Biography Hawai‘i is a television documentary series that focuses on residents whose lives have had a lasting impact on these islands. Featuring people from different ethnic groups and walks of life, but with an emphasis on Hawaiian subjects, Biography Hawai‘i appeals to a statewide and national audience through the informative and engaging format of visual biography. By illuminating the fascinating lives of people who contributed significantly to our state, Biography Hawai‘i also sheds new light on those important events and issues which continue to shape the course of island history.
The episodes making up the Biography Hawai‘i series have been aired frequently on PBS Hawaii. The hour-long premiere episode, Biography Hawai‘i: Maiki Aiu Lake, was broadcast in November of 2002, and was nominated for a Western Regional Emmy Award.
Biography Hawai‘i presents individual lives as starting points for the discussion of issues of crucial interest to contemporary Hawai‘i. The questions these lives raise are not simply historical, but contemporary as well. Such questions of aesthetics and politics, of philosophy and culture, of historical continuity and historical change, confront the peoples of Hawai‘i every day. This project will provide contexts, and a series of human focal points, to explore answers proposed in the past, and possible methods for answering similar questions today.
Biography Hawai‘i draws from a rich array of visual resources. Historic, sometimes never-seen-before footage illustrates the dynamic lives of the subjects and our colorful island past. Rare photographs from personal and family collections, and footage and photographs from major archival collections furnish familiar visual cues. On-camera interviews with scholars, family, friends, and enemies insure a broad and personal picture, while dramatic, striking images of the islands, shot expressly for the series, also help to create a vivid, varied, and compelling visual atmosphere.
By telling the life stories of these fascinating people, we necessarily inform viewers about the social, cultural, and political milieu of the subjects’ times. Larger historical issues, as well as the subjects’ personal conflicts and struggles, provide the major themes for each episode. Letters, journals, articles, songs, chants, memoirs, and other forms of life writing insure that the subjects’ own words shape the narratives. Achievements, disappointments, and important personal relationships are recurring elements.
Interpretive Guides and Supplementary Humanities Materials
Detailed humanities guides have been prepared for three of the five documentaries as part of a series of public presentations at the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center, and are linked to the individual program narratives.