A soft-spoken Janitor, frustrated with cleaning up after an endless parade of tourists in Waikīkī, reflects on a traumatizing memory that stirs a voice from within. Down On the Sidewalk in Waikīkī is a narrative short film inspired by a collection of poetry published posthumously featuring the work of Hawaiian poet Wayne Kaumualii Westlake (1947-84).
Throughout his brief life and literary career, Wayne Kaumualii Westlake created an expansive body of work, his style influenced by his Taoist philosophies and imbued with the struggles of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) living in the late 20th century dealing with issues of American colonialism and its effects, past, present, and future.
At the moment of his untimely death in 1984, Westlake was at the pinnacle of his poetic career, yet unfortunately, the only collection of his poems available was a 32-page, limited edition chapbook independently published by a small press. Beginning in 2000, Westlake’s former companion and literary executor, Mei-Li M. Siy, along with his long time friend, Richard Hamasaki, gathered together, documented and organized many of his published and unpublished works that had been stored for years in a shed near Mei-Li’s former home. In 2009, Siy and Hamasaki published over 200 of his poems in an anthology Westlake: Poems by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake (University of Hawaiʻi Press).
Within this body of work is a series of 26 poems entitled “Down on the Sidewalk in Waikīkī,” which Westlake wrote while he worked as a janitor in Waikiki from 1972 - 1973. In his words, “experiences ran from everything to everything - I wrote poems to keep from going insane.”
With a very blunt, straight-forward, and unfiltered writing style, Westlake’s poetry from “Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki” is a heartfelt expression and brutally honest response to his experiences working as a Janitor in Waikīkī in the early 1970s. It’s a reflection on the condition of his native peoples, displaced and otherwise invisible in their own homeland, which in many ways still holds truth and relevance today.
Posthumously, Westlake’s manuscripts inspired the "Westlake Project:" In 2009, his published book was distributed internationally which inspired the 2013 “Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki” Poetry Scores CD featuring musicians and poets from Aotearoa to Argentina, from the Pacific Northwest to Guam, the east and west coasts of the U.S. to the Midwest, and here in Hawaii. Each band or musician chose one of the 26 poems to use the words as lyrics and created a track in the genre and style of their choosing. The result is a passionately composed soundtrack album that’s as eclectic as Westlake’s writing style. Several of these songs make an appearance in the short film as well as our Kickstarter video above.
In 2015, his book and the CD inspired an art exhibit also titled “Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki” at 'Iolani Gallery on the campus of Windward Community College in Kāneʻohe. Each of the art pieces in the exhibit were inspired by the words of each of the poems.
In 2017, a screenplay based on the poetry was conceived, and we were blessed with production funding through Pacific Islanders in Communications Digital Shorts Initiative. After a year of filming and post-production, our narrative short film, also titled Down on the Sidewalk in Waikīkī is in the final stages of post-production with the hopes to finish and release the film in early 2019.
As a loose adaptation of his work, this short narrative film seeks to carry forward Wayne Kaumualii Westlake’s voice and perspective, sharing the depth and breadth of his poetry through the magic of cinema.
We're nearly finished and need your help!
Each of your generous contributions will help to finalize the short film in its sweetening stages and will ensure this story gets a chance to travel far and wide. We’re happy to announce that our film is currently picture-locked and all we have left to do is color grade and create the final sound design and mix. Part of the money raised will go toward helping us complete these final stages.
The rest of the raised funds will help share the finished film locally, regionally, and internationally! There are thousands of film festivals all throughout the world, each having its own unique crowd, flavor, and prestige, and is a primary platform for independent films to be seen and experienced. Each of these festivals charge fees just to submit the film to be considered, which can add up very quickly. With your help, we’ll be able to submit Down on the Sidewalk in Waikīkī to more festivals, ultimately increasing the ability to share this story with more people. It’ll also give us the opportunity to travel to a few of these festivals and personally share our experience and story first-hand with other communities. With your contribution, you become an integral part of our story.
Mahalo, mahalo, mahalo for your support!
Risks and challenges
Our project has very little risk associated with it. The film is already shot and edited, which means we've already passed some of the most challenging and risky hurdles to making a movie. We just need some help paying for the final stages of post-production to really make this film all it can be. We plan to be completely finished by February 2019, so mahalo for anything you can contribute to help us push it past the finish line! Aloha.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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