Hanapepe Massacre documentary to explore a dark day in Hawaii’s labor history

Updated: Oct. 18, 2019 at 5:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Old newspaper articles and grainy photographs tell just part of the story of what happened on Kauai on Sept. 9, 1924.

Striking Filipino sugarcane workers clashed with sheriff’s deputies in what’s called the Hanapepe Massacre.

“It was a horrendous event,” said Stephanie J. Castillo, an award-winning documentary filmmaker.

Four deputies and 16 Filipinos were killed. The deputies were identified. The workers’ identities remain unknown.

"I think it's important to Filipinos," Castillo said. "It's important to the community to honor the dead no matter what the background story is."

She is working on a documentary called the "Hanapepe Murder Mystery."

It coincides with a research effort to find the grave that holds the workers’ remains.

"They're all committed to finding the grave, finding who's buried there, and creating a marker for the anniversary in 2024," Castillo said.

Researchers will use ground-penetrating radar to look for a line of caskets or a mass grave in the Hanapepe Filipino Cemetery, where a crumbling concrete marker shows the date of the massacre.

The hope is the effort will eventually lead to the identities of the Filipino workers.

“It’s important for the researchers to name the people who are there to really complete the narrative, to complete the story,” Castillo said.

She wants to finish her documentary by the massacre’s 100-year anniversary date. The film will include re-enactments of the events and insights into court documents and historical records about the violent clash.

"It's like the story itself wants to have a life," she said.

Castillo will launch a GoFundMe account to help pay for the making of the film that she says will answer questions about the massacre that has been shrouded in mystery.

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