In what may be the first television sitcom about a fictional Pacific Island nation, the series Diplomatic Immunity launched in Aotearoa to mixed reviews. The “bold, quirky and politically incorrect comedy” from South Pacific Pictures (Sione’s Wedding, Whale Rider) follows the misadventures at the consulate of The Most Royal Kingdom of Feausi.
The indefatigable David Fane (Brotown, Siones Wedding) stars as Jonah Fa’auigaese, a self-styled Polynesian potentate with penchant for colonial-style sartorial splendor, who is out to bamboozle kiwi diplomat Leighton Mills, played by Craig Parker (Lord of the Rings), a Foreign Affairs fallen high-flier who’s been sent in to deal with corruption at the consulate.
Spasifik Magazine says the casting of Lesley-Ann Brandt as Jonah’s daughter, the beautiful Leilani Fa’auigaese, has raised eyebrows: “While she has the look of a Polynesian beauty, she is in fact South African.”
Dominion Post reviewer Jane Clifton says the premise may be funnier than the dialogue.
“So is it any good? Yes, in a curious way. So far, there are not many laugh-out-loud moments … the laughs it generates are more for its subtleties – the ironies in the plot, the quite believable farce of the diplomacy involved.”
Audience comments ranged from
“a total and delightful crackup” to “like watching the worst seventies comedy you remember on Valium”.
Veteran New Zealand filmmaker Annie Goldson’s documentary about a fatal hate crime in Fiji won the Grand Prix at the 6th Pacific Documentary Film Festival (FIFO, Festival International du Film Océanien) in Tahiti.
An Island Calling (Murder in the Pacific) is a “post-colonial” story about the brutal double murder of a gay male couple, one of who was a human rights worker, in Fiji in mid-2001. The film explores the social, historical and political currents underlying the killing in post-coup Fiji.
Buy the DVD at Occasional Productions.
An Island Calling gets top award
Set in a rural Maori community in the Hokianga region of Northland in Aotearoa (New Zealand), The Strength of Water is the story of Maori twins Kimi and Melody, who are forced apart when a mysterious stranger arrives in their small town.
The film features Nancy Brunning (Crooked Earth, When Loves Comes) and a cast of locals. The project was developed at the Sundance and Binger workshops.
Directors James Sereno and Alex Munoz work with incarcerated youth at Hawai’i Youth Correctional Facility to create original films (faces are blurred to protect the kids’ indentities).
Photo: Liza Simon for Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Chamorro filmmaker Alex Munoz brings his pioneering program, Films by Youth Inside (FYI), to Hawai’i. Twelve teens made two movies in two weeks. The films will screen in Honolulu in early March.
Incarcerated youth get new focus on life through ﬁlm
Ka Wai Ola, Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Troubled teens make movies
Guam’s first indigenous feature film is billed as a fully independent, do-it-yourself movie that stretches the limits of no-budget production.
Chamorro brothers Don and Kel Muña wrote, shot, chopped and acted in Shiro’s Head: The Legend, based on their original short story.
Director Don Muña plays Vince Flores, an outcast with a dark past attempting to reconcile his father’s death and a history of family secrets.
Made on a “no strings” budget with volunteer cast and crew, the production relied almost entirely on donations and goodwill during the three-month shoot.
The soundtrack features Guam artists Rebel Lion, D.U.B, Brandi Jae, Island Trybe, Virtuoso and Matala and others.
The film premiered on Guam and is currently on the festival circuit with screenings at Hawai’i International and Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival.
Indie is remarkable feat filmed on Guam
Honolulu Star Bulletin
In a world where hundreds of indigenous languages are dead or facing extinction there is a bright, shining hope: Kohanga Reo, Maori “language nests”.
Veteran filmmaker Tainui Stephens documents the ground-breaking indigenous educational movement, and the woman behind it, in a feature documentary screening at ImageNative, the Toronto native arts festival.
Kohanga Reo is based on the simple but powerful principle of totally immersing pre-school children in native language and values. After 25 years, the program is recognized worldwide as a turning point for revival of Maori language and culture and an inspiration for language survival programs worldwide.
The model has been replicated successfully in other native communities, including Hawaiian Punana Leo.
Let My Whakapapa Speak
16 Oct 08, 1:00PM
Al Green Theatre
They are the two magic words in the story of how a struggling Maori language was pulled back from the brink of extinction: ‘kohanga reo’.
Mink was the first woman of color to serve in the US House of Representatives and co-authored Title IX, the landmark legislation that opened up higher education and athletics to American women.
Dubbed “Patsy Pink” for her unabashed liberal democratic views during the Vietnam War, she served in Congress for 24 years championing the rights of women, workers, immigrants and the poor.
Ahead of the Majority: The Life and Times of Patsy Mink traces the little-known story of the trailblazing dynamo who changed American politics forever.
World Premiere – Sun 12 Oct 7:00pm
Encore Screening – Sat 18 Oct 3:00pm
Regal Theatres Dole Cannery 18
Other Pacific films at HIFF:
Vincent Ward’s Rain of the Children
Marshall Islands’ first feature Morning Comes So Soon
Anne Keala Kelly’s Noho Hewa: The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai’i
Sima Urale’s short Coffee and Allah
Rick Bacigalupi’s doc on Jason Scott Lee’s sustainable Big Island farm Living Pono
Five Pacific films are featured in National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival screening in Los Angeles and Washington DC during September and October 08:
Hawaikii – first dramatic short from Tainui/Te Arawa filmmaker Mike Jonathan about a young Maori girl’s first day at school
Guarding the Family Silver – Aotearoa’s Moana Maniapoto and Toby Mills (Moana & the Tribe) grapple with intellectual property issues in the global marketplace
Keao –short film about a young hula dancer’s struggle with commercialization of the dance, from first-time Hawaiian filmmaker Kaliko Spenser
Young, Gifted and Samoan – short doc featuring three Samoan youth creating music in San Francisco by Dionne Fonoti
Na ‘Ono o ka ‘Aina: Delicacies of the Land – in the lo’i (taro patch) with Hawaiian production team Joan & Puhipau of Na Maka o ka ‘Aina
Kiwi-Fijian director Toa Fraser’s second feature premiered at the Toronto Film Festival with a big cast, strong audience reception and generally positive reviews.
Fraser’s sophomore effort is located far from the South Pacific, where his first feature, No. 2 (released overseas as Naming Number Two), dealt with Pacific immigrants in contemporary urban Auckland.
Dean Spanley is a period piece based on the novel My Talks With Dean Spanley by Lord Dunsany. Set in Edwardian England, the film stars Jeremy Northam, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown and Peter O’Toole.
Paramount acquired Australian and NZ distribution rights.
Rave reviews for Fijian director’s second film
Kiwi-Fijian director Toa Fraser’s latest film ‘Dean Spanley’ has premiered to a standing ovation at the Toronto Film Festival.
New Zealand director Toa Fraser’s Dean Spanley overcomes an uncertain and sketchy opening section to register as a moving and visually wondrous evocation of magic and imagination.
It’s simple and lollipop sweet, but it’s not an Oscar-caliber movie and it’s unlikely to survive the long knives of those sour critics who save up their bloodlust for flicks like this.
A new movie about Hawai’i’s Princess Ka’iulani has become a flashpoint for Hawaiian historical, political and cultural grievances.
The Princess, who died young after her kingdom was overthrown by the United States in 1893, is the subject of a low budget independent feature currently in post-production.
Accusations of historical inaccuracies and cultural insensitivity have dogged the project since casting was announced in 2007. Controversy has flared over a range of issues: casting a non-Hawaiian actor in the lead role, filming at ‘Iolani Palace, problematic titles, and criticisms about an outsider’s interpretation of a cherished Hawaiian story.
Crown Princess Victoria Ka’iulani Cleghorn (1875-1899) was the daughter of Princess Likelike and Archibald Cleghorn, Scottish Governor of Oahu, and the niece of monarchs King David Kalakaua and Queen Lydia Lili’uokalani. She was heir to the Hawaiian throne, which was illegally overthrown by Americans while she was overseas at school in England. Ka’iulani returned to Hawaii and died of illness at age 23.
The $9 million dollar film is being made by first-time writer/director Marc Forby, British producer of low budget genre horror and thriller flicks including 29 Palms and Prom Night, the 2007 remake of the 80s teen slasher film. The project’s backer is London-based production company Matador Pictures, which produced the Irish Civil War film, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, winner of the 2007 Cannes Palme D’Or.
Forby decided to make his directorial debut with Ka’iulani’s story after seeing a portrait of the Princess at ‘Iolani Palace, followed by two years of research in Hawai’i and England.
The lead role will be shared by two actors. First-time Hawaiian student Kaimana Pa’aluhi plays the adolescent princess; 18 year-old Q’orianka Quilcher takes over as the older Ka’iulani. Quilcher gained attention as Pocahontas in Terrence Malick’s 2005 feature The New World, with Colin Farrell as English explorer John Smith. Her father is native Quechua from Peru, and her mother is Swiss.
The director jumped into the debate about casting a non-Hawaiian actor in the lead role, detailing his decision on the blog Newspaper Rock: Where Native America meets pop culture. Responding to a post titled “Pocahontas the Hawaiian princess,” Forby writes: “We searched for a Hawaiian actress for two years … In the end, Q’orianka got the role because of her acting ability. We’d rather people walk out of the theatre educated about the overthrow than saying ‘what a terrible actress’.”
Hawaiian musician Palani Vaughn turned down the role of King Kalakaua after rejecting a script he said was marred with cultural and historical inaccuracies, including behavior “unbefitting a princess” such as mouthing off at the king and getting into a violent altercation with her father. “A non-Hawaiian is trying to interpret in an un-Hawaiian way what he is supposing has happened,” said Vaughn, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.
The film’s original title, Barbarian Princess, was intended as an ironic nod to newspaper commentary of the era. After complaints from Hawaiians sensitive about being characterized as uncivilized, producers changed the title to The Last Princess, which was also criticized by Hawaiians who say the real “last princess” is Abigail Kawananakoa, living heir to the Hawaiian throne.
Also problematic is a Hollywood-style love interest. The script beefs up a purported romance with Clive Davies, son of Ka’iulani’s guardian Theo Davies, former British ambassador to Hawai’i. “The young Princess must choose between her true love and the responsibility that comes with her title,” says the Matador Pictures website – a scenario that makes some Hawaiians shudder. “The old ‘dark exotic woman falling in love with the rugged white man’ plot is not only insulting to me as a Hawaiian, but is an over done Disney story, not worthy of our Princess,” wrote Richard Kapuaala of Hayward, CA, commenting on a Star Bulletin article.
Early versions of the script included a sex scene, though there is no evidence that Princess – as both high-born ali’i and Victorian-era Christian – consorted with commoners or relinquished her virginity. Filmmakers say the offending scene was cut after complaints.
Filming on Oahu in March met with anger from several Hawaii state senators, who say the project should not receive state tax credits. Senator Clayton Hee wrote to the state film commission complaining about the “inaccurate and insensitive depiction, an extension of the treatment of others towards the host culture.” Hawai’i Film Commissioner Donne Dawson countered that she was impressed with Forby’s research and commitment to the project, and his use of Hawaiian language and culture consultants.
Concerns about the director’s credentials and budget also led to complaints about the “grade-C movie” with a $9 million budget, “chump change by Hollywood standards,” according to one newspaper commentary.
The film has sparked a flurry of online commentary, raising issues from the overthrow to racism, blood quantum and whether non-Hawaiians should be able to make movies about Hawaiian subjects. More than 200 comments were posted at Topix under the title Princess Ka’iulani film outrages some Hawaiians.
“When someone else tells OUR STORIES they can’t possibly ever really know where we are coming from,” moaned Sick & Tired in Kailua. “As far as the girl not being Hawaiian – well, how many Hawaiian girls tried out for the part? Since when does race supersede talent?” chimed in Kmakai of Santa Ana, CA.
Filmmaker Forby and his producer wife Leilani Estioko Forby, who grew up in Hawai’i, have appealed for a fair hearing. “We are all – the actors, the producers, the crew, everybody – working so hard to make this a good film for Hawaii,” she said on local channel KGMB.
The film is slated for release in 2009.
Filming begins on movie about Princess Kaiulani
Princess Ka’iulani film outrages some Hawaiians
Princess Ka’iulani Film Causing Stir
Hawai’i Film Blog
Senators seek overthrow of ‘Princess’ film tax help
Honolulu Star Bulletin