Project Brief: The Bridge
Will young Pono’s knowledge be enough to help save his Christian mother’s life during her chance encounter with the Hawaiian Night Marchers, a troop of ghostly apparitions?
Pono, a tenacious seven-year-old Hawaiian boy, lives with his family in a five-story tree house, deep in the rainforest of Hawaii’s Manoa Valley. By spending time with his native Hawaiian father and through the process of cultural transmission the boy learns about his ancestral roots and Hawaiian history. For generations, encounters with armed spirit warriors or Hawaiian night marchers (huak’i po) believed to be coming to and from ancient battle have occurred on the family homestead, inspiring profound spiritual experiences for those who have witnessed the primeval Hawaiian ghosts.
Pono, the youngest of three boys, is the heir of family traditions and his father’s Hawaiian culture, at least in his father’s eyes. Pono’s Caucasian mother, Rachel, is never fully able to embrace the family practices and customary beliefs. After a tragic event, however, Rachel is forced to remain in a life that she has come to despise, on land that she has refused to embrace and in a culture that she’s never been able to fully appreciate. Can Rachel reconcile her guilt and grief and ultimately bridge the gap between Christianity/religion and Hawaiian spirituality through Pono’s cultural knowledge, the son she blames for her family’s tragic event?
When I was young my family suffered a tragic loss. To this day, the events that surrounded the untimely death of my 18-year-old brother remain elusive. I have resigned myself to the fact that I may never know whether his death was accidental or intentional. The loss was catastrophic for my family altering the course of everyone’s lives. For me though, the loss was particularly devastating as Brian, and I were inseparable.
I would watch and learn over time, though, just how overwhelming, and insurmountable the loss was to my mother. From the exact moment in time that tragedy cast its dark and ugly shadow over my family, all our lives became increasingly crippled by guilt, grief, remorse, and shame none more than my mother. Twenty-three years after the loss of my brother, my mother succumbed to her inability to reconcile her agonizing pain over the loss of her second-born son and died of a broken heart at 61.
Out there in this great big world, pain, loss, guilt, grief, tragedy, and trauma is some of life’s most challenging experiences. The capacity for human beings to survive and potentially thrive through seemingly impossible obstacles is life-changing if one can survive such encounters.
In agony, I witnessed my mother’s inability to reconcile her guilt and grief over the tragic and untimely loss of Brian. The Bridge is an exploration of what could have been if only my mother could have taken that small step toward forgiveness of herself and her son. If only my mother could have found hope in her family and in our future. If only she could have found a way in her heart to embrace those left behind and push on with life.
More about Hawaiian Night Marchers:
According to Hawaiian legend, night marchers (huaka‘i po in Hawaiian) are ghosts of ancient warriors. They are known to roam large sections of the island chain and can be seen by groups of torches. They can usually be found in areas that were once large battlefields (the Nu’uanu Pali on the island of Oahu is a good example.) Legend has it that if you look a night marcher straight in the eye, you will be forced to walk among them for eternity, but if you have a relative previously taken by them, you will be spared. Some say that when in the presence of night marchers, one should lie down on their stomach, face down to avoid eye contact, stay quiet, breathe shallowly, and don’t move. Some say that they may nudge you to provoke a reaction so they can take you. Night Marchers are said to roam through very specific locations and are often recognized by their raised torches and repeated olis, or chants. Although there have been a few scattered reports of daytime marches, these apparitions appear to be most active at night and are said to march on certain nights designated by the moon. And although the Night Marchers allegedly float a few inches off the ground, some local accounts tell of seeing mysterious footprints in their path after they have passed.
The Bridge won 27 international awards