, astronomy with the Māui narrative, and ecology with the tale of the Menehune. 

The executive producer forE Ho’omau!is Dr. Ormond Hammond at PREL, with curriculum development by Ellen Miyasato. The stories were written by Creative Producer/Animation Director Michael Q. Ceballos and Keikio‘ewa Ka‘opua, and adapted to screenplay by Lee Cataluna. The films feature singer and actress Marlene Sai, who narrates as Auntie the storyteller.

The creators worked closely with Kamehameha Schools, the Bishop Museum, the University of Hawai‘i, the Lyon Arboretum, the Hawai‘i Nature Conservancy, the Volcano Observatory, the Pacific Tsunami Museum, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to ensure both the stories and the text materials are culturally and scientifically correct.

According to Michael Q. Ceballos, “The art of storytelling (or talking story) in Hawai‘i is a tradition that has been passed down through the generations. With this in mind the E Ho’omau! crew knew from the beginning that we needed to be respectful and true to these stories and their inherent cultural meaning and values.”

Why Māui Snared the Sun is a story based on the Hawaiian legend of Māui the demigod. Kalā(the sun) selfishly races across the sky, leaving the land and its people with short days and long nights. Among those suffering from the lack of daylight was the goddess Hina, mother of Māui. In order to make things pono(right), Māui, still only a young man, summons all his courage and travels to the highest summit of Haleakalā where he confronts the mighty Kalā. The film stars Chad Makoto Kaleo Takatsugi as the voice of Kalā and newcomer Kalae Kauhi Maunakea-Forth as the voice of Māui.

The Menehune and the Birdsis based on the legend of the Menehune (mythological Hawaiian elves living in the forest). A young Menehune boy, Kēhau,and his friend, a little ‘elepaio bird, enlist the support of the Menehune chief and his warriors to save Native Hawaiian birds from being killed off for their feathers in the Kaua‘i rainforest. The film stars Brandon Pave as the voice of Kēhau, Analei Turnbull as the voice of the ‘Elepaio bird, and Carlson Kamaka Kukona III as the voice of the Menehune chief.

Pele Searches for a Homedraws upon the legend of fire goddess Pele, who leaves her ancient home of Kahiki(Tahiti) in search of a new home for her family. As she travels down the Hawaiian island chain, she is pursued by and battles her eldest sister Nāmaka (goddess of water and the sea). After a climactic battle on the island of Māui, she finally finds refuge in Kīlauea on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. The film includes dramatic performances by Kaleilehua Maioho as Nāmaka, and Mālie K. Goodhue as Pele. Angela Morales, a member of the singing group Nā Leo, stars as the goddess Haumea.

E Ho’omau! has already generated a lot of interest in the Pacific region: The Menehune and the Birdshad three screenings at the 31st Hawai‘i International Film Festival, Why Māui Snared the Sunwon Best Animation at the 2011 Guam International Film Festival, and additional screenings took place at the ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase. 

The films are also airing on ‘Ōiwi TV, a digital cable TV channel that serves the Native Hawaiian community. ‘Ōiwi TV will broadcast The Menehune and the Birdsthis week, while Pele Searches for a Homestarts airing in January 2012. Tune in to channel 326 on Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s statewide digital cable network to view E Ho‘omau!.

PREL envisions a world where all children and communities are literate and healthy, global participants grounded in and enriched by their cultures. Throughout the Pacific, a region of diverse languages and cultures, PREL collaborates with clients and partners using the proven results of research to improve schooling and promote community change. PREL is an independent, nonprofit corporation headquartered in Hawai‘i, with service centers in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia: Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap.