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Where EAST meets the Northwest

GOLDEN CELEBRATION. The history and culture of Pacific Island culture is featured in Pacific Heartbeat, a series airing on Oregon Public Broadcasting during the month of May. In "Hula: The Merrie Monarch’s Golden Celebration" (pictured), which airs May 20 at 11:00pm, viewers have a front-row seat to the 50th anniversary of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival. (Photo courtesy of Pacific Islanders in Communications)

ARTFUL DOCUMENTARIES. "Pure Caz: Music of the Brothers Cazimero," an episode of the Pacific Heartbeat series, airs May 6 at 11:00pm on Oregon Public Broadcasting. (Photo courtesy of Pacific Islanders in Communications)

From The Asian Reporter, V24, #09 (May 5, 2014), pages 12 & 16.

Pacific Heartbeat film anthology honors heritage of Pacific Islanders

By Pamela Ellgen

The Asian Reporter

Pacific Heartbeat, a series of artful documentaries celebrating the people, culture, and history of Pacific Islanders — the indigenous people of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia — kicks off its third season on Oregon Public Broadcasting during Asian Heritage Month. The series is available through a collaboration between independent producers and three public television organizations: PBS Hawaii, Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), and American Public Television (APT).

The new season of Pacific Heartbeat includes four segments. Musicians Robert and Roland Cazimero are the focus of the first show, while research about a rare disease found on a remote island is brought to light in the second. The 50th anniversary of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival is featured in the third episode and two people who are considered masters in Hawaiian culture are highlighted in the fourth.

"Pure Caz: Music of the Brothers Cazimero"

Viewers can lose themselves in the soothing harmonies of brothers Robert and Roland Cazimero in "Pure Caz: Music of the Brothers Cazimero." The documentary features a compilation of music performed in studio as well as conversations between the brothers about their childhood, their evolution as performers, and their lasting legacy.

Robert confesses that initially he didn’t appreciate traditional Hawaiian music. "We did not like Auntie Genoa, we didn’t like Mahi Beamer, and all those people, because we were rock ‘n’ roll kids," he says, laughing. However, eventually they had a chance to meet these legends and changed their tune.

"All these people knew our mom and dad, and so, we were accepted, and we were loved because of that. And with that acceptance came support, and love, which made it so much easier for us in so many different ways."

The brothers recall their last performances at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in 1994. Although their audiences have not seen the show in 20 years, they still remember it as if it were yesterday.

"If we can, as the Brothers Cazimero, hit a certain note, play a certain chord, do a song that they love and get somewhere close to what they remember it being, we live on," Robert says. "If 200 years from now, a capsule was opened, I think I would like for whoever is there to say, ‘This is a part of a living culture that lives ’til today.’ That would be an amazing, amazing feat."

"Pure Caz: Music of the Brothers Cazimero" airs May 6 at 11:00pm on Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB). The show repeats May 13 at 8:00pm on OPB Plus.

"The Illness & The Odyssey"

In "The Illness & The Odyssey," filmmakers follow years of scientific research and uncover competing hypotheses about the nature of Lytico-Bodig, a deadly neurodegenerative disease affecting up to 10 percent of Guam’s population at one time and as many as 35 percent in the small village of Umatac. Could it be genetics? Diet? Environment? While scientists try to find the answers, the people of Guam grow weary of the endless testing and continued suffering.

"The Illness & The Odyssey," which airs May 13 at 11:00pm on OPB with a repeat on May 20 at 8:00pm on OPB Plus, offers a heartbreaking but compassionate look at the individuals affected by Lytico-Bodig and even explores unscientific, spiritual explanations for the disease. The film’s mystery will keep viewers entranced — and hypochondriacs a little on edge — from beginning to end.

"Hula: The Merrie Monarch’s Golden Celebration"

"Hula: The Merrie Monarch’s Golden Celebration" gives viewers a front-row seat to the 50th anniversary of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival along with performances and commentary from some of the contest’s first winners. The showcase was originally created to boost the spirits of the local community and attract visitors following a devastating series of tsunamis that hit Hilo. It was named after King David Kalakaua, The Merrie Monarch, because of his love and royal patronage of Hawaiian culture and the hula. Eventually, the show morphed into a competition.

Halau Na Kamalei o Liliehua, the winner of the first men’s competition in 1976, recalled the experience fondly: "It was invigorating to be doing something that was new, but yet culturally rich."

A visual masterpiece, "Hula: The Merrie Monarch’s Golden Celebration" includes vintage footage and, of course, mesmerizing hula performances.

"For the haumana, or students, of many schools of hula, the learning of hula is more than just the steps — leg, hand, and arm motions of the dance," says the show’s host, Palani Vaughan. "Hula also encompasses the olelo, or the Hawaiian language, the crafting of costumes and implements, the skills of chanting, and a deep understanding of the kaona, or deeper meanings of the stories being told."

"Hula: The Merrie Monarch’s Golden Celebration" airs May 20 at 11:00pm on OPB with a repeat taking place May 27 at 8:00pm on OPB Plus.

"Na Loea: The Masters"

"Na Loea: The Masters" honors two of the gatekeepers of Hawaiian culture: Keone Nunes and Ed Wendt.

Keone Nunes is a kumu hula (teacher of hula) and master of traditional kakau (tattooing). His perspective on honoring one’s elders reverberates throughout the film: "Whenever you speak with kupuna, everything that they share with you is something special."

The episode also features Ed Wendt, a pioneer in the taro restoration movement who has helped re-establish water rights for all traditional farmers in east Maui. Corporate interests have diverted much of the water on Maui for irrigation, domestic use, and commercial use resulting in many taro farmers leaving their fields fallow. Wendt hopes to change that.

"Legends say this is our brother," Wendt says, holding up a kalo plant and brushing mud gently from its large root. "Then why not take care of our brother? That’s how I look at it."

In one scene, Ed casts a fishing line into the ocean from a large rock on the beach and describes the water as an icebox, a grocery store of sorts, which makes it all the more important to preserve, particularly for native peoples. "For us, we are going to protect this place," he says.

"Na Loea: The Masters" airs May 27 at 11:00pm with a repeat May 29 at 4:00am; both shows are broadcast on OPB.

For more information about the Pacific Heartbeat series, or to verify showtimes, call (503) 293-1982 or visit <>. To learn more, visit <>.

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