The KoAloha Ukulele Story is an animated documentary film short about Hawaii’s very own Renaissance man and inventor Alvin Okami and his amazing story about how he changed his plastics company into one of the worlds most admired and respected ukulele companies.
I was really inspired by people’s reactions to our little animated film and how it was an opportunity for people to share their own personal stories and experiences about how they found the ukulele and found a connection to the Okami and KoAloha family. Because of the amazing response we had from the first film I touched base with Alvin’s son Alan Okami about the possibility of putting together a Part 2 to the animated film which would tell the story of their family after the miniature ukulele was made.
For part of the films process, I worked with people around the country and even in Great Britain who wanted to share their KoAloha Story. I even arranged for my personal HD video camera to be sent out or had them film themselves with their own high quality camera.
The process of crossing borders and building relationships with people who I had no contact with before except for their connection to KoAloha was rather quite powerful. Each person had a set of simple open questions to answer about their connection to KoAloha and their love of the ukulele. It was really that simple- Just tell your story. Sometimes we were even blessed to get a song or two on their KoAloha ukulele so much of the music from the interviews became the soundtrack to the film.
Part of this unique community style of filmmaking comes from years of working in the theater and building communities through this unique story telling process. I was fortunate enough to test it out with NYC based artist Taiyo Na using his beautiful song “Lovely to Me (Immigrant Mother)” and working with the Asian Arts Initiative community as the story gathers for the images to the song. I put the camera in the hands of the community and youth and they filmed their moms and grandmothers. It was really a moving experience. Lovely to Me (Immigrant Mother) premiered at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival and now has a home online at www.lovelytome.com where you can see the music video and documentary film as well as contribute your own photos to honor your mom.
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I hope this gives you an idea of the simple and profound concept of putting the camera in the hands of the community and why I feel passionately about the work of the KoAloha Story Film Series. My KoAloha Story is not only the story of the Okami family but it is your story too, a community story that makes up the larger KoAloha Ohana. It reminds us to never forget our stories, to never forget where we came from “warts and all” because life at it’s most honest and vulnerable place of challenge and strife is where we see our true inner beauty, our humanity.
I have been very blessed to be sort of a conductor of this KoAloha Symphony of Stories. I have had the humble honor of making two documentary films about Papa KoAloha and the Okami family that I hope captures the heart of what KoAloha does best and that’s sending love out to the world with their beautiful instruments.
Papa KoAloha’s story was just the seed. And I hope that you can help me by continuing to be a part of this oral history project which does not end with the film but continues with the start of the KoAloha TalkUlele Story Collection, the first online archive of Talk Story-Ukulele histories right here at www.koalohastory.com. Whether you are a novice ukulele player or master, or just a person with a story to tell, please share and be a part of this project. This is an opportunity to share your story and to celebrate a unique and inspirational ukulele company and to add your story to the KoAloha Ohana.
Many thanks for supporting KoAloha and the work of these films. I encourage you to sign up and be a subscriber. We will be celebrating the work of the KoAloha films by screening them through this dedicated website and posting never before seen stories and short films right here. So stay tuned!
Mucho Maholos to all! I look forward to hearing from you soon!