Koolauloa Talents Join Forces On Anime Documentary Series

The word ikigai means “reason for living” in Japanese. Everyone has one — and sometimes one person’s ikigai can help someone else find her own. Those are the stories Sariah Howard likes best.

“We want to find stories of everyday people who have found their ikigai, or their purpose, and can help others discover or move forward on their own journey,” Howard said. She founded Ikigaid last year to serve as a hub for sharing these kinds of stories, whether in the form of blogs or short videos.

Now the Hauula resident is taking the next step to start a full-length documentary series.

“About three years ago, the idea came to put together a series — kind of like a TV show — that had a common theme throughout the series but highlighted individual stories or projects that (people are) working on,” she explained.

Titled Winds of Change, the project’s first episode in production now, focusing on the efforts of Elements4Change, a coalition group working to improve living conditions for villages in Ghana, Africa. “They’re creating a pilot program to bring water, education, agriculture and energy or light to villages that don’t have those basic elements.”

Different members of Elements4Change bring unique expertise to the table: one member focuses on special fertilizer that helps plants grow with one-third the water, and another helped develop a drill for wells that is easy to transport on Ghana’s bumpy roads.

Howard and fellow Hauula resident Umi Jensen traveled with Elements4Change in May to Ghana to begin documenting the project’s progress. This trip focused on finding a village to use as a pilot site for the project, so the duo focused on observing with “eyes and ears and heart open” and getting their future documentary stars comfortable with being filmed.

They will return to Ghana at least twice more: in August to film and again next May to evaluate progress. In between these ventures, the pair will be building their documentary.

“Documentaries can get really drawn out, and I really want to ask the question: How can somebody create change right where they’re at? I think our real target market for that question is the age group between 18 and 35. A lot of individuals in that age group don’t take the time to watch documentaries because they get bored,” she said.

Winds of Change will mix things up by meshing anime elements with the documentary genre. An original anime character named Makani — designed by Kahuku High student Kuyo Ulii — will keep things lively by moving in and out of scenes, narrating events in a way intended to be more dynamic.

Howard predicts that the final product won’t be ready until late next year. The team, meanwhile, is trying to find a network distributor and plans to post short vignettes about Ghana on ikigaid.com throughout the year.

The team is planning more fundraisers to help pay future travel costs and to help fund a $1,500 four-room school for one of the villages. For updates, visit facebook.com/windsofchangedocumentary.