Featured Filmmaker: Sam George, Director of ‘Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau’

Sam George, Director of "Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau"

“Hawaiian” director Sam George

Sam George is a surfer, writer, director, and screenwriter probably best known for his work on Riding Giants (2004) directed by Stacy Peralta. According to Wikipedia, “Sam has traveled extensively throughout his career, having explored the coastlines of over 40 different countries and is credited with the discovery of new surf breaks in West Africa, the Andaman Islands and Madeira. Still very active in the surf George continues to compete in standup paddle races and tandem events, usually with his wife Nia Peeples as a partner.”

The Maui Film Festival team is very much looking forward to having Sam and other members of his film’s team at the festival this year, as we host the Hawai‘i premeire of his latest film Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau at Celestial Cinema on the festivals opening night, Wednesday, June 12th. The evening includes the screening of several other films (all with connections to Hawai‘i) and “Visionary Award” tributes to both Eddie Aikau and Nainoa Thompson. (Eddie’s award will be received posthumously by members of his family.)

Tickets for the evening can be pre-purchased online via our virtual Box Office.

We asked Sam a few questions and he shares his thoughts and feelings about making Hawaiian below. 

Q: How did Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau come about? 

A: In the summer of 2010 I was approached by producer/director Stacy Peralta, a close friend and collaborator, who asked me if I felt there was a good film in the story of Eddie Aikau. I told him no, there’s a great film, and that we should be the ones to make it.

Q: What inspired you to create the film?

A: When in 1967 I moved to Hawaii and discovered surfing my life changed forever. The opportunity to give something back to Hawaii, to show, even in a small way, my appreciation of Hawaiian culture, past and present, was perhaps the main motivation behind the making of this film.

Q: What was the most challenging part of creating this film?

A: The most challenging aspect of making this film was earning the trust of the remarkable cast of characters who shared their stories, their memories and their mana with us. Luckily I had already put in over 40 years of committed research toward the subject matter having, upon first moving to Hawaii in the late ’60s, taken an academic as well as active interest in both surfing and Hawaiian history.

Q: What type of experience do you hope the film will bring to viewers?

A: Many people are familiar with the legendary Eddie Aikau—we’ve all seen the bumper stickers. But hopefully our film succeeds in portraying the very human Eddie Aikau and by doing so casts him in an even more heroic role. Because make no mistake: Eddie Aikau was a true hero, and not because he rode big waves. He was a hero because he cared about others, risked his life for others, and ultimately gave his life for others.

Q: What do you think our Maui audiences will most appreciate about your film? 

A: Two things: My first hope is that the Maui audience will take away a better appreciation of the extraordinary cultural challenges faced by the Hawaiian people, both in the past and today. My second wish is that they gain a better appreciation of the role surfing has played in preserving and asserting Hawaiian cultural values; how important surfing really is to Hawaii, and subsequently, how influential that surfing culture has been to the rest of world.

Q: Do you have any prior connection to Maui? If so, please explain.

A: I’ve visited the Valley Isle a number of times over the years, deeply involved in exploits both dramatic and sublime. Which pretty much describes the entire Hawaiian experience.