A scene from WAYFINDERS, directed by Gail K. Evenari for PBS.

Wayfinders (1998, Gail K. Evenari)

Wayfinders is half history lesson–maybe a third history lesson, to be more accurate–and then the remaining turns out to be about a seafaring attempt. A number of Pacific Islanders have learned the ancient seafaring navigation practices and, in giant canoes, sail from the Marquesas Islands to Hawaii.

Only director Evenari kind of keeps that development a secret at the beginning. Wayfinders only runs an hour and Evenari does have to lay the groundwork–a history of the Polynesian people (specifically their ocean navigation). She clearly knows the later story of these 20th century guys navigating with ancient practices is more compelling, but she barely touches on it. Maybe the last fifteen minutes.

It’s somehow the point of Wayfinders, but not where she concentrates her attention.

Regardless, the documentary works. These people’s stories are way too enthralling–against the beautiful imagery. It’s just they deserve more than thirty minutes.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written, produced and directed by Gail K. Evenari; directors of photography, Ray Day, Robert Elfstrom and Stephen Lighthill; edited by Yasha Aginsky and Nathaniel Dorsky; music by Mark Adler; aired by the Public Broadcasting Service.

Starring Patrick Steward (Captain James Cook) and Geoff Hoyle (Andrew Sharp); narrated by Napuanalani Cassidy.

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