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Award Winner

Festival Season:

June 2024

I am Kanaka

I am Kanaka



Genevieve Sulway
Genevieve Sulway


Genevieve Sulway

Run Time:


Awarded for the following Category(s):

Awarded Category(s)

A local Hawaiian hero fights to save his culture by teaching traditions, sustainability and life skills to disadvantaged indigenous kids.

Submitter Statement

Eight million Americans visit Hawaii every year and Tourists spend $43 million every single day. From the outside, Hawaii looks like paradise, a cinematographer’s dream. Stunning landscapes, vivid colours and friendly people have naturally found their way into countless Hollywood films.

 However, Hawaii has a dark history which has been repeated around the world (including my own home country of Australia). Hawaii is a country overthrown, local language banned for four generations, and their Queen deposed and dying in exile. Today, only 5% speak the native Hawaiian language and 10% live in poverty.

 “I am Kanaka” gives a glimpse into Hawaii’s future with Kaina Makua, a local ex-teacher who became disillusioned with the conventional public education system, so he set up his own organisation “Kumano I Ke Ala”. A non-profit program that tackles social injustice by passing on inter-generational knowledge to kids aged 5-20 from disadvantaged backgrounds: teaching Hawaiian language, culture, traditions and sustainability.

 Where did I find inspiration for this film? I was on the island of Kauai to shoot another film that was unexpectedly cancelled. I just happened to be on a beach one day and noticed Kaina Makua out of the corner of my eye. He was teaching a group of kids how to use an outrigger canoe. There was something about him that drew me closer. I went over and asked to be introduced and that was it. He was immediately compelling, inspirational, funny, smart and above all compassionate about teaching these kids. He invited my film crew of 2 and I to come and see his team compete the next day in an outrigger race, which led to another day at his farm and this short documentary “I am Kanaka” was born.

 This is my second film that I made on a shoestring budget of £7000. I came to filmmaking later in life at 50 so I’m very happy that this ‘accidental’ film came about. I was keen to weave the history and Kaina’s powerful story into a visually beautiful film with an emotional music score. I also intentionally created this film with a ‘family friendly’ rating as I wanted a broader audience to see a positive example of how one person can truly change the course of the future. I hope you enjoy watching ‘I am Kanaka’.

Originally from Sydney, Australia, Genevieve trained professionally as an actor with Hugh Jackman at WAAPA - ranked as one of the top 30 Drama Schools Drama in the world. She went on to appear in commercials, films and TV shows such as Home & Away over the next 10 years. A lateral move into the corporate world saw her living and working in China, Singapore, the U.S and Europe. She returned to the film industry in 2018 graduating with a Masters in Film & TV Producing.

 Genevieve founded Salty Paradise Productions and is now based in London, UK. Her documentaries have garnered 63 wins during international film festivals in 2023 and 2024. She’s also been employed as a development producer at Chalkboard TV in London and pitched projects to Channel 5 and BBC.

Key Cast

Other Credits

Camera/Drone: Marius Van Graan

Sound: Ruben D Morales

Post Production: Alchemy Post Melbourne

Sound Design: Street Sound Melbourne

Editor: Genevieve Sulway, Tina Imahara, Steven Robinson ASE

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