Sharks and Us: Free Webinar Presents Short Film about Humanity’s Relationship with Sharks through Unique Hawaiian Lense
KIHEI – Google search news for tiger sharks, and you’re most likely to see the latest headlines about unfortunate run-ins between these animals and people – especially on Maui. The Hawaiian Islands are infamous for these toothy apex predators, and Maui is home to the most tiger sharks of all the islands.
But rewind about a thousand years, and you’d find a society with a different view of these animals. The ancient Hawaiians revered sharks, called manō, recognizing their potential danger but admiring their strength and role in marine ecosystems. In fact, many Hawaiian families denoted sharks as ‘aumakua, personal or family gods that originated as a deified ancestor, which takes on physical forms.
This evolving relationship is the focus of a new animated short film, Manō, which will be presented and discussed during Maui Nui Marine Resource Council’s next Know Your Ocean Speaker Series webinar, which is supported by the County of Maui. Brittany Biggs, director and producer of Manō, will lead the screening and discussion of the film, along with cultural advisors Mike and Kaikea Nakachi.
“One of my primary goals with Manō is to present a cultural perspective to shark conservation by sharing the relationship between sharks and Native Hawaiians, in which these animals are revered and loved as family,” said Biggs. “My hope is that this film will illustrate how vulnerable sharks are and inspire people to protect them.”
The film, which is about 10 minutes long, follows humankind’s relationship with these animals through the eyes of a tiger shark in Hawaii’s ever-changing waters. From the ancient Hawaiians’ first settlement of the islands to the present day, viewers will get a specialized view of how these animals are both revered, feared, and even killed in a world of once-pristine seas to an ocean now desecrated with pollution and capitalized as an economic resource through activities such as shark finning.
“It’s no secret that sharks are vital for healthy oceans,” said Meredith Beeson, Project and Research Coordinator at Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “And unfortunately it’s well known that these animals are declining rapidly. We hope this webinar and film spark more compassion and understanding for these important and misunderstood animals.”
About Brittany Biggs:
Brittany Biggs is an animation professional, filmmaker, artist, and educator. She is currently a Previz / Rough Layout Artist at DreamWorks Animation. Her animation feature film screen credits include DreamWorks’ Trolls, Kung Fu Panda 3, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Turbo. Prior to her recent return to DreamWorks, she was an Assistant Professor of 3D Animation at the Academy for Creative Media at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. In August 2020, she was selected as one of 102 fellows for the Unreal Fellowship in Virtual Production.
About Mike and Kaikea Nakachi:
Mike and Kaikea Nakachi from the Big Island are cultural practitioners, and they are descendants of Hawaiian kahu manō, or “shark guardians.” They are devoted to the study and preservation of sharks. Mike and Kaikea have been providing feedback and guidance relating to the story, manō ‘aumakua, character designs, and visuals. They advocated for years for the state to pass a law protecting sharks, and on June 8, 2021, Hawaii House Bill 553 was passed, which establishes an offense for intentionally or knowingly capturing, entangling, or killing a shark in state marine waters.