This afternoon I received a note from Jack Niedenthal, who is producing a film called “Ña Noniep” in the Marshall Islands. He was asking to use one of my songs, Freedom, Oh Freedom, in the movie.
I originally wrote and recorded Freedom, Oh Freedom with the youth of Alabama. It tells the story of Ezra Cunningham, who was a pioneer in Civil Rights and a member of their community. It was originally featured on Here I Stand: Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song. You can listen to a gospel recording of the song here.
Jack sent me the recording that he would be using in the movie, which you can listen to here. He also included more about the film and the Marshall Islands as well:
I am currently wrapping up production on a film I am making in the Marshall Islands. All the music in the film was performed by four 8th grade girls from the Majuro Cooperative School, of which I am a Board member. We are a private school and so we must constantly look for ways to raise money. I funded this movie out of my own pocket (also wrote, directed and produced, and yes, even acted). All proceeds from the film go to the school.
As we were wrapping up the recording of the Marshallese music we selected for the movie, the girls asked me if they could sing an English song they knew. They sang your song, Freedom, Oh Freedom. They did it so well I almost passed out while recording it….
“Ña Noniep” is a film about the spiritual battle between a ri-anijnij (an evil Marshallese witch) and a noniep (a Marshallese fairy) for the soul of a 13 year old boy, Liki.
Liki is an off-the-chart brilliant student who can solve math problems without using pencil or paper and who can read a thick novel in a few days. His goal is to attend high school in America…. Miko, Liki finds his life threatened by Miko’s evil grandmother, Lijimu, who is a woman known throughout the islands as a horribly diabolical witch. Lijimu casts a spell on Liki…. Only the noniep can help him, but first the noniep must overcome the enormous power of the evil Lijimu.
“Ña Noniep” is in Marshallese with English subtitles, and English. The film stars Randon Jack, Lulani Ritok, Kyle Trevor, Netha Gideon, Matiti Johnson, Alson Kelen and Sarah Enyeart. The film is scheduled to open at the K & K Theaters on March 6.[…]
The Marshall Islands are between Hawaii and Guam in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The entire country only has 50,000 people. The Marshall Islands are most famous for their use as a nuclear testing ground by the US in the 1940s and 1950s. All 4 of the girls singing your song and playing the ukulele are Bikini Islanders, whose families have been displaced by this
nuclear testing for over 60 years. More info on the US nuclear testing in the Marshall
Islands can be found here: http://www.bikiniatoll.com.
K & K theaters is a 3-plex theater (the only one in the Marshall Islands) who will show our film. The arrangement is that they get half of the $3 price of admission, and our school gets half. We are not talking about a lot of money here. Most people here get $2 an hour as wages….
It is indeed an honor to know that this song’s pure message transcends cultures and geographic borders even today. For more information about Ezra Cunningham or to hear him speak about his life, visit the Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song website.
Thank you to Jack Niedenthal for sending this to me, and a special thanks to the singers, Kery Ann Lejjena, Carly Ann Note, Lulani Note and Cinderella Lajidrik.