Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall
Kanalu Young, professor, activist, and chanter, inspired Native Hawaiians to reclaim their sense of worth by the daily practice of Hawaiian language and culture
- 30 Minutes
In August of 1969, 15-year-old Terry Young took a dive from the rock wall perch where he and his friends were messing around above an unpatrolled beach. The water was shallow, and Terry hit his head on sand, becoming in one split second a quadriplegic. Paralyzed from the neck down with only limited use of his hands and arms, Terry nonetheless finished high school and college, competed as a wheelchair athlete, got arrested for the cause of Hawaiian sovereignty, graduated as a PhD in history, and pioneered as a professor in the new field of Hawaiian Studies.
Terry, who took the Hawaiian name, Kanalu, (“the wave”) learned from being disabled to value the life he lived rather than mourn the life he lost. He used that insight to offer hope to dispossessed Native Hawaiians. At the same time, he lived by the indigenous Hawaiian practice of kuleana, his responsibility to ask for help rather than go it alone as a rugged American individualist.
In classrooms, on cable television and even from his hospital room, Kanalu inspired thousands. But when his body eventually gave out, he asked help from his doctors to end his life. In a hospital room overflowing with friends and family, ʻukuleles and song, Kanalu Young said aloha, challenging his people to help each other as a way to revive Hawaiian culture and repair the loss of their illustrious past.
Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall is a recipient of R&D and Production funding from PIC's Media Fund.
MARLENE BOOTH - Producer/Director
Marlene Booth is an award-winning filmmaker and instructor in film at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, who has worked both as an independent filmmaker and for public television station WGBH-TV in Boston. She has produced and directed several major documentary films including: Pidgin: The Voice of Hawaiʻi, Yidl in the Middle: Growing Up Jewish in Iowa, When I Was 14: A Survivor Remembers, The Double Burden: Three Generations of Working Mothers, The Forward: From Immigrants to Americans, Raananah: A World of Our Own, and They Had a Dream: Brown v. Board of Education Twenty-five Years Later. Among Ms. Booth's awards is the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2009 Hawai’i International Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize and Best Human Rights Film at the Honolulu Film Awards in 2010, Cine Golden Eagle, an Emmy nomination, and Outstanding Independent Film at the New England Film & Video Festival.
My first sighting of Kanalu Young was in 2000 when we judged proposals for possible PIC funding! Kanalu motored up a ramp in his wheelchair, and got to work, turning pages with the outside of his closed fist, writing notes with a pen in his mouth, and occasionally, tilting his chair back to relieve pressure on his spine.
Kanalu was a great storyteller, with a vast knowledge of and love for Hawaiian history and culture. He was also smart, funny, insightful, and dedicated to haku mo‘olelo, reclaiming Hawaiian history through composing accounts of the past.
Kanalu Young and I worked together for eight years producing the film, Pidgin: The Voice of Hawai‘i.
He passed away in August of 2008, a few months before our film was finished. It never occurred to me while we worked together that I might one day want to make a film about Kanalu. But in the wake of his passing, I realized how his life touched so much of modern Hawai‘i. The rebirth of Hawaiian language and chant, the wayfinding success of the canoe Hōkūle‘a, the reclaiming of the island of Kaho‘olawe, the growth of Hawaiian language classes and the birth of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i, all took place as Kanalu came of age. As he said, they spoke to something inside him that he always knew was there but that he didnʻt know how to bring out. Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall will bring out the vital, timeless legacy of Kanalu Young.
- Marlene Booth
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