Expected to attend: Director/Producer Dean Hamer, Director Joe Wilson, Producer Connie Florez, Cinematographer Cindy Iodice, Subject Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Editor Nels Bangerter
Kumu Hina is a powerful film about the struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture and values within the westernizing society of modern day Hawai’i. It is told through the lens of an extraordinary Native Hawaiian woman who is both a proud and confident mahu, or transgender person, and an honored and respected kumu, or teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader.
Hinaleimoana Wong Kalu is the charismatic hula teacher of a public charter school dedicated to native Hawaiian culture. As she prepares her male high school students for a year-end dance and song performance, they’re lazy and uninspired—except for Ho’onani, a sixth-grade tomboy with an abundance of kû, or male energy, who insists on joining the boys. Like her teacher Kalu, Ho’onani is “in the middle,” and her potential special status as a mahu endows her with healing, teaching, and leadership powers that have been suppressed by 200 years of colonization and violence. That ugly history, which continues in the form of present-day railroad construction on Oahu, has also disturbed traditional Hawaiian burials, which Kalu has been appointed by the governor to investigate. But her dedication as a cultural leader is sorely tested by her relationship with her younger husband, who loves to drink kava root, expresses his love through jealousy, and needs Hina’s advice simply when he misses his bus for work. At a time when gender-nonconforming people are marginalized and mistreated the world over, Kalu has devoted her life to helping everybody around her be best they can be through native Hawaiian values. But while those values preach unconditional love, honor, and respect for all—the true meaning of aloha, embodied in graceful dance and song—Kalu is challenged in all facets of her life.
Emmy Award–winning filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson (Out in the Silence, Frameline34) paint an inspiring portrait of a beautifully strong and wise teacher who is shaping young hearts and minds to ensure that there is a place “in the middle” for all.
— Frako Loden
Kumu Hina is a Frameline Completion Fund recipient.
AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: F313
Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women & Transgender Community
Independent Television Service