Heather Haunani Giugni Honored for Preserving Hawaiian Films

She has been named “Kama‘āina of the Year” for her filmography and for founding the state’s film and video archive ‘Ulu‘ulu.


Heather Haunani Giugni standing in front of a screen of the ‘Ulu‘ulu archive.

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


Filmmaker Heather Haunani Giugni can’t wait to share her latest projects exploring Hawai‘i’s unique culture, food and arts. That storyteller’s passion helps to explain how she also founded the state’s film and video archives.


This year, her projects connect food and culture and include profiles of Native Hawaiian artists. Her film work, which began in the early 1980s when she spent six years working behind the scenes in the KGMB newsroom, became more focused in the mid-’80s, when she launched an independent production company to tell stories of the resurgence of Native Hawaiians—“People that just stepped up, stepped out and fought for whatever that single thing [was] that they believed in,” says Giugni (pronounced ju-knee). “For me, it was using the camera as a tool to make an impact in our kānaka maoli community and to make change happen wherever it could happen.”


She’s taken Hawai‘i’s diverse food history to a nationwide audience as the Emmy Award-winning executive producer of Family Ingredients, which began airing nationally on PBS with chef Ed Kenney in 2014. The third season debuts this summer.


“For me, it was using the camera as a tool to make an impact in our kānaka maoli community and to make change happen wherever it could happen.”

– Heather Haunani Giugni


Since 2006, Giugni has been executive producer of the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest broadcast. She has also created various Hawai‘i-based television series and documentaries that highlight the Native Hawaiian community.


Giugni’s career behind the camera began at a time when women rarely appeared in production film credits outside of hair and makeup. Few films focused on Indigenous issues. But by 1993, the U.S. government acknowledged and apologized for the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy a century before, and 20,000 people marched at ‘Iolani Palace, and interest in Hawaiian programming rose.


FAST FACT: Giugni’s first series, Enduring Pride: E Mau Ana Ka Ha‘aheo, in 1986-87 featured Hawaiians both in front of and behind the camera with host Karen Keawehawai‘i.


After the death of her father, who had served as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, Giugni pushed for the creation of an archive of Hawai‘i film and video resources. Inouye steered Congress to commemorate his friend with funds that in 2009 created ‘Ulu‘ulu: The Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawai‘i. It’s home to 70,000 films and video recordings that represent the history of Hawai‘i from the 1920s to the present, from home movies to professional productions. The fragile nature of film and video means that many images had already disintegrated or been dumped before the archive was formed to store them properly.


Historic Hawai‘i Foundation named Giugni its 2023 “Kama‘āina of the Year,” describing her as “the consummate dot-connector” and praising her vision to preserve a treasure trove for researchers, historians and storytellers. “They are priceless sources of information for all generations,” says foundation executive director Kiersten Faulkner.



Historic Hawai‘i Foundation will present the “Kama‘āina of the Year” award to Giugni at a May 13 fundraiser at The Royal Hawaiian hotel.


‘Ulu‘ulu: The Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawai‘i is closed to in-person visits until renovations are completed at the UH West O‘ahu library building that normally houses the collection. The archive remains accessible online. uluulu.hawaii.edu