New research for a documentary on the Hanapepe Massacre could unravel new information

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — One of Hawaii’s most tragic mass killings is a cloudy mystery, but new research into the Hanapepe Massacre is hoping to find details nearly 100 years later.

On September 9 of 1924, 16 sugar cane workers and four police deputies were killed during a melee in Hanapepe. The exact cause of the fight has never been determined. The workers were buried in an unmarked grave, which local filmmaker Stephanie J. Castillo is looking to find in a new documentary which began filming Saturday, Sept. 28.

“We were trying to research what were the political and social forces that led to the Hanapepe Massacre happening. Also, we’ve been trying to locate the graves of the 20 people who passed away in the riot. There were 16 Filipino laborer plantation workers that were on strike and four deputized sheriffs that died during the conflict,” said Michael Miranda of the Filipino American National Historical Society.

More than 100 workers involved in the strike that day were put in jail.

The documentary will be called “The Hanapepe Massacre Mystery”. The plan is to complete the documentary to air on PBS in five years for the 100th anniversary of the massacre.

Kauai researchers include former Kauai Film Commissioner Randy Francisco of Hanapepe, who is President of the Kauai Philippine Cultural Center; actor and director Mark Jeffers of Storybook Theatre of Hawaii in Hanapepe; retired history professor Andrew Bushnell of Kapaa who has taught and lectures on this history; and Christopher Ballesteros, a Kauai native now living in Boston. Ballesteros wrote a 100-plus page history thesis for his Harvard undergraduate degree on the massacre.

The mission of the FANHS, which has 35 chapters across the country, is to promote understanding, education, enlightenment, appreciation and enrichment through the identification, gathering, preservation and dissemination of the history and culture of Filipino Americans in the United States. FANHS has agreed to be the documentary’s fiscal sponsor to provide oversight over donations made to the project and to issue tax receipts. It was founded in 1982 in Seattle. For more information on the Hawaii chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society, click here.

Castillo, who’s from Kaua’i and is a former Honolulu Star-Bulletin news reporter before becoming an independent filmmaker, returned to her home island in July after six years on the mainland where she worked on her last documentary film about a New York City jazz great. She is now based on Kauai,  but her ‘Olena Productions company had been previously based in Honolulu for 30 years, where she made more than 10 award-winning documentary films. She has partnered with filmmakers in Honolulu, New York, Connecticut, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and in Europe.

For more information about filmmaker Stephanie J. Castillo, click here.

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