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Short film about Hawaiian activist, musician George Helm hopes for an Oscar nomination

Aina Paikai w_ Background Kupuna.jpg
Courtesy Kama'aina Creations/ʻĀina Paikai
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ʻĀina Paikai, left, on the set of "Hawaiian Soul" with actor Keoki Pescaia.

A local short film, "Hawaiian Soul," is hoping to be nominated for an Academy Award this year. The film depicts a key moment in the life of Native Hawaiian activist and musician George Helm.

121422 Hawaiian Soul short film
Courtesy Kamaʻaina Creations/ʻĀina Paikai
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Helm helped lead the effort to stop the bombing of Kaho’olawe in the 1970s. During that time, Helm and fellow activist Kimo Mitchell disappeared while crossing the channel between Kaho’olawe and Maui. Their bodies were never found.

"Everyone that I've talked to in that generation really remembers that kind of magnetism that he had via his voice. He would really engage the audience first with, you know, kind of the softness and the talent of his music, and then be able to really articulate the feelings that we had as a people in that time with Native rights and Kahoʻolawe," said ʻĀina Paikai, the Native Hawaiian filmmaker who wrote and directed the film.

Paikai grew up in Pearl City and attended the University of Hawaiʻi’s Academy for Creative Media.

"A lot of people, especially our generation and younger, don't really know who he is. And so this was a chance to use my art form, film, to really honor him and hopefully educate and allow people to reengage or introduce them to his message of aloha ʻāina," Paikai said.

"Hawaiian Soul" won best live action short at the imagineNative Film Festival in 2021 in Toronto, allowing it to be considered for an Oscar nomination.

The shortlist of films that could be nominated will be announced on Dec. 21. The final list of nominees will be announced in late January.

"Now we need to get it in front of Academy voters, so mostly Hollywood types, people that are in the industry, celebrities too, folks in the behind-the-scenes," he added.

Learn more about "Hawaiian Soul" on the film’s website.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 14, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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