A Candle Lights The Heart - Film

A documentary film by Shinnyo-en Hawaii

*Official Selection*
ReelHeART 2015!

Accolade Global Film Competition Award
Award of Excellence: Asian American

The 48th WorldFest-Houston
Remi award: Documentary Feature

Official Selection
Milan IFF 2015


Official Selection
San Antonio Film Festival

36th Annual TELLY Awards
2015 Bronze Award: Religion/Spirituality

Hawaii International Film Festival
2015 Official Selection

Los Angeles Cinefest
2015 Official Selection


Sunrise Film Festival 2015
Best Director - Nominee

Sunrise Film Festival 2015
Best Cinematography - Nominee

Russian International Film Fest
Official Selection

2016 Star Doc Fest
Official Selection 

Official Trailer



Every Memorial Day thousands of people come together on a beach in Honolulu, Hawai'i — in Ala Moana Beach Park — to float candle-lit lanterns as an hommage to loved ones who have passed away. People are encouraged to write messages of love and remembrance to those who are gone while extolling life and connection. Hence the theme of the event, Many Rivers, One Ocean.

While the ritual originated from the spiritual practice of Shinnyo-en (a religious movement in the tradition of the Daigo branch of the Shingon school of Japanese Buddhism) developed by its late founder Shinjo Ito, the event was created for people of all beliefs. Originating in Japan, the ceremony was carried on to Hawai'i through its current leader Shinsho Ito.

Having witnessed the beauty and grandeur of the event, a longtime veteran of Shinnyo-en, Shinji Kondo, decided to make a feature documentary A Candle Lights the Heart that not only records the one-day event but, by focusing on five families who have participated in the ceremony, demonstrates how the experience helps people cope with grief and loss as well as provides an opportunity to celebrate as well.

A Candle Lights the Heart follows these five families as they tell stories of those who they lost, how their grief impacted on their lives, and how the ceremony has helped them deal with their loss.

Through compassion and redemption, all the participants in the ceremony are shown as they are able to achieve a moment of reflection while sharing the experience with the thousands who attend this yearly ceremony.

The film not only focuses on these five families, it also describes the ritual, its history, and the process of producing this ever-expanding event. It also showcases the beautiful and expressive music that provides a soundtrack and aural landscape that highlights the experience.

Watch On Demand

iTunes US

iTunes Canada



Honolulu Film Awards
2016 Aloha Accolade Winners

*Official Selection*
ReelHeART 2015!

Accolade Global Film Competition Award
Award of Excellence: Asian American


The 48th WorldFest-Houston
Remi award: Documentary Feature

36th Annual TELLY Awards
2015 Bronze Award: Religion/Spirituality

2015 Sunrise Film Festival
Best Director - Nominee


2015 Sunrise Film Festival
Best Cinematography - Nominee



These are the people in the film who tell their stories of loss, grief, compassion, redemption and, finally, peace.

The Wagners

Anita and Josh, lost their young son to cancer. They passionately support a variety of causes related to cancer research and have found the ceremony a special opportunity to remember their son. After the ceremony, they established a foundation to benefit children with cancer.

The Wegers

Greg and patricia lost their first son, Michael, in the iraq war so they came to both mourn and celebrate him. They have also worked towards helping others who share the same experience.


Hideko Hosoda

She is a woman who lost a dear friend in the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami which took place March 11th, 2011. She now runs marathons to further remember both friend and all the victims of that devastating natural event.

The Johnsons

Bob lost his wife to cancer and the daughter alicia Johnson who lost a mother. Both fight their grief and anger at losing someone so important to them far too early in life. They are here on this beach to both remember her and celebrate the life she celebrated.

The Steinhoffs

Kathy and Shawn lost their 21-year-old athlete son in a fatal skateboard accident. He had been a local sports figure but made this one error — not wearing a helmet and paid with his life. His mother Kathy Steinhoff now has tried to get helmet laws passed, donates them to kids and raises money for helmet safety.



Click on the photos to view a larger image.




Born In 1969, Tokyo, Japan. Directed and produced by first-timer Shinji Kondo, this full-length documentary feature based on the Lantern Floating Hawai’i Ceremony of 2012-2014 not only tells of the event but it also shows how families cope with tragedy and build a community to help them in deal with the future. In the process of filmmaking, he first had to learn how to edit, so it took him two years. A longtime follower of Shinnyo-en, he took his passion for the movement to such lengths as to create this film.


Born in La Paz, Mexico in March of 1969. With the beauty of Hawai'i as his palate, Ruben has fine tuned his skills as a Director of Photography over the years and has won numerous awards, including the audience award for Best Short Film at the Hawai'i International Film Festival for the doc Mana I Ka Leo. His photography has been seen in magazines across the globe and he has an image at the Smithsonian for his work with the Merrie Monarch Festival.

SCRIPTWRITER: Robert Pennybacker

Executive Producer of Learning Initiatives, PBS Hawai'i is a filmmaker who was lured back to television. Pennybacker is a master storyteller, writer, producer, director and marketing consultant, who is involved with production, programming and online content.

MUSIC SUPERVISOR: Nakawaki Masahiro:

Born on September 15th, 1963 in Nagoya, Japan, Nakawaki Masahiro produced music for TV and radio commercials while studying at the university. He worked for Yamaha Music Foundation as a popular music education director, where he researched and studied musical teaching methods and trained instructors. After moving to Tokyo, he has been a recording engineer and producer, developing music for many artists. Not only that, he has produced music for movies, commercials and events. Mr. Nakawaki also works in many fields such as event-planning, writing articles, giving lectures and so on. 


Producer, Director & Editor Shinji Kondo
Writer Robert Pennybacker
Directors of Photography Ruben Carrillo
Additional cameras Ken Libby Bill Paris Gene Koise
Producers Atsushi Matsunaga Craig Yamamoto
Dawn Kaniaupio Ted Jung Jr. Stuart Yamane
Online Editor & Graphics Daniel Bernardoni
Additional Mixer Makoto Imamura
Additional Recording Mixers Ross Okamura David Tucciarone
Musical Producer Cary Hayashikawa
Music Supervisor Masahiro Nakawaki, Innovation Creative Inc.
Soundtrack Composer Marina Suzuki
Sound Editor Satomi Mitsuhashi
Recording Engineer Eiji Suzuki, Innovation Creative Inc.
Audio Post-Production Maruni Studio


Lantern Floating

The Lantern Floating Hawai‘i Ceremony is conducted on Memorial Day every year at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, where upwards of 40,000 people gather to pray for global peace and mutual understanding, sharing a feeling of community among the diversity of people there.

This event attracts more than 40,000 spectators every year, including many attendees from the mainland U.S. and European countries.

Broadcast live on a local TV channel, this ceremony touches the hearts of the audience as they watch the lanterns gently float out to the ocean, cutting across racial, religious, and cultural boundaries.

Her Holiness Shinso Ito, head of Shinnyo-en, officiated the inaugural Lantern Floating Hawai’i ceremony on Memorial Day, 1999. For the first three years, the event was held at Ke'ehi Lagoon on the south shore of O'ahu. In 2002, the ceremony was moved a few miles down the coast to Ala Moana Beach where it has been observed every year since.

Hawaii Lantern Floating: lanternfloatinghawaii.com

Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace (New York): bealightforpeace.org



Screenings & Festivals

ReelhART film festval - World Premiere

Wednesday July 08, 2015 at 4pm

Magic Lantern Carlton Cinema
20 Carlton St
Toronto, ON M5B 2H5

Buy Tickets:


Tenerife International Film festival

Wednesday July 08, 2015 at 1:20 pm