Malama Ko Aloha

Thursday, May 17th, 2012
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Documentary shows the life of Aunty Nona Beamer

To the Beamer children, Winona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Beamer was “mom.” But to countless Kamehameha Schools graduates, as well as many others throughout Hawaii, “Aunty” Nona was a mentor, a living legacy and a cherished kapuna.

Though Beamer died April 10, 2008, at the age of 84, her influence lives on in a documentary, called “Malama Ko Aloha,” which means, “keep your love,” to premiere at the Seventh Annual Big Island Film Festival on opening night, April 24, thanks to the foresight of her children and the work of Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier, a filmmaker, director and producer who spent countless hours filming her.

“In Hawaii, we cherish our kapuna,” her son, Keola Beamer, said during an interview May 10. “It is important to hear their stories before it is too late. When a kapuna dies, a library disappears, which is why we must cherish our memories with them.”

Martinez Burgmaier also directed “Ki Ho Alu – Keola Beamer,” a documentary on the Grammy-nominated slack key guitarist, which won 11 awards in film festivals, and won an Emmy Award in 2007. Beamer and his wife, Moanalani, will be at the BIFF premiere showing. The title of the documentary on Nona came from sage advice she used to give.

“When we were growing up, Mom would remind us to ‘malama ko aloha,’” Keola Beamer. “That way, aloha would become more than a word, but a way of being in the world. We started thinking that way.”

Nona was born in Honolulu, but spent her childhood in Napoopoo. She was a teacher, songwriter, author and kumu hula. She taught for more than 40 years at Kamehameha Schools.

“It is very difficult to encapsulate the life of a human being, especially my mother’s life,” Keola said. “She led a life that made a huge difference in the world. Given the constraints of the medium and the time, I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Most of the interviews with Beamer were done at the Aloha Music Camp operated by Keola Beamer and family. The camp was originally on Molokai, but is now in Kona. Beamer said that as the years went by, he realized it was time to begin focusing on his mother’s life.

“It has to be someone you trust to tell the story,” Keola Beamer said about Martinez Burgmaier. “And Kenny was someone she trusted and was comfortable to talk with.”

Throughout Nona Beamer’s career at Kamehameha Schools and through her work in the community, she influenced many famous performers and artists, including

Dennis Kamakahi, Cyril Pahinui, Sonny Lim, Calvin Ho, and John Keawe. Martinez Burgmaier weaved the history of Nona Beamer with interviews of people whose lives she touched.

“Each one had a story on how Aunty Nona put them on a direction they wouldn’t have gone and changed their life and their focus,” Burgmaier said. “To this day, they stuck to that advice they got from her and it formed who they are. The rest is history.”

Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, Nona’s hanai (adopted) son, said of her that she shared her knowledge with anyone who came into her life and she had a unique ability to bring out the best in others, to recognize their gifts and talents and to help guide them to the path they should follow.

“It was the fact that she shared with an open hand what she knew about the aloha spirit and about love,” Beamer-Trapp said. “She will willing to share it with people far and near.”

Beamer-Trapp encourages viewers to watch the documentary with an “open mind and an open heart.”

“They will find something that they can take and improve their own lives and emulate some of what was taught,” Beamer-Trapp said.

The documentary will be shown at around 7:30 p.m. at The Shops at Mauna Lani, center stage. The movie is about an hour and 12 minutes long and the event is free.

Jan Sears, BIFF founder with her husband, Leo, called the documentary a “great film.”

“We normally don’t do documentaries, but this is something that has cultural significance,” Sears said. “Aunty Nona (the film) is one of those that you walk away feeling you know her. You truly understand why she is one of the treasures of aloha.” For more information on the film, visit