HOLLYWOOD HULA ::: Pacific Islander Film Hui

Ahead of the Majority

Posted in Events, Festivals, Film, People by hollywoodhula on October 10, 2008
Hawai'i congresswoman Patsy Mink

Hawai'i congresswoman Patsy Mink

Hawai’i filmmaker Kimberlee Bassford’s biographical documentary of pioneer Hawai’i congresswoman Patsy Mink premiers at Hawai’i International Film Festival.

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

Hawaiian ali’i gets Hollywood treatment

Posted in Film by hollywoodhula on August 27, 2008

Princess Ka'iulani movie poster

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
Honolulu Advertiser

Princess Ka’iulani film outrages some Hawaiians
Honolulu Advertiser

Princess Ka’iulani Film Causing Stir
Hawai’i Film Blog

Senators seek overthrow of ‘Princess’ film tax help
Honolulu Star Bulletin

Bustin Down the Door

Posted in Film by hollywoodhula on August 6, 2008

Big waves, quick boards, high stakes and culture clash stoke tensions in a new feature film documenting an explosive era in Hawaiian surfing history.

Bustin Down the Door chronicles the birth of pro surfing in the 1970s, which spawned a billion-dollar surf industry and millionaire champions. It’s the second surf doc of 2008 set on Oahu’s North Shore, a timely prequel to Dana Brown’s Highwater filmed 30 years later at the 2005 Triple Crown.

Australian and South African surfers stormed the North Shore in 1974, bursting in the back door at Pipeline, ripping the hallowed waves of Waimea, busting titles, boasting, bragging, and deeply offending the locals.

As told by the men who lived it, the feud between colonizing Aussies and insulted Hawaiians erupted into violence. Australians surfers Rabbit Bartholomew and Ian Cairns cowered in a hotel room with baseball bats and shotguns after being assaulted and threatened.

Into the breach stepped Eddie Aikau, legendary Hawaiian waterman, North Shore lifeguard and champion surfer, whose courage is immortalized in three words: “Eddie would go”. He delivered the frightened surfers to hui ho’oponopono, a community tribunal and peacemaking session. Angry Hawaiians gave a history lesson; chastened Aussies listened and apologized. Respect was restored and pro surfing was born.

Director Jeremy Grosch fearlessly explores the collision of ambitious testosterone with tradition and place, weaving exquisite period film with emotional interviews from the vets, still shredding in their 50s.

North Shore locals Eddie Rothman, Fred Hemmings, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Jeff Rakman and Eddie’s brother Clyde Aikau provide local perspective on the little-known story.

Surf legend Shaun Tomson co-produces. And rips.

… reveal(s) the tense, ugly side of the sport’s cultural subcurrents to a degree never before described in a surf pic.

… an eyeful of audacious beachfront fashion. It reeks of the Ford era, but is somehow terribly … now.
The Moment

Pacific Islands Film Festival

Posted in Festivals by hollywoodhula on July 11, 2008

Re-presenting the Pacific

The new Pacific Islands Film Festival debuts in Honolulu with a collection of features, docs and shorts from Aotearoa, Australia, Majuro, Tuvalu, Samoa/Los Angeles and Hawaii.

The Marshall Islands’ first dramatic feature film has its international premier at the Honolulu Design Center on 12 July 08. Morning Comes So Soon features local folks in a teen love story dealing with racism and suicide.

The festival also screens two New Zealand features: Toa Fraser’s Naming No. 2, starring Ruby Dee as a Fijian matriarch, and Samoan Wedding featuring Aotearoa’s zany Naked Samoans comedy team.

Documentaries deal with Samoan gangs in urban America, tribalism in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, effects of global warming on Tuvalu, Hawaiian culture and Polynesian DNA origins, plus biographical films about Samoan writer Albert Wendt and Maori musician/filmmaker Moana Maniapoto’s battle over the right to use her own name.

Keynote address is by the godmother of Pacific film Merata Mita (Patu, Mauri) of University of Hawaii’s Academy of Creative Media. Celebrity night features Pacific film icon Cliff Curtis (Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider).

The festival is produced by the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College, California.

As Seen on Screen
Pacific Islands Film Festival brings big attention to little-known issues
Honolulu Advertiser


Posted in Festivals, Film, People by hollywoodhula on June 23, 2008

Hawai’i Surf Movie Premier

Highwater Trailer

Surf film guru Dana Brown (Step Into Liquid) devotes an entire movie to Oahu’s North Shore in Highwater, an homage to surfing’s Superbowl held annually at the “Hawaiian church of surfing”.

Shot at the 2005 Triple Crown over 55 days , Highwater follows the men and women wave warriors at Pipeline and Waimea. Hawai’i surfers include Kalani Chapman, Carissa Moore, Poncho Sulllivan, Sunny Garcia, Rochelle Ballard and wunderkind John John Florence, at 13 the youngest finalist ever in the premier big wave series.

Brown premiered his nearly finished film (missing final audio mix, color correction and credits, with narration recorded that morning) to an appreciative crowd under the stars in the Ford Amphitheater at Los Angeles Film Festival 22 May 08.

The Brown dynasty was out in force with pioneer filmmaker dad Bruce Brown (Endless Summer) and grandchildren, who crewed for son Dana on the film.

Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula

Posted in Film, People by hollywoodhula on May 4, 2008

Na Kamalei

Kane Hula Doc

Independent filmmaker and hula dancer Lisette Marie Flanary follows kumu hula Robert Cazimero and Na Kamalei, his unique all-kane halau.

The award-winning documentary is the second in her trilogy of hula films. American Aloha, about hula halau outside Hawaii, screened on PBS. The next film will profile hula in Japan.

PBS: Independent Lens
06 May 08 at 10:30 pm

South Seas Cinema

Posted in Film by hollywoodhula on April 2, 2008


What do these movies have in common?
• Tabu
• Return to Paradise
• Forgetting Sarah Marshall

All were set, in whole or part, on Pacific Islands and are thus examples of the overlooked South Sea Cinema genre, according to a new website devoted to the “colorful, exotic, beautiful and erotic” scenes churned out by Hollywood.

South Seas Cinema lists over 600 feature films, shorts, docs, TV shows, special episodes and countless cartoons all shot in the Pacific – plus posters, lobby cards, and billboards.

The cyber archive is from the South Seas Cinema Society, a Hawaiian group of tropical-island movie buffs devoted to reclaiming the “no respect genre”.

Living Pono

Posted in Film, People by hollywoodhula on March 19, 2008

Living Pono

Hawaiian screen icon Jason Scott Lee (Rapa Nui, Dragon, Lilo & Stitch) shares his philosophy of sustainable living, Hawaiian-style, in a documentary currently in production.

Bay Area filmmaker Rick Bacigalupi follows Jason around his farm on the big island of Hawaii, from lo’i (taro patch) to lua (outhouse). The farm is based on natural farming techniques developed by Japanese agricultural sensei Masanobu Fukuoka, and on traditional Hawaiian principles of environmental stewardship.

“Living pono benefits everybody, and this is how the Hawaiian people and a lot of other indigenous people were able to survive for centuries, thousands of years, in the same locale, in the same place, on limited resources,” says Lee.

The project has support from Hawai’i Public Television, but director Baci seeks help from sponsors and “viewers like you” in getting the film finished and on PBS.

Living Pono website

View trailer and clips at You Tube

Maui Canoes

Posted in Events, Film, People by hollywoodhula on November 7, 2007


Ho’oilina at LA Skins Fest

Pacific canoes launch onscreen at the first Los Angeles Skins Festival, a grassroots film and video festival hosted by LA’s Native American community Nov 9-11.

Filmmaker Maui Tauotaha (Hawaiian-Tahitian) premiers Ho’oilina: Continuing the Legacy on Sat 10 Nov 1pm at LA City College in Hollywood. Maui shot the short doc at Lahaina Festival of Canoes on Maui where his father and other kahuna kalai wa’a (canoe masters) from around the Pacific built and paddled traditional wooden canoes.

LA Skins Fest is organized by filmmaker Ian “Crazy Ind’n” Skorodin (Choctaw) with community screenings and events at Fox and Paramount studios, House of Blues and Autry Museum.