World Premiere of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Documentary WATERMAN



The Hawai’i International Film Festival (HIFF) presented by Halekulani announced today their Opening Night presentation of WATERMAN directed by Isaac Halasima. The film explores the role of sports in breaking societal barriers through Duke Paoa Kahanamoku’s journey and legacy as a trailblazer, father of modern-day surfing, and five-time Olympic medalist. The world premiere takes place on November 5 and will be presented as an outdoor screening at the historic Bishop Museum on the Great Lawn with encore screenings on neighbor islands — Palace Theater in Hilo on November 18th, Waimea Theater in Kauai on November 20th, and Consolidated Theaters in Maui on November 21st.

“We are honored to present WATERMAN as the Opening Night film for HIFF41. This selection stays true to our mission to think global and act local, much in the spirit of Duke Kahanamoku. HIFF41 continues to showcase the best from American and Asian cinema, but this years’ program goes even further in bringing us home and exploring Hawai’i in depth through indigenous voices, environmental issues, and new works from both established and up and coming Pacific creators. We are proud to kick off the festival with WATERMAN and celebrate our resilience and community safely online, in-theaters, and outside,” said HIFF Executive Director, Beckie Stocchetti. 

On the night of the premiere, to honor the legacy of Duke Kahanamoku, Bishop Museum will debut a new display featuring Hawaiian Olympians Duke Kahanamoku and World Champion surfer Carissa Moore, who was inspired by Duke and the connections he made with people around the world. Both of their surfboards and gold medals will be on display for audiences to enjoy.

“We’re excited to partner with the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival and host the World Premiere of WATERMAN,” said Brandon Bunag, Bishop Museum Vice President of Public Programs and Interim Director of Education. “Our Museum has always been a safe place for the community to come together to be inspired by our collections and their storied histories.”

Produced by David Ulich, Dr. Steven Ungerleider and Sidewinder Films and narrated by Jason Momoa, WATERMAN features rare archival footage, photos, and interviews alongside commentary from surfing’s biggest stars, including newly-crowned Olympic gold medalist Carissa Moore. Kahanamoku’s successes, struggles, and humanitarianism in the face of prejudice come together to weave a portrait of a local legend and global icon who became the face of Hawai’i. 

From the film’s director, Isaac Halasima: “As the son of a Polynesian immigrant, Duke was always somebody I felt I could relate and look up to.  He was one of my heroes. My Uncle Jan Fisher, the sculptor who created the famous statue of Duke on Waikiki beach, made sure that I knew Kahanamoku’s story. Before Uncle Jan passed away, he had suggested that I try to tell the story of Duke. And so I took up the rare opportunity to tell a story about a man who is part of my culture and ancestry. It’s been a long 5 year journey to finally get here, but I couldn’t be more excited to finally get this out there and help a new generation learn about the incredible Hawaiian Waterman.”

“We were incredibly impressed on how director Isaac Halasima expertly crafted a major feature film that brings Duke Kahanamoku’s amazing life and legacy to life via archive newsreels, radio interviews, and hundreds of photos, by showcasing the iconoclast-to-be and how he embodied the Aloha Spirit. WATERMAN is the type of film we need to see, especially in these polarizing times. It is also a classic hero’s journey, and it will be very exciting to see on the big screen!” shared HIFF Artistic Director, Anderson Le. 

The 41st Hawai’i International Film Festival presented by Halekulani takes place November 4-14 on Oahu and November 18-21 on neighbor islands. The full festival program will be announced on October 8, 2021.

About Waterman
(USA, 2021, 90 minutes)
Director: Isaac Halisima
Producers: David Ulich and Dr. Steven Ungerleider 

Surfing legend. Olympic superstar. Hawaiian Icon. American hero. Five-time Olympic medalist and Native Hawaiian Duke Paoa Kahanamoku shattered records and brought surfing to the world while overcoming a lifetime of personal challenges. Narrated by Jason Momoa, WATERMAN explores his journey and legacy as a legendary swimmer, trailblazer, and the undisputed father of modern-day surfing, following the sport’s first-time inclusion in this year’s Olympics – a fitting tribute to his work promoting the sport around the globe. Through Duke’s incredible athletic accomplishments and embodiment of the Aloha spirit, the film celebrates his triumphs and philosophy of inclusion, challenging us all to embrace diversity and incorporate Aloha into our own lives.

About Hawai‘i International Film Festival presented by Halekulani (HIFF)

Established in 1981, the Hawai‘i International Film Festival is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of cultural exchange and media in the Pacific Rim. HIFF is a premier international film event that has won the praise of international filmmakers, scholars, educators, governments, programmers and film industry leaders across the globe. HIFF’s programming has two particular mandates: to be a festival of record for emerging films from Asia, the Pacific, and North America and to present the top festival films from around the world, annually screening films from over 45 countries. HIFF Industry and HIFF VR presents content and panels in the fields of film, music, virtual reality, and new media entertainment. These transmedia programs reflect HIFF’s commitment to exhibiting innovative creative content coming from the Asia Pacific Rim. Visit hiff.org for more information.

HIFF’s key presenting sponsor is Halekulani Corporation and major sponsors are: Consolidated Theaters, Hawaiian Airlines, and Middle Management.

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