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  • Nov 3-5

Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey

wayfinders of polynesia film

wayfinders of polynesia film

Cen­turies before Euro­pean explor­ers ven­tured beyond their shore­lines, the ances­tors of today’s Poly­ne­sians had sailed to every hab­it­able island in the far cor­ners of the Pacif­ic. This ancient Poly­ne­sian sea voy­ag­ing tra­di­tion comes to life again in Wayfind­ers: A Pacif­ic Odyssey.  The film sweeps view­ers into a sea­far­ing adven­ture with a com­mu­ni­ty of Pacif­ic Islanders as they build tra­di­tion­al sail­ing canoes, learn how to fol­low the stars across the ocean and embark on a 2,000-mile voy­age in the wake of their ances­tors. As with many indige­nous peo­ples, the cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty of Poly­ne­sians has become obscured by west­ern belief sys­tems, his­to­ry and eco­nom­ics.  Film­mak­er Gail Eve­nari focus­es on the revival of one area of this deeply root­ed cul­ture: “wayfind­ing” — the art of nav­i­gat­ing a canoe across long dis­tances using only nat­ur­al signs: the sun, the moon, the stars and the ocean swells.

Through on-board inter­views, train­ing ses­sions, archival images and breath­tak­ing sail­ing footage, Wayfind­ers: A Pacif­ic Odyssey reveals how the lega­cy of wayfind­ing con­nects mod­ern Poly­ne­sians to their past and helps them face the chal­lenges of the future. The islanders embark on a wayfind­ing jour­ney using oral tra­di­tions, archae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies and exper­i­men­tal voy­ages. Along the way, these tech­niques help them resolve con­tro­ver­sial issues in their his­to­ry and reclaim their cul­tur­al her­itage as skilled ocean­ic explor­ers.

The ori­gins of the Poly­ne­sians have fas­ci­nat­ed explor­ers and his­to­ri­ans for hun­dreds of years. Wayfind­ers: A Pacif­ic Odyssey address­es the issue from a Poly­ne­sian point of view and chal­lenges some com­mon­ly accept­ed the­o­ries, includ­ing Thor Heyerdahl’s claim that the first Poly­ne­sians drift­ed from South Amer­i­ca.

To the Pacif­ic Islanders, wayfind­ing has more sig­nif­i­cance than the act of sail­ing from one island to anoth­er. Nain­oa Thomp­son is the first Hawai­ian in hun­dreds of years to learn the ancient skills and spir­i­tu­al dimen­sion of celes­tial nav­i­ga­tion. Since he began study­ing with Microne­sian nav­i­ga­tor Mau Piailug about 20 years ago, Thomp­son has become a mas­ter in his own right. He has nav­i­gat­ed more than 50,000 miles to most of the major island groups of Poly­ne­sia.  By teach­ing wayfind­ing to oth­er Pacif­ic Islanders, Thomp­son has begun the process of recov­er­ing the spir­it and prac­tice of ances­tral sea­far­ing tra­di­tions. Wayfind­ers: A Pacif­ic Odyssey con­cludes as stu­dent nav­i­ga­tors sail six canoes from the Mar­que­sas Islands to Hawaii. The cul­mi­na­tion of years of canoe build­ing, train­ing crews and nav­i­ga­tors, and orga­niz­ing logis­tics and safe­ty pre­cau­tions, the 2,000-mile voy­age is a stun­ning suc­cess.

Run­ning time: 47 min­utes