Kumu Hina

  • UN Experts, Diplomats Demand Equal Rights for Transgenders in Pakistan with "Kumu Hina" Screening

    Pakistan Daily Times - December 11, 2016:

    ISLAMABAD: Transgender activists, government representatives, community representatives, diplomats and UN experts gathered here on Thursday at the UN Information Centre to discuss the educational, economic and health issues facing the transgender community in Pakistan.

    The event was jointly organised by the High Commission of Canada and the UN Information Centre and was followed by the screening of documentary "Kumu Hina" which features the real story of Hina Wong-Kalu, a native Hawaiian transgender.

    The event was attended by the Ambassador of the European Union, Jean-Francois Cautain, Resident Coordinator of UN Neil Buhne, Country Director of UNESCO Vibeke Jensen, Country Director UNAIDS Mamadou Sahko, Director UN Information Centre Vittorio Cammarota, corporate sector and community representatives and transgender activists from Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Haripur, Lahore and Peshawar.

    The event featured two panel discussions. The first panel focused on education and economic empowerment for the transgender community, while the second panel revolved around healthcare and protection.

    A trans community representative, Maya Zaman said: "Education is the only way forward to enhance the potential of the community and have their valuable contribution to the economy."

    Maya further added: "We need a national action programme for all the marginalised communities to engage them in socio economic development and we cannot have an economically strong and socially sensitive Pakistan until we achieve the full inclusion of all communities, including the trans community."

    Another transgender representative, Anaya Malik said that usually family members were the first ones to abandon transgender people, leaving them vulnerable and unprotected. "The families need to be sensitised so that they accept their children's identity."

    Speaking on the occasion, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Pakistan, Neil Buhne, said that Pakistan was ahead of many other countries in legally recognising trans people as a third gender but still had a long way to go in recognising their rights. "They are subjected to harassment and sexual violence. The Social Welfare Department needs to focus on this community as it is the most marginalised, and we need to do more in safeguarding their rights starting with education, access to health and social protection," he said.

    Perry Calderwood, High Commissioner of Canada said: "I am pleased that we can contribute to the dialogue about transgender rights and empowerment so that transgender Pakistanis can fully participate in this vibrant society."

    The Member of the National Commission for Human Rights, Ch Muhammad Shafique, said that the state provided services according to the demand. "If society raises its voice about transgender rights, the state would be compelled to respond and this is a wonderful forum to start that debate," he said The Director of United Nations Information Centre Vittorio Cammarota said, like the rest of the world, transgender people in Pakistan faced alarmingly high levels of discrimination and stigma, as well as violence, unemployment and poverty. "The aim of this event is to foster a debate on human rights issues that trans people face, and the priority actions required to secure trans people's right to dignity, education, equality, health and security," he said.

    The EU Ambassador to Pakistan, Jean-François Cautain, drew parallels between the situation of trans genders in EU and Pakistan. "I think on this issue the EU and Pakistan can learn from each other," he said.

    Though officially accepted and even recognised in the identity cards, the transgender community in Pakistan suffers from serious stigma and discrimination. Often rejected by their families, transgender people have very little access to the labour market and proper healthcare. Therefore transgender people end up living in very difficult conditions and are frequently subject to violence in many different ways.



    Continue reading
  • ‘Kumu Hina’ film teaches lessons of love - The Slate

    Shippensburg State University - Pennsylvania

    By Marissa Merkt - Nov. 8, 2016

    Aloha means more than bright leis and grass skirts; the word encompasses unconditional love to all and respect for Hawaiian culture.

    On Tuesday, Nov. 1, students gathered in the Orndorff Theatre to view a PBS film titled, “Kumu Hina: The True Meaning of Aloha.”

    The documentary opened with the stereotypical scene of Hawaii — palm trees and surfing. Then, it turned to Halau Lokahi Charter School, a Hawaiian culture-learning environment. Students at Halau Lokahi learn to hula and preserve their native heritage.

    When American missionaries came to Hawaii in the 1800s, Hawaiian culture was ripped from the hands of the natives and their chants were silenced. Today, they rejoice in their freedom through dancing.

    “Kumu Hina” stands for kumu, or dance instructor, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu. Hina is a mahu, which is the Hawaiian term for someone who has both male and female characteristics. In ancient Hawaii, mahus were respected highly and seen as the wise caretakers with the best qualities of each gender. Hina’s students were very accepting of her, despite her transgender identity.

    One of Hina’s students, Ho’Onani Kamai, is considered to be in the middle, neither male nor female, like Hina. Ho’Onani has tomboy characteristics and likes hanging with the boys. In fact, she joined Hina’s high school boys dance class and was appointed leader.

    The film did a good job of showing how people who are transgender do not have to be seen as odd. Both Hina and Ho’Onani are very comfortable in their skin despite being considered different. One of Ho’Onani’s classmates commented that she has more balls than any of them.

    The film continually went back and forth between Hina’s experiences and Ho’Onani at the dance rehearsals, allowing the audience to build a relationship between the two.

    Another character that appeared in “Kumu Hina” was Hina’s husband, Haemaccelo Kalu. He worried about how others would perceive him and that people would think he was homosexual since he married a mahu. Throughout the film, Hina also struggled with her identity in their marriage. She felt as if she had to play a role as a wife even though she did not want to gender identify.

    “I don’t want to be pretentious and pretend when I’m with him, but my natural instincts are to be both,” Hina said when referring to changing her voice around her husband.

    Hina contemplated whether it was worth being in a relationship, but in the end, realized the love he gave her was irreplaceable.

    “Kumu Hina” closed with the end of the year dance performance. It was neat watching the final product after seeing all that went into it during rehearsals. Hina explained how love is the most important thing and that we should love others despite their religion, gender and differences.

    The film screening was sponsored by the Shippensburg University’s LGBTQ+ Concerns Committee. Afterward, Shippensburg University counseling professor Matthew Shupp led a brief discussion on “Kuma Hina” and the topic of being transgender. Shupp explained how the campus inclusion group strives to create dialogue among students through hosting events each month.

    Continue reading
  • Our New Film from Tonga


    Last December, we were invited to screen Kumu Hina in the Kingdom of Tonga, a beautiful island nation arrayed across thousands of miles of the South Pacific, steeped in tradition and proud of its independence.


    While we were there to share our film's message of aloha and stories of gender diversity and inclusion in Hawaii, we were fascinated to hear Tongan perspectives on the issues and lucky to be able to attend the Miss Galaxy Pageant, a joyful annual celebration of the creativity and talent of "Leitis" - a community of often marginalized transgender women now rising to reclaim their revered and righteous place in Polynesian culture.


    Our host was Joey Joleen Mataele, the pageant's founder and the most prominent and admired leiti in Tonga. Joey descends from a noble family, and is quite at home in the upper echelons of Tongan society. But she's also a woman of deep Christian faith who works tirelessly to help lift up those still living in the shadows, primarily through the Tonga Leitis' Association, an organization she runs to support and educate young leitis and to advocate for dignity, respect, and human rights for all.


    As filmmakers, we immediately began to shoot all that was unfolding around us. We captured footage of the pageant, and of Joey and other leitis preparing for the event and attending to other aspects of daily life in the kingdom.


    Inspired by what we saw and the belief that these stories could build on the foundation laid by the Kumu Hina project to deepen understanding and promote positive social change on a global scale, we applied for and received Research and Development funding from Pacific Islanders in Communications to explore further.


    On our second trip to Tonga, this past June, we continued to follow Joey's story, captured compelling portraits of several other leitis struggling to fulfill their dreams, and interviewed a cross-section of Tongans who exert great influence on the country's direction, including members of the royal family and prominent clergy, as well as government, business, educational, and community leaders.


    What is emerging is a defining story of our time, a small nation and its people struggling to hold on to its culture and traditions in a rapidly modernizing world, and to determine which forces will define who, and who is not, welcome in its fold.


    To answer some of these critical questions, we'll be returning to Tonga this December to film an unprecedented national consultation organized by the Tonga Leitis' Association that will propose the repeal of antiquated laws still on the books - and that conservative religious crusaders are threatening to revive - that would criminalize, imprison, and further marginalize leitis and LGBT people in the Kingdom.


    These are extraordinary times, and we're sure that these powerful stories will galvanize public attention in our common quest for that better world.


    We're thrilled that esteemed documentary editor Bill Weber ("To Be Takei" - "We Were Here" - "The Cockettes") has joined our team, and we invite you to come along too.


    Stay tuned here and follow the project on Facebook for updates.


    As always, thanks so much for your support and solidarity.


    Malo aupito and Me ke mahalo nui,


    Dean, Joe, and Hinaleimoana


    Continue reading
  • "Growing Up Trans" - PBS Frontline

    Continue reading
  • Sexual and Gender Diversity in Native America and the Pacific Islands - National Park Service

    Continue reading
  • OUTREACH, DISTRIBUTION AND ENGAGEMENT FOR KUMU HINA - Pacific Islanders in Communications


    OUTREACH, DISTRIBUTION AND ENGAGEMENT FOR KUMU HINA
    (or How to Get on Netflix by Really Really Trying)

    By: Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson


    Making a documentary is a lot of work. But once the final frame is finished, how do you make sure that your film is seen and has the impact you're hoping for? What we found for our PIC-supported documentary KUMU HINA is that outreach, distribution and engagement are just as demanding, and as important, as the filmmaking itself.

    The process began five years ago, when we were incredibly fortunate to meet Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a kanaka maoli teacher, cultural icon and community leader who also happens to be māhū, or transgender. We thought her life and work would be a good topic for a public television film, and were delighted when she agreed to participate, allowing us to film every aspect of her life from teaching at a charter school to meetings of the O'ahu Island Burial Council to intimate moments at home with her new husband. Our mutual goal was to have Hina tell her story in her own words, creating a personal narrative that would organically inform and engage viewers about Hawaii's tradition of embracing gender diversity.

    The first step in our outreach – letting people know about the film – was to identify the potential audiences. We expected KUMU HINA to have special appeal to Pacific Islanders, many of whom are struggling to maintain their identity and cultural connections amidst the pressures of living in a heavily westernized society, and to the LGBT community including māhū, transgender individuals, and anyone who falls outside the rigid confines of mainstream concepts of gender and sexuality. We also hoped that the film would offer opportunities to educate and engage a broad national audience by showing a side of Hawai'i rarely depicted in mainstream media.

    Social media provides one of the most powerful tools for outreach because of its built-in ability to target networks of like-minded individuals. We started our efforts by establishing a Facebook page early on during the filming process, reaching out both to Hina's large network of friends in Hawai‘i and Pacific Islander communities, and to our own established LGBT networks from previous projects. By posting several times a week, both about the film and related news topics - ranging from the protests on Mauna Kea to Caitlin Jenner's transition - we gradually built up a following that has now, with the addition of Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram pages, reached some 20,000 supporters.

    Blogs are another popular outreach medium, especially for topics that require longer explanations than a typical Facebook post or tweet. We focused our efforts on the Huffington Post, which has the advantage of including pages devoted both to Hawai‘i and to Queer Voices, again posting both about the film and related topics.

    Our plans for distribution – getting the film out into the world – began with festivals, a time honored way both of introducing the project to the public and obtaining the notice and press that is key to success across platforms. Sticking with our strategy of starting at home, we decided to premiere the film at the Hawai'i International Film Festival, and were very fortunate to be picked as the closing night film for the Spring Showcase. With the support of PIC, and a wonderful performance before the film by Hina and musical contributor Kealiʻi Reichel, this turned into an amazing event, selling out the historic Hawai'i Theatre with a diverse and enthusiastic audience.

    Over the next year, KUMU HINA played at over 100 film festivals around the country and world. While the absolute numbers of viewers at such screenings is limited, they play a key roll in generating buzz and enthusiasm. Among the many highlights were Frameline – the large LGBT festival in San Francisco, where KUMU HINA won the documentary jury prize – and FIFO Tahiti – the only Pacific Island documentary festival, where the film came away with both jury and audience awards.

    The major distribution channel for KUMU HINA was, of course, public television, which has a long tradition of introducing viewers to new and sometimes controversial topics and ideas. We were very fortunate to have the film selected for Independent Lens, PBS's prestigious documentary strand which, by virtue of its reputation and Monday night prime-time slot on the national feed, attracts close to a million viewers every week. Despite initial hesitation from PBS executives, who thought the topic might be “too obscure,” KUMU HINA did exceptionally well, winning the audience award as the most popular film among voting viewers for the 2014-2015 season. This turns out to be the third PIC- supported film that has won the Independent Lens Audience award (the others are Nā Kamalei: Men of Hula and Heart of the Sea), speaking directly to the large demand of Pacific Islanders to see their stories on television.

    While the PBS broadcast certainly reached the most viewers at any one time, other forms of physical and digital distribution are needed to make the film available on an ongoing basis; e.g., DVD, download, streaming and video-on-demand. Because there are now so many different platforms available, each with its own particular delivery and contractual requirements, we decided early on that it would be difficult to do it all ourselves, and began searching for an established commercial distributer to collaborate with. This led us to Passion River, a medium size distributor with an emphasis on social issue films, many on Netflix. Another advantage was their willingness to contract on a non-exclusive basis for educational distribution, an important consideration.

    By the day after broadcast, the film was available to buy for home use on Amazon, rent or download on iTunes, or obtain for education use on Alexander Street Press, Kanopy, or our own website. It was also added to the inflight entertainment system on Hawaiian Airline, a wonderful way for visitors to learn about this little known aspect of Hawaiian culture.

    Netflix was more difficult. The film was rejected at first, and again even after it won the Independent Lens Audience Award. Only when KUMU HINA was honored as best documentary of the year by GLAAD, the country's preeminent LGBT media organization, did Netflix finally make an offer – which was accepted with alacrity.

    Engagement – connecting the film to action for change – is perhaps the most complicated yet important stage in the life of a documentary. Our aim was educational: to make the teaching of Kumu Hina available beyond her small Honolulu charter school to students, educators and families across Hawai‘i, the nation and the world. One obstacle that quickly became apparent was that although the feature documentary was well suited for college students in a variety of subject areas, it was too long, and in some senses too complex, for the most important target audience: elementary, middle and high-school students. This motivated us to cut a shorter version of the film, A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE, that focused on Hina's work with an eleven year old girl who aspired to join the school's all-male hula group. By telling the story from her point of view, and the use of colorful animation, we produced a 24 minute piece that kids enjoy watching.

    A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and went on to screen at Toronto International, Tokyo Kineko, and children's festivals around the world, but the real work was making the film useful and available to teachers. We began by collaborating with several educators and experts in Hawaiian and gender studies to produce a discussion guide that includes background information about Hawai'i and māhū, discussion questions, lesson ideas, and guided activities. We linked the material to the Common Core Educational Standards – a key element for educators in today's world of standardized testing - and to the new Nā Hopena Aʻo native learning outcomes developed by the Hawai'i Department of Education. This was bundled with several additional resources, including a DVD and a Pledge of Aloha, and made available to educators at no cost through the support of PIC and the Ford Foundation.

    We began the educational campaign at home by introducing the curriculum to local educators and families through a series of screenings and talk story sessions at public libraries, many of which are located in public schools, and a screening on PBS Hawaiʻi combined with a PBS Insights discussion on “How Can Our Community Better Understand Gender Diversity?” Despite the trepidation of some DOE bureaucrats, we were subsequently able to distribute the resources to every school in Hawaiʻi, where they have been well received by teachers and students and are now being used in K-12 classrooms statewide.

    At the national level, we soon discovered that there was a real demand for resources about the hot-button issue of gender diversity, especially from a cultural and historical point of view. Online portals hosted by educational organizations have proven to be a convenient and efficient mode of dissemination. One of the most successful collaborations has been with PBS LearningMedia, a trusted source for educational media with over 1.8 million registered users; A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE is now the most frequently used resource on the transgender topic in their large collection. Similar collaborations were established with Teaching Tolerance, Welcoming Schools, Our Family Coalition, Not In Our Schools, and the Native Hawaiian Education Council, each with its own constituency and networks.

    Perhaps the most important lesson we've learned through the KUMU HINA project is that there is no “one size fits all” solution that works for all films or all audiences. It's important to be flexible, and to be willing to work a little extra (e.g. cutting a new version of the film) to have the most effective outreach, distribution and engagement. We think it's well worth the added effort to bring beautiful and meaningful Pacific Islander stories to the public.

    Continue reading
  • "A Place in the Middle" on The Laura Flanders Show

    Continue reading
  • "Kumu Hina: Bold, Raw, and Unforgettable" - The Palm Springs Desert Sun



    CINEMA DIVERSE: LGBT MOVIES REFLECT NEW FRAME OF MIND

    by Greg Archer - The Palm Springs Desert Sun - September 7, 2016

    We always hear about people looking for the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. You know, as a kind of saving grace during challenging transitions. Clearly, 2016 will be remembered as “challenging” for the LGBT community.

    That’s where something like cinema comes in. It adds levity … because sometimes, the brightest light we can ever find is the one flickering on a movie screen in a dark theater spotlighting LGBT trials and victories. This isn’t “News at 11.” In fact, over the last few years, LGBT cinema has grown considerably.

    But cinematically, 2015 and 2016 stand out for a number of other reasons.

    Michael Carroll Green, director of Cinema Diverse, the popular Palm Springs LGBT film festival that unravels in September, is quick to point out the expansion of diverse storytelling, noting “a rise in the number of stories we’re seeing in LGBTQ films about trans and intersex people.”

    To be sure, these topics were not being explored in cinema with such vigor a decade ago. In fact, so many creative leaps have been made since Chaz Bono illuminated his journey as a transgender man in “Becoming Chaz” (2011). Take a quick look at the bevy of films, documentaries, and television series about transgender and intersex people that have captured our attention in just five years’ time. “My Prairie Home” (2013) and Amazon’s award-winning “Transparent,” which debuted in 2014, certainly stand out. Last year, film fest audiences marveled at “The Joneses” — so touching, so honest, the doc spotlighted a 74-year-old transgender matriarch of a unique Mississippi Bible Belt family. And “Call Me Marianna” (2015), an understated albeit haunting Polish film about a transgender woman with personal and health concerns, triumphed in storytelling. So, too, did “Kumu Hina” (2015) — bold, raw, and unforgettable, the doc spotlighted a transgender native Hawaiian teacher and cultural icon who relays stories about Hawaii's long-held embrace of “mahu” (third-person genders).

    This year, “Kiki” is all the buzz. Filmmakers Sara Jordenö and Twiggy Pucci Garçon’s romp about the political subculture of New York City’s LGBT youth of color, for whom dance is far more than performance, is fierce, unapologetic, and flamboyant. But look for “Arianna” to win hearts at Cinema Diverse. The emotional Italian film about a teenage girl who learns from her parents that she was born intersex, but was surgically altered, delivers a powerful message about the freedom of personal choice.

    Based-on-real-life films, anyone? It’s a theme.

    Notice how, after “Milk” (2008), “The Runaways” (2010), “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013), “Reaching for the Moon” (2013) and the heartwarming, critically-acclaimed “Pride” (2014), audience’s appetites for real-life stories became stronger. Look how well “Freeheld” (2015) starring Ellen Page and Julianne Moore was received. The film chronicled the plight of real-life police officer Laurel Hester, who fought her local government to allow her partner access to her pension. (Actually, the film began as a documentary prior to Page’s and Moore’s version.)

    Another interesting theme: The James Franco Touch. Beyond the entertainment news headlines surrounding Franco’s sexuality — last year the actor-producer-director told The New Yorker: “Yeah, I’m a little gay, and there’s a gay James” — we find something genuine: An LGBT ally whose film presence helps push some smaller projects out into the mainstream — “Howl” (2010), “Sal” (2011), “Interior Leather Bar” (2013), “Wild Horses” (2015) and Franco’s mind-bending turn as a “gay-to-straight” activist in “I Am Michael” (2015). Let’s not forget his more risqué, adult-film-star odyssey that is ”King Cobra,” which premiered at L.A.’s Out Fest in the summer.

    Clearly, modern technological advances have impacted filmmaking, too. Anybody who sat through “Tangerine” (2015) understands that all too well. The award-winning indie film about a beleaguered hooker who, along with her best friend, is determined to get retribution from a pimp, was shot entirely on an iPhone 5s and anamorphic adaptors. (Wannabe filmmakers: Get your smartphones out now.)

    But here’s something refreshing. Green believes that the B part of LGBT is being addressed with more frequency in films. It could move beyond just a trend.

    “A lot of people don’t talk about it [bisexuality],” Green explains. “We like to say we are really inclusive. But sometimes, the B gets left out of the conversation.”

    To that end, Cinema Diverse tosses “Throuple” into its eclectic lineup this year. An award-winning Hawaiian film about a polyamorous couple’s relationship, “Throuple” candidly explores misconceptions about sexuality.

    “I appreciate the fact that it looked at the virtual rainbow of sexuality,” Green adds. “I think what many films have done over the last year is stretch the definition of sexuality and definition of gender and gender identity. And the LGBTQ community is really way ahead of the culture in dealing with these very real issues.”

    Most were groundbreaking, others were just inspiring escapes. Take note of a dozen of the top LGBT-themed films of the last 50 years.

    ‘Carol’ (2015)

    Drop the emotional baggage and just love. That’s the idea here, however, it’s 1950s Manhattan and emotions run high for two star-crossed lovers (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) — and so do the consequences. Worthy of its Oscar noms.

    ‘Longtime Companion’ (1989)

    One of the best LGBT films of all time finds a group of friends confronting the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. But what’s this? We also get some of the finest work in the careers of Campbell Scott, Dermot Mulroney and Mary-Louise Parker.

    ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ (1988)

    Harvey Fierstein’s Tony Award-winning play brings Matthew Broderick and Anne Bancroft along for the big-screen ride in a poignant, unforgettable tale about relationships, love of all kinds, and the quirky lines we all walk for acceptance.

    ‘Boys in the Band’ (1970)

    Director William Friedkin’s classic tale broke new ground in this screen version of the popular play about a group of gay men at a birthday celebration that quickly derails and turns into a deeper exploration of self-acceptance and sexuality.

    ‘Paris Is Burning’ (1990)

    Drag queens pursue their dreams in New York City. What’s not to like? Fortunately, beyond the sass and makeup, we’re given a story that also isn’t afraid to touch upon the realities of racism and poverty, too.

    ‘My Beautiful Launderette’ (1985)

    Daniel Day-Lewis in one of his earlier memorable roles plays a man who, after being reunited with his former lover, helps revitalize his former beau’s new launderette. The message: Love deeper. Rinse. Repeat.

    ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (1999)

    Hilary Swank took home an Oscar for her performance as Brandon, a determined young transgender man who falls for small-town gal Lana (Chloë Sevigny). One of the first major films to address transgender issues.

    ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (2005)

    That a story about two closeted cowboys in love is now considered one of the great love stories of American film is a triumph. Ang Lee’s brilliant adaptation of Annie Proulx’s short story nabbed an Oscar for Best Director and nods for its actors, the late Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams. We can still hear the haunting soundtrack.

    ‘Tangerine’ (2015)

    Last year’s hit indie film is a worthy Netflix romp if you dig creative filmmaking, riveting (and real) dialogue, and a story about a transgender hooker hell-bent on righting an emotional wrong. Of course you do.

    ‘Milk’ (2008)

    Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black took home Oscars for this remarkable tale chronicling the life of iconic civil rights activist Harvey Milk, who, in 1977, became the nation's first openly gay man elected to public office (San Francisco Board of Supervisors) before his assassination in 1978. Worthy of repeat viewings.

    ‘The Times of Harvey Milk’ (1984)

    Doc lovers will appreciate just how well Milk’s legacy is captured here in an exposé that deserves ideal real estate in any film queue.

    ‘Hedwig and The Angry Inch’ (2001)

    John Cameron Mitchell’s fierce fairy tale about fate, gender and identity rises to the occasion on all fronts. Nothing — not even a botched gender reassignment surgery — will keep one determined crooner down. One of the best soundtracks around.

    If You Go:

    Cinema Diverse, which will present 42 screenings this year, runs Sept. 22-25 at Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Rd., Palm Springs. For the full, up-to-date list of films featured, visit cinemadiverse.org.







    Continue reading
  • Free Gender Diversity Resources for Educators

    As the new school year begins, communities across the country are searching for ways to help ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination.


    To help educators seeking to deepen their own understanding and get students thinking and talking about how to create a welcoming and inclusive school climate, a powerful resource modeled on Hawaiian culture's tradition of gender diversity is being made available for free to all interested in putting them to use in the classroom.


    A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE is the true story of a young girl who dreams of leading the boys-only hula group at her Honolulu school, and a transgender teacher who empowers her and other students through sharing the importance of treating all people with dignity, honor, and respect.


    This inspiring youth-focused PBS Learning Media film includes a Classroom Discussion Guide with background information on Hawaii, conversation triggers, lesson plans, and links to Common Core Educational Standards.


    A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE has been reviewed by cultural and education experts and recommended for use in elementary, middle, and high school, with special relevance for grades 4-12. It has also been incorporated into the Perspective for a Diverse America anti-bias framework and Expanding Gender: Youth Out Front curriculum.


    The film, teaching guide, and resources are all available for free, and a team of professionals is also available to help with workshops for teachers, administrators, and students interested in additional training.


    For more information contact:

    Joe Wilson

    A Place in the Middle

    Community Education Coordinator

    e: QwavesJoe@yahoo.com

    t: 808-629-9864


    All project resources can be viewed & downloaded at these links

    Complete Short Film

    Classroom Discussion Guide


    What People are Saying about A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE


    "An amazing tool to help educators understand the need for acceptance for each and every child regardless of gender expression."

    - Tracy Flynn, Welcoming Schools


    "One of the most positive films about the transgender experience I've ever seen."

    - Jennifer Finney Boylan, Professor, Barnard College of Columbia University


    "This educational project is part of the continuing revival and growth of awareness of kanaka maoli traditions that are so relevant in Hawaii today."

    - Puakea Nogelmeier, Hawai'inuaiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, Univ. of Hawaii


    "A valuable teaching tool for students of all ages, as well as for parents and educators."

    - Carol Crouch, Ele'ele Elementary School, Kauai


    "An inspiring coming-of-age story on the power of culture to shape identity, personal agency, and community cohesion, from a young person's point-of-view."

    - Cara Mertes, Ford Foundation


    "A powerful film that breathes with life ... a true 'Whale Rider' story."

    - The Huffington Post


    This PBS Hawaii conversation may also be helpful:


    Continue reading
  • "22 Awesome LGBT Documentaries You Need to Watch on Netflix" - Here Media

    Click on these photos to see the full list:

    Continue reading
  • Kumu Hina Receives the NEA's Ellison S. Onizuka Award for Human & Civil Rights


    National Education Association

    Press Release – June 28, 2016


    Educators to honor Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu for commitment to Hawaiian Culture

    Annual gala marks 50th anniversary of the NEA-American Teachers Association merger


    The National Education Association has recognized and honored those who have fought — and continue to fight — for human and civil rights at a moving and inspiring awards gala since 1967. This year, NEA will thank and honor the outstanding work of Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu and 12 of America’s social justice heroes at its annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner on July 3 in Washington.


    NEA will also recognize the 50th anniversary of its merger with the American Teachers Association. ATA, which represented Black teachers in segregated schools, originally created the Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner. As part of the merger, NEA agreed to carry on this important tradition.


    “Like the brave visionaries who forever intertwined the NEA and ATA in social justice advocacy 50 years ago, we honor these 13 American human and civil rights heroes because they are doing what we know is right, just and courageous,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “They are confronting the most controversial and pressing issues facing our country. They are standing up for those who have been knocked down. They are offering a beacon of light to those left behind. They are making sure the voices of those drowned out by institutional racism, inequality and disenfranchisement are heard. They motivate us, they inspire us through their deeds and actions, and they embody what is just and right about our world.”


    A native Hawaiian, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, also known as Hina, is a dedicated kumu (teacher) and this year’s recipient of the NEA Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award for her work in educating others about Native Hawaiian culture.


    Stemming back to her first years in college, where Hina began her transition from male to female, Hina knew that although her family and respective community embraced her transition, there were many young adults still afraid of being shunned as a result of the westernized Christian view of marriage. Finding pride, dignity and refuge in her Hawaiian culture, Hina wanted nothing more than to share her culture with others. With her background in education, she taught Hawaiian language, hula (dances), oli (chants), and history. Hina has also provided guidance on appropriate curriculum and protocols that preserve the Native Hawaiian culture.


    Among Hina’s greatest accomplishments is the development of a multi-award winning PBS production called “A Place in the Middle.” Through this 25-minute kid-friendly film, viewers are left with a powerful message that focuses on acceptance, love, and anti-bullying. The film has gone on to be the most widely used resource on Hawaiian culture at PBS Learning Media. Whether it’s teaching hula or sharing her journey through a multi-award winning film, Hina has made it her mission to always place her native Hawaiian culture at the forefront of all her endeavors.


    To view full bio, click here. For a full list and bios of this year’s winners please visit here.


    ###


    The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.


    Continue reading
  • Now on NETFLIX

    Continue reading
  • "THE TRANS-FOCUSED ENTERTAINMENT YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING" -- Tribeca Film Institute


    A starter's guide to the trans-themed films and programs that are worth seeking out.


    It came, we saw, she conquered.


    Caitlyn Jenner's incredible, breathtaking Vanity Fair cover is sure to dominate the cultural conversation for a long time, and deservingly so. It can't and shouldn't be ignored, however, that although Jenner's reveal (as well as the outpouring of praise and well-wishes that quickly followed) certainly marks a crucial step into a more accepting and progressive future, the trans community is vast, diverse, and stretches far, far past the admittedly wealthy, white, and famous Jenner. When it comes down to it, not every trans woman gets her own mega-hyped reality show or can afford to look like Jessica Lange, nor should she need to in order to be embraced and respected by those outside her community.


    Yes, we should by all means celebrate Caitlyn and her personal victory; it's no small feat. But it is unfortunate and flat-out wrong if we halt the conversation there. Between the alarmingly high rate of suicides among trans kids and the continued violence against trans women of color, there are still a great many trans-related issues that we need to recognize, discuss, and repair. There is still so much work to be done.


    In order to continue any conversation regarding human rights issues, it is always helpful to have entertainment to engage and enlighten us. Here, then, is a brief starter list of carefully-curated films and television programs that shine a much-needed light on transpeople, both real and fictional, in both dramatic and documentary work. The list skews mainstream, but we hope it will inspire you to dig deeper into film history and check out the seminal works of Pedro Almodóvar, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Paul Morrissey.


    In the meantime, Tribeca recommends:




    Kumu Hina (2014)


    Highly distinctive and endlessly illuminating, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson's documentary follows Hina Wong-Kalu, a Hawaiian teacher and māhū (transgender woman), as she strives to maintain her native culture and encourages one of her promising female students to lead the school's all-male hula group. Kumu Hina, which is also available in an educational children's version, is a moving and empowering story about a person, place, and culture the movies rarely take an interest in, unless presented with the opportunity to cast Emma Stone as half-Asian. So Kumu Hina is a rarity that's hard to imagine many audience members selecting of their own volition, but it's a rarity that has a great deal to tell and teach us, if we only wish to learn.

    Continue reading
  • "UOTeachOUT To Screen Documentary on Transgender Teacher" - Eugene Weekly

    UOTeachOUT To Screen Documentary on Transgender Teacher

    by Claire Rischiotto - May 5, 2016

    A multitude of misinformed ideas about gender and bathrooms has permeated the national discussion as of late, but here in Eugene, the University of Oregon is addressing homophobia and transphobia in public education through UOTeachOUT, its annual series of events on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    Each year, UO education professor Julia Heffernan and her colleagues invite a guest speaker to provide insight on LGBT-related topics for future educators and the general public. This year, UOTeachOUT has invited Hina Wong-Kalu, a transgender woman and educator in Hawaii, who is featured in the documentaryA Place in the Middle.

    According to a recent climate survey in Eugene School District 4J, 7 to 9 percent of secondary students in the district identify as LGBTQ, and 54 percent of secondary students in 4J suffer harassment on a monthly basis due to sexual orientation.

    Heffernan, Tina Gutierez-Schmich, equity director of Bethel School District, and UO seniors in Heffernan’s class about homophobia all helped organize UOTeachOUT.

    On May 12, UOTeachOUT hosts a screening of A Place in the Middle, followed by a discussion with Wong-Kalu. The film’s directors will also be present.

    “This is such an important topic, and Hina’s story offers us a window into what it can look like to have safe, welcoming and inclusive schools for diversity to thrive,” Heffernan says.

    A Place in the Middle shares Wong-Kalu’s transition story and how she supported a female student, who identifies as male and female, to lead an end-of-the-year dance performed by male classmates.

    When Wong-Kalu was 18, she began transitioning, which she describes as a “slow and painstaking transition process.” She was concerned with looking like a woman and being beautiful like her mother, she says.

    She explains that she didn’t want to look like a boy in girl’s clothing. “I wanted to be my family’s daughter,” she tells EW.

    When asked about what educators and future educators can do to be allies for transgender students, Wong-Kalu says, “Stop identifying with penis and vagina and thinking about what’s between people’s legs.”

    Wong-Kalu says she believes that getting to know someone should be the focus. She adds, “What’s the great difference on the inside between a transgender person and a non-transgender identifying person? Do we not all have feelings? Do we not all have goals, some kind of aspiration, some kind of want, some kind of need? Do we not all have likes and dislikes?”

    At the UOTeachOUT, Wong-Kalu says, “I hope to share that there is a particular feel and flare to the transgender experience and [in] the Polynesian and Asian context, and that I am but one example of that.” — Claire Rischiotto

    UOTeachOUT kicks off with a BBQueer fundraiser starting 3 pm Saturday, May 7, at Claim 52 Brewing, 1030 Tyinn Street. The screening of A Place in the Middle begins 6 pm Thursday, May 12, at Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, Room 180, on the UO campus. Admission is free. Find more event information at uoteachout.com.

    Continue reading
  • "Advocates Push DOE On Guidelines For Transgender Students" - Hawaii Public Radio

    Continue reading
  • "What’s Next for DOE's Policy on Transgender Students?" -- The Conversation on Hawaii Public Radio

    Continue reading
  • "Transgender Community Takes Petition to BOE" - KITV Island News

    by Paula Akana - May 3, 2016:

    HONOLULU - Members of the transgender community delivered a petition to the Hawaii Board of education on Tuesday asking for guidelines and training in Hawaii schools for working with transgender students.


    Hina Wong-Kalu addressed the board, outlining what they sought in the petition, which over 5,400 people from around the world and Hawaii had signed.


    “Calling on your leadership and calling upon the Department of Education to ensure that respect and protection is afforded to all of our students within our public education system, especially with regards to our transgender students,” said Wong-Kalu.


    DOE officials say after six months, they have finally come up with a set of guidelines to deal with the issues. They are now being reviewed by the State Attorney General.


    Wong-Kalu and her group were pushing for guidelines in place by this graduation season. The DOE says it will be closer to the beginning of next school year.


    Continue reading
  • "Seeking A Step Forward For Transgender Students" - by Todd Simmons, Honolulu Civil Beat

    by Todd Simmons, May 4, 2016:

    Setting aside a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to a White House ceremony at which you would be one of 10 Asian American/Pacific Islanders nationally honored by President Obama is no small thing.

    But that’s exactly what Hina Wong-Kalu did this week so that she could personally express her frustration with the Hawaii Board of Education’s continued lack of specific guidelines governing how public schools and educators interact with transgender kids.

    The transgender educator, hula instructor and subject of the award-winning documentary Kumu Hina, Wong-Kalu led 15 transgender community members and supporters in a Tuesday afternoon press conference at the Department of Education and civil discussion at a subsequent Board of Education meeting, where they delivered more than 5,400 petition signatures in support of their position.

    “All of our children are important,” Wong-Kalu reminded board members. “And they’re all counting on us.”

    Transgender visibility has reached heights in recent years that few ever imagined possible. The very public transitions of Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner and Chastity Bono to Chaz Bono, television series like Orange is the New Black, Glee and I Am Jazz and the popularity of celebrities such as Janet Mock and Laverne Cox have created wider cultural recognition of the obstacles most transgender individuals face in simply living their lives. That visibility also has birthed a growing and righteous sentiment that they deserve to be covered by civil rights laws and anti-discrimination policies.

    One of the most vivid illustrations of that is the ongoing controversy in North Carolina over HB 2, a hastily passed state law that wiped away discrimination protections based on gender identity in the few jurisdictions where local ordinances had been passed. Scores of conventions and big concerts starring top performers have been cancelled or moved out of state, along with numerous plans by big businesses to expand or start new operations in North Carolina.

    In a particular blow to the basketball-crazy state, the NBA announced in late April that it may pull its 2017 All Star game from Charlotte if the law is not repealed, while the NCAA said it may follow suit in eliminating the state’s ability to host 2017 basketball tournament games. That was followed by an estimate by Time Warner Cable News that the law has so far cost the state roughly $77 million in investments and visitor spending and about 1,750 jobs.

    Continued Challenges Amid The Progress

    But in a cultural environment where so much more finally seems possible for transgender individuals and the trans community, there are daily reminders of how difficult life can be for some of its most vulnerable members, both nationally and here in Hawaii.

    In mid April, the mother of a Palolo Elementary School second grader went public with her daughter’s challenges. Wendy Taylor said young Kailey suffered completely preventable embarrassment in front of classmates and difficulties with school leaders who were unprepared for how to deal with a transgender student.

    At Tuesday’s protest, Wendy said things are better now, in part because of the light shone on the case through local and national media coverage, including CNN. School leaders know that others are watching, she said.

    Around the same time that Kailey’s story emerged, Jennea Purcell released her own story with local documentary makers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, detailing her challenges, as a senior last year, at Kahuku High and Intermediate School on the North Shore. Purcell had transitioned from her prior identity to Jennea the previous school year, but said a new school principal didn’t support the change and refused to allow her to wear the regalia designated for women in the Kahuku commencement ceremony.

    Heartbroken, she opted not to take part, missing her own graduation.

    The seven-minute video of Jennea launched on CivilBeat.com had drawn more than 26,000 views as of Tuesday. Her story fueled the Change.org petition and signatures that Wong-Kalu brought to Tuesday’s press conference, which included not only support from across Hawaii, but from Australia, Canada, Japan, Brazil and numerous other countries around the world.

    Jennea helped lead protestors on Tuesday, holding the hand of her mother, Berlin Scott, who beamed with pride. One year after her painful final days at Kahuku, she said, “I’m not as angry as I was. I’m just trying to move forward and doing my best to make a difference for others.”

    Kaleo Ramos, a sixth-grade teacher who is transgender, says stories like Jennea’s and Kailey’s are more common than people may realize. A trans community leader who has helped lobby for significant legal gains at the state Legislature, Ramos said he regularly hears from students, parents and other educators struggling with scenarios they don’t know how to handle. While schools go over policies that provide protection against discrimination based on gender identity as part of overall annual training, that protection “is just not enforced.”

    “There’s no specific training, and people just don’t know how to handle their situations in school,” he said.

    Guidelines, Training And Enforcement

    The fallout from such situations can be severe, Ramos said. He has dealt with situations that have included discrimination, falling grades and school attendance, suicide threats and actual suicide. In other situations, he’s seen students rejected by their families and peers gravitate to questionable adults in the community and even turn to prostitution.

    “Hawaii’s not exempt from any of that,” he said.

    Ramos, Wong-Kalu and other trans community leaders said they’re seeking three things from the Board of Education. First, establishment of guidelines that ensure the safety and success of transgender students — guidelines that provide more help to administrators and teachers in navigating an area that just a few years ago was treated far differently by most schools.

    Second, training for school employees to enable them to successfully implement policy and guidelines. And lastly, enforcement. In other words, guidelines that actually provide protection rather than just collect dust on a shelf.

    After the media availability, protestors made their way to the Board of Education meeting room and took a collective breath before stepping in, press cameras trailing.

    And they were met with aloha. Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee came over to shake hands and later offered supportive comments from the podium. Board member Patricia Halagao congratulated Wong-Kalu on her White House honor. Vice Chair Brian J. DeLima asked about the group’s petition, making sure there would be copies for individual members’ review.

    For men and women who have too often found themselves outcasts, marginalized by schools and other social institutions that are legally obligated to treat them like everyone else, the simple civility of the moment was important. Though past calls for help haven’t resulted in the guidelines, training or enforcement transgender people seek, their appearance at Tuesday’s meeting seemed the start of a new dialogue, one where their concerns may finally be heard. And acted upon.

    With so much at stake in the day’s events, Wong-Kalu said declining the White House invitation for the ceremony, which takes place today, was not a tough call.

    “As much as I would be humbled and very honored to shake the president’s hand, this is my mainland,” she said in a quiet moment before the press conference. “I wouldn’t have been nominated for the Champions of Change recognition if I weren’t dedicated to the work that is keeping me here at home today. So it was never a question of where my priorities lie.”



    Continue reading
  • "Petition Calls for Hawaii Schools to Protect Transgender Students" - Hawaii News Now

    By Lisa Kubota, Anchor / Reporter

    HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -May 3, 2016

    Transgender leaders are calling on Hawaii public schools to develop guidelines and training to protect transgender students from discrimination.

    Advocates with the Kumu Hina Project hand-delivered a petition Tuesday with more than 5,400 signatures to Board of Education members.

    "It's about fairness, equity, and a sense of dignity for all of our students, transgender or not," said Hina Wong-Kalu, a teacher and cultural practitioner.

    Advocates want the state to create guidelines to promote respect and stop discrimination across the gender spectrum.

    "It's the feeling of inadequacy, it is the feeling of being less than, and it is the feeling of being unappreciated," said Wong-Kalu.

    Transgender students in Hawaii's public schools are currently handled on a case-by-case basis.

    "I think for any community that has been waiting for something like this, it could not be soon enough, so I understand their concerns," said Donalyn Dela Cruz, state Department of Education spokeswoman.

    Dela Cruz said anti-discrimination policies already in place cover transgender students. For the last seven months, officials have also been working on draft guidelines which are now under review by the Attorney General's office.

    "It's not just about bathroom situations, it's not just about athletics, but it's looking at how are we going to establish student identification records," Dela Cruz explained.

    The DOE took a look at best practices from other states and relied on input from principals and various stakeholders.

    "There's a need for it. We've been working on it, and at the end of the day, we want to make sure that when the next school year comes, that our schools have this guidance," said Dela Cruz.

    Once the attorney general approves the guidelines, the DOE will notify BOE members and send the information out to schools.


    Continue reading
  • "Policy on Transgender Students Urged" - Honolulu Star-Advertiser


    By Nanea Kalani - May 4, 2016

    Local transgender community leaders and supporters are calling on education officials to implement policies and staff training to ensure the safety and fair treatment of transgender students in Hawaii public schools.

    Kumu and cultural practitioner Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a transgender woman, said the lack of clear guidelines for school leaders has led to some transgender students being discriminated against, bullied and harassed in school.

    “We have some very simple requests … and that is that consistent guidelines be established so that students of all genders are not only treated fairly, but feel safe, feel valued and feel appreciated in whatever school that they are in,” she said.

    Wong-Kalu and a small group of supporters that included transgender students and their mothers gathered Tuesday at the Queen Liliuokalani Building downtown, where the Department of Education’s central offices are located.

    The group delivered a printout of signatures from an online petition seeking a gender diversity policy and training for DOE employees. The petition, which had collected more than 5,400 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, was handed to Board of Education staff.

    “Hawaii is a place of aloha. And when we understand the meaning of aloha, we know that it is incumbent upon each and every one of us as people who call Hawaii home to understand that aloha can and shall prevail,” Wong-Kalu said. She was recently named a “Champions of Change” award recipient by the White House but chose to forgo the awards event in Washington, D.C., this week to be at Tuesday’s BOE meeting.

    Wong-Kalu credited the experience of a recent Kahuku High &Intermediate graduate for prompting the petition. The former student maintains that she was denied the opportunity to participate as a woman in commencement exercises last spring.

    DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said the allegations are false. Under BOE policy, graduates can be denied participation in commencement exercises only if they fail to meet academic requirements by a set date, fail to pay financial debts by a set date or fail to meet other reasonable conditions set by the DOE, such as not violating student misconduct rules.

    Dela Cruz said the DOE has drafted proposed guidelines aimed at helping schools provide appropriate support for transgender students. She said existing BOE policies prohibit the harassment, bullying and discrimination of any student on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, physical or mental disability, religion, gender identity and expression, socioeconomic status, physical appearance and characteristic, and sexual orientation.

    “What’s in practice right now when it comes to transgender students is administrators work with the student on a case-by-case basis,” Dela Cruz said. “The new guidance is really to provide an overview of the common issues that have been raised and the concerns that need to be addressed, as well as providing appropriate supports for transgender students and the school community.”

    The guidelines — which took six months to draft and are currently under review by the state attorney general’s office — will cover such topics as access to bathrooms and other sex-segregated facilities, sports, preferred names and pronouns, and school records.

    “It comes down to what the student feels comfortable with, and that’s why you can’t have a cookie-cutter-type guideline or policy, because our concern is each and every student,” Dela Cruz said. “The guidance goes beyond just what bathroom will the student be using. It’s ultimately ensuring that steps to support the student will take place at all levels.”

    The DOE is scheduled to present the guidelines to the BOE’s Student Achievement Committee next month, and is looking to implement the guidance and training next school year. BOE member Patricia Halagao, who chairs that committee, told Wong-Kalu that the issue is top of mind and being carefully considered.

    “We are prepared to avail ourselves,” Wong-Kalu told the BOE. “We also come with … other resources within our community to support you to the fullest of our ability in coming up with that which is necessary — guidelines and anything else that would aid in supporting our youth.”


    Continue reading
  • "Advocates Ask State For Clear Policies On Transgender Students" - Honolulu Civil Beat


    By Bianca Smallwood - May 2, 2016:

    As graduation approaches for local high school students, transgender advocates are pushing the Hawaii Department of Education for policies to prevent incidents such as one last year in which a transgender student at Kahuku High School said she wasn’t allowed to participate in her graduation ceremony.

    Transgender figures such as fashion designer Ari South, soccer and film star Jaiyah Saelua and educator and community leader Hina Wong-Kalu said they will deliver a petition Tuesday morning to the department asking it to establish clear policies protecting transgender students from discrimination, and guaranteeing all students respect and safety regardless of their gender identity of expression. The effort was organized by the Kumu Hina Project, a community educational campaign for gender diversity and inclusion based on Hawaiian values.

    The DOE didn’t immediately return calls Monday seeking comment on its policies.

    The Kumu Hina Project drafted the petition in the wake of several reported cases of transgender discrimination in Hawaii’s public schools. The petition calls on the DOE to conduct training, professional development and education activities that would assure awareness and compliance with the new policy.

    And, in specific support Jennea Purcell, a transgender 2015 Kahuku High School graduate, the petition asks the DOE to declare publicly that students may participate in graduation and other activities with their gender identity.

    Missed Opportunity

    Last year, in a case that drew national media attention, Purcell said she was denied participation in the 2015 graduation ceremony as girl. At Kahuku High School’s graduation ceremonies, female students wear white gowns, and male students wear red gowns

    “To my understanding I had to confirm if it was okay that I wear the female gown from my principal and she said it wasn’t okay,” said Purcell.

    Kahuku High School Principal Pauline Masaniai’s office referred questions to DOE spokesperson Donalyn Dela Cruz who had not returned a call before deadline. Dela Cruz previously has been quoted denying Purcell’s allegations.

    Citing local projects such as Growing Pono, A Place in the Middle and the federal Title IX civil rights law that prohibits sexual discrimination, supporters are urging the DOE to look to previous policies such as the GLSEN Transgender Model District Policy as a guideline.

    Hina Wong-Kalu, one of ten individuals to be honored this week at a White House event titled “Champions of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling,” said she feels so strongly about the need for change here that she will forgo the White House ceremony to confront the Department of Education.

    Wong-Kalu said that for Purcell, not participating in her graduation was a “lost opportunity,” as those times are when students are honored for their hard work and accomplishments.

    Growing up in a school environment where she felt restricted from being herself, Wong-Kalu said that she wished she had the peer support that Purcell has received from her peers, and that the younger generation should be encouraged to be themselves.

    “People like this should be able to feel comfortable in how they articulate themselves,” said Wong-Kalu.

    She said that creating guidelines that would guarantee an environment where transgender people can be themselves would be a “step forward.”

    “Basically, the petition is to push the DOE to push equity and fair treatment to all youth especially transgender youths, if they have arrived at a comfortable and confident place where they are aligned with their gender identity,” said Wong-Kalu.

    The petition will be deliverd at 1:00 p.m. in front of the Queen Liliuokalani Building.

    Purcell, reached by phone, said she wants a policy that treats all students fairly.

    “I just want fairness and equality for all, especially for anyone who is ‘different’,” she said.


    Continue reading
  • Media Advisory: Transgender Leaders to Deliver Petition to Hawaii Department of Education

    MEDIA ADVISORY

    Contact:

    Joe Wilson, Coordinator

    c: 808-629-9864

    e: QwavesJoe@yahoo.com


    Transgender Leaders to Deliver a Petition with Thousands of Signatures Calling on

    the Hawaii Department of Education to Respect and Protect Transgender Students


    WHAT: Prominent transgender figures including fashion designer Ari South, soccer and film star Jaiyah Saelua, and teacher and cultural practitioner Hina Wong-Kalu will gather with local transgender students and their families and community supporters to express the urgent need, and offer a strong show of support, for the Hawaii Department of Education to establish guidelines and training to ensure that students across the gender spectrum are respected and protected in schools.


    “This is so important for our keiki that I'm going to the DOE instead of the White House this week,” said Wong-Kalu, who was recently selected to receive an Asian American - Pacific Islander Champion of Change award in Washington DC this week.


    WHEN: 1:00pm, Tuesday, May 3, 2016


    WHERE: Front steps of the Hawaii State Department of Education, Queen Liliuokalani Bldg., 1390 Miller Street, Honolulu, HI


    Background:

    A growing number of stories about transgender students facing discrimination in Hawaii public schools underscore the need for fair and consistent treatment district wide. The petitioners, recognizing the courageous leadership of the Board of Education in providing a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students, are holding this event to demonstrate the broad interest in these concerns and the growing public support for expeditious action.


    The petition requests the DOE to establish a clear set of guidelines, consistent with its existing anti-discrimination policy, to ensure that all students are safe, included and respected in school, regardless of their gender identity or expression, and to conduct training and educational activities to ensure that these guidelines are known and implemented, and that students have the opportunity to express themselves and live authentically. The DOE is urged to study the policies and best practices, such as those presented in the California and GLSEN transgender model district policies, that have been adopted by school districts across the country without any incidents of confusion, harassment, or inappropriate behavior. The United States Department of Education has advised schools that failure to treat students consistent with their gender identity leaves them open to legal prosecution under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.


    Additional Participants Expected:

    Jennea Purcell and Berlin Scott – Transgender Kahuku High School student and her mother

    Wendy Wink – Parent of second grade transgender student in Honolulu elementary school

    Sinan Sison & Cathy Kapua – Kuaʻana Transgender Services Project of the Life Foundation

    Laila Villanueva Ireland – Transgender nurse at Tripler Army Medical Center

    Camaron Miyamoto – University of Hawaii at Manoa LGBT Student Services Coordinator


    See petition, and Civil Beat article “Hawaii Schools Need a Transgender Policy Now


    Continue reading
  • White House Recognizes Kumu Hina Among “Champions of Change”

    THE WHITE HOUSE

    Office of Communications

    April 29, 2016

    White House to Recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling “Champions of Change”


    WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, May 4, the White House recognizes ten individuals from across the country as “White House Champions of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.”


    During Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, the White House and White House Initiative on AAPIs are celebrating artists and advocates who have used unique channels and diverse platforms to tell powerful stories, increase awareness around key AAPI issues, and encourage diversity and inclusion in all sectors of society. These ten individuals were selected for their leadership and tireless work to raise the visibility of diverse AAPI experiences and create dialogue around issues the community faces.


    The event features remarks by Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Tina Tchen, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu, and White House Initiative on AAPIs Executive Director Doua Thor. Panels with the Champions of Change will be moderated by Phil Yu, blogger of Angry Asian Man, and Jeanny Kim, Acting Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.


    The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. Follow the conversation at #WHChamps.


    See fill list of Champions of Change HERE.


    Continue reading
  • Transgender Student Unable to Walk With Graduating Class - ABC National News


    A transgender student says she wasn't allowed to walk at her high school graduation as a female, so she elected to skip the ceremony altogether.


    Jennea Purcell, 18, says she was barred from participating in the graduation ceremony at Kahuku High & Intermediate School in Honolulu after transitioning from male to female, telling ABC affiliate KITV that she transitioned from "Jackson" to "Jennea" while in school.


    "I was full-time female. I dressed like a female," Purcell told KITV. "I played the role as a female as far as the bathroom goes, yes, anything the females did, I was doing."


    Traditionally, graduating girls at Kahuku wear white gowns and boys wear red. Purcell told KITV she wanted to wear the white gown and that's when things got complicated.

    "When I talked to Pauline Masaniai [the principal of Kahuku], she was telling me that my choice is the male's choice and that's the only option I have."


    Masaniai denies Purcell's allegations, telling ABC News, "She was not barred because of being transgendered. She was not barred because of the color of gown she wanted to wear. That was already approved."


    Purcell did not participate in the graduation ceremony because of other reasons, according to Donalyn Dela Cruz, Communications Director of the Hawaii State Department of Education. She did not elaborate on the reasons.


    "There has been no incident in which a student has been 'barred' from participating in commencement exercises based on gender identity," Dela Cruz told ABC News in a written statement. "Hawaii State Board of Education Policy 4540 states students shall be permitted to participate in commencement exercises if they:(1) meet the requirements for a diploma or a certificate; (2) have fulfilled their financial obligations; and (3) meet other conditions established by the Department of Education, which meet the standards of clarity, reasonableness, and justifiability."


    Purcell admitted to KITV she struggled academically in her final year of school, but believed that she was on track to graduate.


    Purcell is sticking to her story and says she plans to share it with the world through filmmakers with the Kumu Hina film project, according to KITV.


    She's also started a petition on change.org, challenging the Hawaii DOE to implement reforms.


    "My intention in making this film and having the petition is just to make sure that no other child, even if they're not transgender or part of the LGBT community, doesn't have to go through something like this. It's not okay," Purcell told KITV.


    Continue reading
  • Transgender Woman Denied Walk at Kahuku Graduation - KITV News Honolulu

    HONOLULU -

    Jennea Purcell is a transgender woman living in Laie. She says she was denied the right to walk at graduation last year as a woman at Kahuku High School. Purcell is sharing her story in hopes of persuading the state Department of Education to come up with a policy on how transgender students are treated.


    Continue reading
  • Transgender Woman Urges Inclusion, Respect at Hawaii Public Schools - KHON TV 2 Honolulu

    A Kahuku transgender woman says she was denied a milestone moment: walking with her class at her high school graduation.

    Now a petition is spreading online urging the Department of Education to implement a policy to make sure all students are respected.

    A department spokeswoman could not answer specific questions about the student, but said officials have been working on guidelines for at least six months.

    Kahuku High School’s graduation ceremony has included a student performance for the last 20 years.

    In a seven-minute video published Wednesday, Jennea, who is a transgender student, says she chose not to participate last year because she was told she couldn’t wear the same color gown as the girls. That video is being shared with the petition.

    “I wasn’t able to participate,” she said. “I tried to get a white gown, which is for females, and the red gown is for the males.”

    Jennea still received her diploma from the public school, but says her principal would talk to her about being a boy.

    “The allegations about the gown are not true, as well as the allegations she was discriminated against,” said DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.

    Hina Wong-Kalu is a Native Hawaiian transgender woman. Her story’s also shared with the Kumu Hina Project, which is behind the petition.

    “What gain and what benefit would this young transgender woman have to subject herself to the scrutiny and the judgments of the community, knowing what will come?” Wong-Kalu asked. “When you are put down because this is your personal articulation and expression of yourself, you question everything else that you do.”

    The department says it is establishing guidelines that could be implemented next school year that would cover bathroom use, along with student records if a student changes his or her identity while in school.

    “Will teachers and counselors receive some type of mentoring or training so they know how to address issues that might come up?” KHON2 asked.

    “Yes, there have been some complexes that have already held their own type of training in dealing with various students,” Dela Cruz said.

    The vice chairman of the Board of Education says the board will continue to ensure that there is a prompt investigation of any complaint.

    Existing BOE policy states that “a student shall not be excluded from participation in any program, services, or activity of the Department of Education.”



    Continue reading
  • "Hawaii Schools Need A Transgender Policy Now" - Honolulu Civil Beat

    by Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, and Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu for the Honolulu Civil Beat



    More and more transgender and gender nonconforming youth are finding the courage to express their authentic identity. They deserve the same access to education as every other child in Hawaii's schools. But as Jennea's story, and many others like it, clearly show, they are instead being singled out for harassment and discrimination - not by other students, but by the very school officials who are supposed to serve and protect them.


    The central problem is the Hawaii Department of Education, which has failed to establish a transgender policy, neglected training and education on this subject, and ignored existing civil rights law.


    It's not for lack of knowledge of the issue. According to the DOE's own documents, numerous principals have requested guidance on addressing the needs of transgender students. And just last week, both the local and national news spotlighted the mother of a transgender child in a Hawaii elementary school who suffered unnecessary heartache and chaos due to the lack of any DOE guidance.


    The DOE's response to the story was “we're working on it”... which, given that it issued precisely the same claim five months ago, one year ago, two years before that, and so on ad infinitum – is about as believable as “we had a policy but the dog ate it.”


    Nor can DOE's negligence be attributed to lack of suitable models. School districts around the country have developed reputable, field-tested policies and best practices around gender diversity that could be immediately provided to educators and administrators. And Hawaii is fortunate to have culturally-based curriculum materials for anti-bias education developed by local projects such as Growing Pono Schools and A Place in the Middle.


    With graduation just around the corner, it's time for the Hawaii DOE to promulgate a policy to ensure that all students are safe, included and respected in school, regardless of their gender identity or expression. The DOE should also conduct training, professional development and educational activities to ensure that this policy is known and implemented and to provide an environment in which students have the opportunity to express themselves and live authentically.


    Kahuku Intermediate and High School – the institution that forbade Jennea to graduate as her true self – could act as a model school by publicly declaring that it will never again deny a student this right, and that in the future, students may participate in graduation and other school activities consistent with their gender identity.


    None of this will give back Jennea the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk at graduation, or the joy of appearing with her friends in a viral video in which she was supposed to have a starring role. That is gone forever.


    But Jennea hopes that going public with her story will help the next generation of students avoid the trauma and discrimination she faced, and build confidence in their own abilities and worth. You can help by sharing Jennea's video and signing this petition.


    Continue reading
  • Kumu Hina Wins at GLAAD Media Awards, Hollywood Vows to Continue Fight Against Anti-LGBT Laws

    Kumu Hina Wins at GLAAD Media Awards, Hollywood Vows to Continue Fight Against Anti-LGBT Laws

    April 3, 2016:

    The last year has been historic for the visibility of transgender people in the media, from the continued rise of “Orange Is the New Black’s” Laverne Cox to the coming out and reality show helmed by former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner to the Oscar-winning theatrical adaptation of trans icon Lili Elbe’s life in “The Danish Girl.” Additionally, gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women find themselves represented on screens large and small in “Empire,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Dope” and “Carol.” To celebrate such progress, GLAAD hosted its 27th annual media awards Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton.

    But with progress comes a fierce backlash, and GLAAD and its supporters remain ready to fight.

    “There are walls everywhere,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD CEO and president, from the event’s stage. “The current backlash we are seeing is over 100 anti-LGBT bills. Each one reverses the achievements we have made over the years. [But] at GLAAD, if somebody builds a 10-foot wall, we build an 11-foot ladder.”

    GLAAD is an advocacy group aiming to accelerate the acceptance of LGBT people by holding media accountable for their representations of the community in TV, film and other disciplines. Each year, the best, most inclusive and nuanced portrayals are recognized with a nomination at its media awards. This year’s ceremony, sponsored by Ketel One, was attended by Nene Leakes, Paula Abdul, Zendaya and Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette among others. The purpose was to celebrate the community’s progress, but on the minds of all were the latest political attempts to stunt the very reason they all gathered.

    Recent legislation has popped up across the nation aiming to limit the rights of LGBT people. In North Carolina, for example, a law mandated anti-discrimination statewide, but did not include specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, it restricts the bathrooms that transgender people can use to the sex they were at birth. In Georgia, though vetoed by the governor following pressure from Hollywood as coalesced by GLAAD, a bill touting “religious liberty” would have discriminated against LGBT people. And there is other legislation across the country.

    “We have always believed that visibility brings about acceptance, that telling stories will open people's hearts. Over the past few years, we've seen an increase in that,” said Jenny Boylan, a star of “I am Cait.” “With that visibility, however, is coming a lot of blowback."

    But as evidenced by the multiple rounds of applause when folks on stage spoke about fighting said blowback, LGBT progress won't be stunted for long, Boylan said.

    "Though we may not win everything this week, we’re going to win everything in the end," said Boylan.

    The night also saw two major honors bestowed on Demi Lovato and Ruby Rose, the Vanguard Award and Stephen F. Kolzak Award, respectively.

    The Vanguard Award, given to media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance, was presented to Lovato by singer and actor Nick Jonas. Lovato also performed. Previous Vanguard Award honorees include Kerry Washington, Jennifer Lopez, Kristin Chenoweth, Antonio Banderas and Janet Jackson.

    Rose, known for her role on “Orange Is the New Black,” received the Kolzak Award for her visibility as a lesbian woman. She was presented her honor by surprise guest Taylor Swift.

    The night also served as a fundraiser for the organization to continue its advocacy. It raised more than $380,000, $300,000 of which was matched by Wells Fargo.

    The event will air on LGBT network Logo on Monday at 10 p.m. EST/PST.

    Check out the full list of honorees and award winners below:

    Vanguard Award
    Demi Lovato (presented by Nick Jonas)

    Stephen F. Kolzak Award
    Ruby Rose (presented by Taylor Swift)

    Outstanding Documentary
    “Kumu Hina”

    Outstanding Reality Program
    “I Am Cait” and “I Am Jazz” [accepted by Caitlyn Jenner and Jazz Jennings]

    Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series
    “Bessie” [accepted by Queen Latifah]

    Outstanding Drama Series
    “Sense8” [accepted by Lilly Wachowski, co-creator of "Sense8"]

    Outstanding Spanish-Language Television Interview
    "Orientación sexual y acoso escolar,” “Realidades en Contexto” [accepted by CNN en Español anchor Mercedes Soler and Marcos Saldivar]

    Outstanding Film – Wide Release
    “Carol”

    Outstanding Comedy Series
    “Transparent”

    Outstanding Daily Drama
    “The Bold and the Beautiful”

    Outstanding Music Artist
    Troye Sivan, “Blue Neighbourhood”

    Outstanding Comic Book
    “Lumberjanes,” written by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh

    Outstanding Talk Show Episode
    "Janet Mock," “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN

    Special Recognition
    “Beautiful As I Want to Be” (Logotv.com) and “This Is Me” (Amazon Instant Video)

    Spanish-Language Winners
    Outstanding Novela
    “Rastros de mentiras”

    Outstanding Music Artist
    Ricky Martin, “A quien quiera escuchar”

    Outstanding Local Television Interview
    "La nueva transgeneración," “Enfoque Los Ángeles”

    Outstanding Local TV Journalism
    "Cada 29 horas," “Noticias 19”

    Outstanding Newspaper Article
    "Padres transgénero - El único requisito para ser papá es el amor por los hijos" by Virginia Gaglianone of “La Opinión”

    Outstanding Digital Journalism Article
    "Perú: violaciones correctivas: El terrible método para 'curar' a las lesbianas" by Leire Ventas of BBCMundo.com





    Continue reading
  • It Gets Better for Kumu Hina at Kamehameha Schools

    March 30, 2016:


    Twenty-six years ago, Collin Wong was a timid young Kamehameha Schools student who was teased and tormented for being “too girlish.” Back then, long before we had reached the “transgender tipping point,” there wasn't a place for students like Collin, and no teacher to offer guidance on what was considered a controversial topic better ignored than embraced.


    But Collin was fortunate to find safety, and inspiration, in studying Hawaiian language, culture and music, a realm at Kamehameha where students were judged not for their gender expression but for their dedication and accomplishments. With the encouragement and tutelage of acclaimed kumu such as Randie Fong and Holoua Stender, Collin excelled, leading his junior class chorus and, as a senior, chanting his own composition at the legendary annual school Song Contest.


    Three years later, Collin transitioned to Hinaleimoana, and began her pursuit of a life of teaching, community service, and passing on the true meaning of aloha: love, honor and respect for all. One of her innovations as a K-12 teacher, or kumu, at a Hawaiian-focused public charter school in Honolulu, was to create a place and nomenclature, based on cultural tradition, that explicitly recognizes students who are “in the middle” - somewhere between male and female on the gender spectrum.


    Instead of being ignored or ridiculed, these “kane-wahine” and “wahine-kane” - terms coined by Hina to acknowledge and honor the presence of both feminine and masculine spirits in her students - are expected to excel – not despite who they are, but precisely because of it.


    Two weeks ago, Hina's journey came full circle when she was invited to the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest to watch the students perform her original composition Ku'u Ha'aheo e Ku'u Hawai'i - Stand Tall My Hawai'i. This stirring anthem has become a symbol of today's Hawaiian movement for sovereignty and self-determination – a movement that, thanks largely to Hina's work, increasingly recognizes Hawaii's tradition of gender diversity and inclusiveness as an important component of the quest for a better world.



    Hina will return to Kamehameha Schools on April 6 for a screening, at the Ka'iwakiloumoku Hawaiian Cultural Center, of A Place in the Middle – a short film that we produced, based on our PBS feature documentary Kumu Hina, to make Hina's uniquely Hawaiian style of teaching available to students, educators, families and communities everywhere – including in Hawaii's public schools, which are having difficulty grappling with these issues. In addition to a lively talk story, attendees will be able to get free copies of the educational toolkit, and be treated to a live performance of Hina's mele.


    And in July, Hina will travel to Washington D.C. to receive this year's Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award from the National Education Association, honoring her contributions to improving educational opportunities and advancing the achievement of equal opportunity for Asians and Pacific Islanders.


    Hina's experiences as a young person could have made her bitter, but instead the cultural foundation she developed at Kamehameha Schools made her stronger. It's fitting that she is returning there with a body of work and teaching method rooted in the very culture and philosophy that saved her so long ago. It does get better - particularly when one is treated with, and lives by, the spirit of aloha.


    Continue reading
  • A TRANS* Pacific Talk Story: A Night of Mahuwahine and Translatina Solidarity at the University of Hawai'i

    Continue reading
  • Kamehameha Schools Rendition of Kumu Hinaʻs "Kū‘u ha‘aheo e ku‘u Hawai‘i - Stand tall my Hawai‘i"

    "I was truly honored to have my composition, my mele Ku Haaheo e Kuu Hawaii featured in the finale of this yearʻs Hoike of Kamehameha Schools Song Contest 2016. Mahalo for this wonderful honor to all those whom made this yearʻs Hoike possible. I am so very proud of the students who presented the mele and yes I stood with you and sang last night too. I wasnʻt going to but I didnʻt want to let you all down.

    I dedicate this to my grandmother Mona Kananiokalani Kealoha who was my first anchor to being staunch and steadfast about being Hawaiian. I also dedicate this to the women whom inspired me to strive higher and higher as a Kanaka during my time at the University of Hawaii Manoa...and although political perspectives were diverse as they still may be today I still have great aloha and respect for you all... I acknowledge you Haunani Kay-Trask, Lilikala Kameʻeleihiwa, as well as Rubellite Kawena Johnson and Davianna McGregor. Aloha to my kumu of ʻike Hawaii at Kamehameha School Kapalama Campus, Kumu Sarah Keahi (Quick), Kumu Liana Iaea Honda, Randie Kamuela Fong, Wayne Keahi Chang, Holoua Stender, Nuulani Atkins...my main coaches Blane Gaison (Kapu Gaison Kepa Gaison Donnalei Zumba Instructor give my aloha to my coach) and Wallace Wong for teaching me to push higher and harder and be humble. Mahalo also to my many teachers...Kumu J Leimomi Ho, Kumu Tony Conjugacion, Kumu Robert Uluwehi Cazimero and Kumu Leinaala Kalama Heine, Kumu Vicky Holt Takamine, and Kumu Noenoe Zuttermeister...whether my time studying with you was in a short time class or long time study in halau...mahalo. Mahalo to my mentor, my tita and dearest friend Kauai Iki Olores for believing in me and for the countless adventures of life, hula and so much more. Mahalo to my Kumu Kimo Keaulana for the blessing and apono to holomua. Mahalo to Puakea Nogelmeier, Kamoae Walk, Laiana Wong, Iolii Hawkins. Mahalo to my ohana Niihau for these many years of aloha and teaching and life. If I forgot someone it wasnʻt intentional...to all of you whom contributed to my life and outlook as a kanaka...my aloha and mahalo to you all. E kala mai if your name isnʻt here however I acknowledge my family and friends for all the love and support too. No Kuu lahui e haawi pau a i ola mau."

    - Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu

    Continue reading
  • Reframe Gender Through Film - A Gender Spectrum Conversation with Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer


    Continue reading
  • Local Film Earns Nomination For ‘Gay Oscar’ -- Honolulu Civil Beat


    Featured last year on PBS and in some of the world’s best film festivals, Kumu Hina is now up for best documentary at the GLAAD Media Awards.

    by Todd Simmons - January 29, 2016:

    Kumu Hina, an acclaimed documentary about a Honolulu transgender teacher, her halau, a particularly remarkable student and mahu identity, has been nominated for a prestigious GLAAD Media Award, often referred to as the Oscar for LGBT film and television.

    It’s the latest in a series of high-profile recognitions for the 2014 feature, which is nominated in the Best Documentary category for the annual awards presented by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. It was featured in 2015 as part of PBS’s award-winning Independent Lens series and in some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, including Berlin, Toronto, Beijing and Budapest.

    Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson of Honolulu, whose previous films Out in the Silence and Otros Amores have earned prominence and acclaim including an Emmy Award and feature treatment on PBS, are the first Hawaii filmmakers to have a project nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.

    Kumu Hina, right, instructs members of her halau or hula school. Kumu Hina is both a teacher and a mahu, or transgender woman.

    Kumu Hina, right, instructs members of her halau or hula school. Kumu Hina is both a teacher and a mahu, or transgender woman.

    In the documentary category, Kumu Hina is up against four other nominees, including a biopic on 1950s-60s sex symbol Tab Hunter and two men who in 1975 became one of the first same-sex couples in the world to legally marry. Wilson said it’s particularly noteworthy that Kumu Hina was nominated in a breakout year for transgender issues around the world.

    “In a year when a record number of nominees included transgender people or characters, Kumu Hina introduced the world to the Hawaiian philosophy of honoring and respecting mahu, those who embody both male and female spirit,” Wilson said. “The GLAAD nod is symbolic of the growing recognition of all that Hawaii and Hawaiian culture have to offer beyond the tourist brochures.”

    In fact, 75 of the 147 nominees this year include transgender characters or issues, according to GLAAD, which released the nominations earlier this week.

    Other top film and television titles up for recognition at GLAAD’s 27th annual awards ceremony scheduled for April 2 in Beverly Hills and May 14 in New York include The Danish Girl, Carol, Orange Is The New Black, Transparent, Modern Family, How To Get Away With Murder and Empire.

    Continue reading
  • KUMU HINA Nominated for GLAAD Media Award

    Continue reading
  • "A Place in the Middle" Included in New Resource: "Expanding Gender: Youth Out Front"

    Download FREE Curriculum & Action Guides HERE.


    Continue reading
  • Making Democracy Work -- A League of Women Voters interview with Kumu Hina



    Continue reading
  • "Mahu Demonstrate Hawaii’s Shifting Attitudes Toward LGBT Life" - Al Jazeera


    Advocates say gender tolerance, common in Hawaiian society, has been weakened by US influences

    by Jon Letman, AL JAZEERA AMERICA - January 9, 2016:

    LIHUE, Hawaii — Growing up in the largely Hawaiian community of Waianae on the west side of Oahu, Kalani Young enjoyed a diverse upbringing that included attending Catholic, Mormon and evangelical churches and a Buddhist temple, in addition to prayers and rituals rooted in Hawaiian spirituality.

    However Young also recalled being an effeminate young boy who was bullied by male family members who, she said, wanted to “beat the girl out of her.”

    The 33-year-old identifies as mahu — a gender role in traditional Hawaiian society that refers to people who exhibit both feminine and masculine traits.

    “You’re someone in the middle. That’s all it means,” said Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a hula and Hawaiian studies teacher on Oahu, about the mahu term, which she prefers to transgender for its inclusivity.

    Known as a multicultural melting pot, Hawaii is often portrayed as among the most liberal states in the country based on its support for progressive positions on issues like climate change, gun control and same-sex marriage. Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013 and the state constitution, enacted in 1959, protects equal rights for all sexes.

    However LGBT communities undoubtedly still face discrimination in the Aloha State, a fact some advocates attribute to the imposition of Western values on the Hawaiian people that began in the 18th century.

    In a highly publicized case in March 2015, Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero, two women vacationing on Oahu, were confronted by an off-duty Honolulu police officer after kissing one another in a supermarket.

    The encounter led to a physical altercation and the couple’s arrest and imprisonment. Their case generated national attention and a lawsuit filed against the 26-year veteran police officer and the City and County of Honolulu. The couple’s attorney, Eric Seitz, said this was the first such case that he’d heard of in Hawaii.

    “[T]he police officer acted in an outrageous manner, based upon his own moral outrage, and the police and prosecutor subjected our clients to a period of incarceration and a felony prosecution that should never have occurred,” Seitz said in an email.

    The Honolulu Police Department confirmed that the officer involved in the incident remains on full duty.

    ‘You’re someone in the middle. That’s all [mahu] means.’ -- Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu,Hawaiian studies teacher

    The Transgender Law Center ranks Hawaii as “medium” for its laws promoting LGBT equality. Twenty-one states have an equal or higher ranking.

    LGBT advocates say Hawaii’s native culture traditionally accepted more nuanced gender roles, and current attitudes toward gender and sexual identity in Hawaii have been affected by colonization, land seizures, the suppression of Hawaiian language and culture, and the imposition of moral codes by Western missionaries.

    Before Hawaiians’ contact with outsiders, for example, Wong-Kalu says mahu individuals were respected, but faced increasing intolerance as native Hawaiians were supplanted by colonial settlers.

    The term, once used respectfully, has been appropriated and displaced, said Wong-Kalu, who contends that today’s lack of acceptance is the result of colonization.

    “Our own culture is used against us,” she said. “Mahu are denigrated and disrespected because of the imposition of foreign ideology.”

    Gender-based prejudice can be found at every level of society in Hawaii, including workplaces, houses of worship and schools. As in the continental U.S., the question of which bathroom they can use can be a source of uncertainty for LGBT students.

    Mandy Finlay, advocacy coordinator at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, wants Hawaii’s Department of Education to clarify its policies on school restrooms and locker room use for LGBT students, and “whether forcing kids to use a separate restroom constitutes any sort of discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sex.”

    In a written statement, the Hawaii State Department of Education responded, “The Department is actively working with schools on guidelines regarding transgender students and bathroom access. In the meantime, schools work with students who identify as transgender on appropriate accommodations.”

    In Hawaii as across the country, transgender persons face a wide range of problems from discrimination by employers, landlords and in the public sector to higher rates of substance abuse, homelessness, health problems and suicide attempts.

    Hawaii’s largest insurance provider, Hawaii Medical Service Association, does not offer coverage for gender reassignment procedures and treatments.

    Kyle Kajihiro, a board member with Hawaii Peace & Justice, said the most pressing issues in the struggle for LGBT equality in Hawaii are jobs and housing.

    “There is still aggression and discrimination happening below the radar,” he said. “You don’t see it but it’s happening every day and it’s still a big problem.”

    Meanwhile, same sex wedding tourism is making headlines in the islands as the impact of LGBT visitors grows while still appearing to fall short of economic forecasts by the University of Hawaii.

    Kathryn Xian, a human rights advocate based in Honolulu, recalled how during Hawaii’s campaign for marriage equality in the late 1990s, outside groups opposed to same-sex marriage funneled money and an anti-gay message that homosexuality was being “imported” into Hawaii.

    “Things are challenging,” she said. “But in some ways it’s a lot easier for LGBT persons to live here — the fact that the Hawaiian culture is the root of acceptance and precedes any sort of bigotry transplanted after Western contact.”



    Continue reading
  • Documentary on Transgender Hawaiian Caps Fiji Human Rights Festival - ABC Radio Australia

    Transcript: Dec. 10, 2015

    The Nothing Less Than Equal Film Festival ends in Suva, with a screening of 'Kumu Hina', a documentary about a transgender native Hawaiian woman who found refuge in her traditional culture.

    The film is the main event for the festival's final night, intended to cap off World Human Rights Day festivities on Thursday.

    Focusing on the life of Hina Wong-Kalu, a Honolulu-based teacher, the film, 'Kumu Hina' explores her relationship with her Tongan husband, as well as her contribution and acceptance as a cultural leader in her community.

    Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson directed and produced the documentary, and they say they wanted to focus on how Hina's culture allowed her to develop a sense of pride about her gender identity.




    Continue reading
  • Transgender Love Story Closes Fiji Film Festival - Radio New Zealand

    Transcript: Dec. 10, 2015

    A Hawaiian-Tongan transgender love story was the focus of the last film at the 11 day long Nothing Less Than Equal Film Festival in Fiji which finished last night.

    The film festival was the first in Fiji to focus on human rights and violence against women.

    The festival formed part of the United Nations 16 Days of Activism campaign which sparked events across the Pacific illuminating gender-based violence.

    The directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson told Bridget Grace what the film is about.

    Dean Hamer: Kuma Hina is the story of a really remarkable cultural leader and teacher from Hawaii, named Hina Wong- Kalu. And she happens to be Māhū which is the Hawaiian term for transgender, she was born a male, but now lives as a female or somebody in between female and male. And the story traces a year in her life and it includes her marriage to a young man from Tonga and all the ups and downs that entails. And also her mentorship of a remarkable young girl who wants to join the boys hula troop, and who she empowers with her native culture.

    Bridget Grace: And I understand that it's a bit of a love story?

    Joe Wilson: Ooo it is quite a love story, yes. It's about Hina and her husband's relationship, it's about love of culture, it's about a love of teaching, and it is overall about the love of people who have been oppressed by a dominant culture sharing their perspective on what a better world could look like.

    BG: Why did you decide that this was the story that you wanted to tell?

    JW: We as people who grew up and spent most of our lives in the continental United States came to really understand what a struggle it is still actually, to be LGB or T, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Trans in the modern, western context. And it's often fighting against prejudice and discrimination and fighting for one's place in the world. When we happened to go to Hawaii and meet Hina Wong- Kalu. We saw that she as a transgender woman is just a highly regarded, revered, respected person in her community and it was and is her cultural foundation that embraces her for who she is. So that became a very important thing that we wanted to share.

    BG: This is like a documentary, so it's telling a real story?

    JW: When people see positive representations of themselves in their community, in political life etc. It is an inspiration that you too may find and be yourself and be a strong contributor.

    BG: With this film, I guess it has kind of a social role?

    DH: We think one of the most important aspects of the film is that it presents a transgender woman as a very positive role model and a mentor.

    BG: In the Pacific, it is something that people need to talk about more, that there needs to be a greater understanding and awareness?

    DH: What's interesting about the Pacific, is that there has always been a long tradition of gender fluidity, of transgender people, people who are a mixture of male and female. And what's happened historically is that, that discussion and that fact has been suppressed by colonisation and by religious forces. And what's really wonderful is that now the Pacific is talking about this issue more. People throughout the region are beginning to discuss it and they can actually act as a model for the West. We always think that we Westerners are the ones that teach people everything but at least in this case, the Pacific has a lot to teach everybody else.


    Continue reading
  • Free & Equal in the South Pacific: Kumu Hina Screenings in Fiji & Tonga

    December 7, 2015:

    This week, directors, and project ambassadors, Dean & Joe are off to share a message of gender diversity and inclusion with audiences in Fiji and Tonga!

    In Fiji, KUMU HINA is the closing night feature in the Nothing Less Than Equal Film Festival, an event organized by the Fiji Women's Right's Movement and several United Nations agencies in the region to help end violence against women and girls, and to promote respectful, equal, strong, and healthy relationships.

    In Tonga, a screening of the film hosted by the Tonga Leitis' Association will not only help to launch the UN Pacific Free & Equal Campaign, it will be the kick-off for Miss Galaxy 2015, an annual event that celebrates the diversity and talent of the Fakaleiti and LGBT communities throughout the islands.

    There will also be a screening of KUMU HINA at Tonga's 'Atenisi Institute, an autonomous university founded by Futa Helu, a legendary artist and educator who believed that students should be taught how -- not what -- to think.

    It's hard to imagine any better ways for this project to build bridges of friendship and solidarity across the waters than through meaningful events like these, and we're honored and humbled by the opportunities. Check out all the screening details HERE.

    Continue reading
  • UOTeachOUT: Leadership Summit & Educational Series on Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation Issues in Education to Feature KUMU HINA & A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE

    The University of Oregon's UOTeachOUT is comprised of a series of community and university educational events focused on gender identity and sexual orientation issues in education.

    These educational events and activities take place each May for UOTeachOUT and include:

    1.) A community wide celebration and BBQ fundraiser to support LGBTQ youth leadership opportunities.

    2.) A GSA Youth Leadership Summit for five regional school districts

    3.) A professional development event for educators, youth advocacy workers and families

    4.) A public art display related to the topic.

    5.) An open-house and author talk for university students and the community at large.

    6.) A Teacher Education Leadership Summit on topics related to gender identity and sexual orientation issues in education.


    Save the Date: Thursday, May 12, 2016

    UOTeachOUT 2016 Youth Leadership Summit

    Featuring: Documentary filmmakers Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer and teacher and keynote speaker Kumu Hina.

    And screening two amazing new documentary films: A Place in the Middle and Kumu Hina

    Additional guests and specific events will be announced in January.

    Continue reading
  • NITV Australia Respects Transgender Day of Remembrance with 'Kumu Hina' & 'A Place in the Middle'

    By NITV Staff Writer -- 11 Nov 2015:

    Founded by activist and transwoman, Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the Transgender Day of Remembrance marks the death of transgender African American woman Rita Hester, who was murdered in a hate crime on 28 November 1998.

    Such a day reminds us of human beings' capacity for the most abhorrent behaviour and acts.

    But in the face of 21st century exclusion and discrimination, we can look to our ancestors and traditions for answers. When it comes to acceptance of gender diversity, the native Hawai'ian culture offers powerful lessons.

    "The meaning of 'Aloha' is 'love, honor and respect for all"

    The meaning of 'Aloha' is 'love, honor and respect for all', which might be symptomatic of a wider culture that promotes equality and dignity. But beyond that, expressions of gender and sexuality which are creative or fall outside of mainstream norms have traditionally been celebrated in Hawai'ian culture.

    As the documentaries 'Kumu Hina' and 'A Place in the Middle' reveal, living between both genders is the powerful 'māhū' way. Hawai'ian heritage respects the māhū people, which it says embody both the male and female spirit. Māhū have traditionally taken on roles as caretakers, healers and keepers of ancient traditions.

    "When I was in high school I was teased and tormented for being too girlish. But I found refuge in being Hawai'ian."

    Māhū Hina Wong-Kalu says in the documentary 'Kumu Hina' that she found sanctuary in her culture and heritage: 'When I was in high school I was teased and tormented for being too girlish. But I found refuge in being Hawai’ian.'

    Now a teacher and cultural director at a charter school, Hina teaches her students about their culture's time-honoured traditions and values.

    'Kumu Hina' follows Hina's story as she helps a student, Ho'onani, who is also 'in the middle'. It is a truly inspiring story about love, identity and compassion that takes us to the exhilarating final performance of a hula troupe.

    'A Place in the Middle' is a version of 'Kumu Hina' for children.

    WATCH 'A Place in the Middle’ on NITV (ch 34 / 144) on Friday 20 November at 6:00PM or catch it after broadcast here, On Demand.

    WATCH ‘Kumu Hina' on NITV (ch 34 / 144) on Friday 20 November at 9:00PM or catch it after broadcast here, On Demand.

    Take the Pledge of Aloha by visiting kumuhina.com

    I believe that every person has a role in society, and deserves to be included and treated with respect in their family, school, and community.

    I believe that every person should be free to express what is truly in their heart and mind, whether male, female, or in the middle.

    I believe that every person should be able to practise their cultural traditions, and to know and perpetuate the wisdom of their ancestors for future generations.

    I believe these values are embodied in aloha: love, honor and respect for all.

    Therefore, I pledge to live aloha in everything I do, and to inspire people of all ages to do the same.



    Continue reading
  • "An Interview with Native Hawaiian Activist Kumu Hina" -- Radio 94.1FM KPFA -- Berkeley, CA


    Sharon Sobotta talks with Kumu Hina, subject of an award-winning PBS documentary, about gender and sexuality in native Hawaiian culture.

    Listen to the interview here on 94.1 KPFA

    Continue reading
  • "How Can Our Community Better Understand Gender Diversity?" -- Insights on PBS Hawaii - Nov.12, 2015

    Following a broadcast of "A Place in the Middle" -- the short, youth-focused, educational version of "Kumu Hina," PBS Hawaii hosted a one-hour on-air conversation to help promote understanding, acceptance and inclusion of all people, across the gender spectrum, in our communities.


    Continue reading
  • 雞蛋花的世界:《跨性夏威夷》Plumeria World: "Cross of Hawaii" -- 知名影評─但唐謨, Taiwanese Film Critic Dàn Táng Mó

    雞蛋花的世界:《跨性夏威夷》《新郎的花季》Plumeria World: "Cross of Hawaii" & "Groom Youth"

    知名影評─但唐謨 - Film Critic, Dàn Táng Mó

    雞蛋花是一種生長在熱帶地區的花,五個花瓣中襯著一抹暈黃。根據《魔幻香草百科》,雞蛋花是陰性/女性的代表,具有愛情的魔法;佛陀則是它的至神。在印度,雞蛋花是代表著永恆不朽,因為它有著堅韌的生長力。在東南亞/南亞地區,某些場合(例如峇里島的傳統戲劇表演)中的男性也會在耳畔戴著一朵雞蛋花。雞蛋花在燥動的亞洲/太平洋熱帶,為陽剛的男性增添了一份陰柔之美。

    Plumeria is a growth in the tropics flowers, five petals set off by a touch of dusky. According to the "magic herb encyclopedia", frangipani is negative / behalf of women, with a love of magic; Buddha is it to God. In India, frangipani is representing immortality, because it has a tough vigor. In the Southeast / South Asia, some cases (such as Bali traditional theater) in men also wore a frangipani in the ears. Asia / Pacific tropical eggs spend agitation for masculine men adds a feminine beauty.

    紀錄片《跨性夏威夷》的男/女主角荷娜就非常喜歡在頭上帶著一朵雞蛋花,搭配他壯碩的體格,呈現了一份力與美的陰性魅力。《跨性夏威夷》記錄一段遙遠文化下的性別之旅。位處太平洋的夏威夷也有著長遠殖民歷史,雖然是美國的一州,當地的傳統仍然是南島文化。傳統夏威夷的性別概念,除了男女之外,還有一種介於兩者之間的性別「māhū」。māhū兼具男女兩種性別,也同時擁有兩者的優越性;但是經過長久的歐洲殖民,象徵夏威夷當地傳統性別文化的māhū也受到了打壓。

    Documentary "Cross of Hawaii," the male / female Hena would very much like eggs in the head with a flower, with his burly physique, showing a negative power and beauty of the charm. "Cross of Hawaii" record period of sex tours under distant culture. Located in the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii also has a long-term colonial history, although it is part of the United States, local tradition is still Austronesian culture. Traditional Hawaiian concept of gender, in addition to men and women, there is a cross between gender between "māhū." māhū both men and women of both sexes, and also has the advantages of both; but after a long European colonization, a symbol of Hawaiian culture, local traditional gender māhū also been suppressed.

    《跨性夏威夷》是一個性別認同之旅,同時也是個國族認同的過程。主角荷娜曾經是個青澀的原住民少年,但是他陰柔的個性卻引來嘲笑,「māhū」就是一句罵他的用語;但是少年的他並不知道māhū的意思。在成長的路程中,他/她漸漸發掘到了māhū的意義,也漸漸發掘自己的身體和性別。這部片記錄了跨性別的荷娜如何在現代夏威夷社會,努力維護傳統價值;還原陰陽合體的māhū原始所象徵的驕傲,榮耀及尊嚴。她教授一群少年夏威夷傳統歌舞,把在地文化教育下一代;她即使穿著女裝,但是她精力充沛,聲音洪亮,陽剛味十足;她的愛情生活卻也和一般人一樣充滿著起起伏伏。但是她也必須面對社會的壓力:她的學生中有個生理女的「男孩」,卻被迫分類到「女孩」那一邊……

    "Cross of Hawaii" gender identity is a journey, but also a national identity in the process. Hena protagonist once a Sentimental Aboriginal boy, but he was attracted ridicule feminine personality, "māhū" is a curse of his term; however, he did not know māhū teenager meaning. Growing up journey, he / she gradually discover the meaning māhū also gradually explore their bodies and sex. This film records the transgender Hena how modern Hawaiian society, efforts to preserve traditional values; yin and yang to restore the original assembly māhū symbolized the pride, honor and dignity. She teaches a group of teenagers traditional Hawaiian dance, to educate the next generation of local culture; she even dressed women, but she energetic, loud, masculine flavor; her love life and ordinary people but also as full of ups and downs. But she also must face the social pressure: her students to have a physiological woman "boy", was forced to classify the "girl" side ......

    兼具陽剛與陰柔的荷娜,她的性別認同和她的國族/文化認同是連結在一起,兩者密不可分。《跨性夏威夷》介紹了一份少有人知,但是彌足珍貴的「酷兒」文化,以及西方殖民長期加諸於於酷兒/同志的壓抑。

    Hena both masculine and feminine, her gender identity and her country's ethnic / cultural identity are linked together, the two are inseparable. "Cross of Hawaii," describes a little-known, but precious "queer" culture, as well as long-term Western colonialism imposed in queer / gay repression.

    荷娜經常戴在頭上的那朵雞蛋花(Frangipani),也正是斯里蘭卡同志電影《新郎的花季》的英語片名。這部片儘管在國際影展大放光彩,礙於斯里蘭卡嚴苛的電檢,卻無法在當地公開放映。《新郎的花季》是個三角戀愛的故事:一對男孩女孩青梅竹馬一起長大,無奈女有情,郎無意,然後一個外來的粗獷男進入了他們的世界,男孩和粗獷男發展了一份曖昧的情誼;但是迫於現實,女孩卻嫁給了粗獷男。這段糾結纏繞的三角戀愛,伴隨著他們從年輕一路成長……

    Hena often worn on the head of the flower Plumeria (Frangipani), Comrade Sri Lanka is also the film "groom's Youth," the English title. Although this film shine at international film festivals, because of the harsh censorship in Sri Lanka, but not public screening on the ground. "Groom Youth" is a triangular love story: a childhood of boys and girls grow up together, but unfortunately women love, Lang unintentionally, then an outside rough men entered their world, boys and rough men develop a friendship ambiguous; But reality intruded, the girl was married to a rough man. This tangled love triangle, along with the way they grow from a young ......

    《新郎的花季》的視覺和故事都充滿著一份「異國情調」,然而這份「異國情趣」真真實實地來自斯里蘭卡的同志經驗:他們面對著認同,家庭,性別,以及環境之下的宿命。故事中呈現的男同志身體,也帶著陰性之美。男主角面對自己時,總是以女裝現身;而當他對外以女裝身份出現時,卻帶著一種反抗/叛逆的意涵。斯里蘭卡的法律不容許同志戀,但是在一個飽受壓抑的社會中,最先突圍而出的,總是在身體上率先革命的變裝/跨性酷兒。

    "The groom's Youth," the visual and stories are filled with an "exotic", but this comrade experience "exotic" truly, from Sri Lanka: They faced identity, under the family, gender, and the environment fate. The story presented in gay body, but also with the United States and negative. When the actor to face their own, always to women coming out; and when he was external to the emergence of women's status, but with a kind of revolt / rebellion meaning. Sri Lanka's law does not allow comrade love, but suffering in a repressive society, the first to stand out, always lead the revolution in the body dressing / transgender queer.

    象徵著生命,希望與喜悅的雞蛋花,連結了兩個不同的空間,以及兩種在壓抑下奮鬥掙扎的同志文化。《跨性夏威夷》,《新郎的花季》這兩部酷兒電影,帶出了一份迷人勵志的雞蛋花世界。

    A symbol of life, hope and joy of frangipani, connecting two different spaces, as well as two comrades culture in the struggle struggling under oppressive. "Cross of Hawaii," "groom season of" Queer these two films brought out a fascinating inspirational frangipani world.


    Continue reading
  • "It's About Being Brave" - The Garden Island News



    Film Screening Highlights Transgender Issues, Hawaiian Culture

    by Brittany Lyte - Oct. 21, 2015:

    LIHUE — A year after the film depicting a year in her life debuted at the Hawaii International Film Festival, Hina Wong-Kalu is coming to Kauai.

    Wong-Kalu, of Honolulu, is the face of “Kumu Hina,” the acclaimed documentary that tells the story of a Native Hawaiian mahu, or transgender, teacher who inspires a student to claim her place as leader of an all-male hula troupe.

    It’s a powerful film told through the lens of an extraordinary Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident mahu and an honored and respected teacher, cultural practitioner and community leader.

    “The film has a unique way, I think, of helping bring people together in communities,” said Joe Wilson, co-director of the film. “We have been going to places far and wide and to communities where many of the people who are depicted in the film live, but don’t have visibility and don’t have support they way these people do in urban centers. The film gives people a story and a way to engage and open up and talk about some of these issues.”

    Wong-Kalu, as well as film directors Wilson and Dean Hamer, will attend a special screening of “Kumu Hina” at 7:15 p.m. Friday in Hanalei. The 77-minute screening will take place at the community and culture center Hale Halawai Ohana O Hanalei. It is free and open to the public.

    “It’s about being brave,” said Kati Conant, Hale Halawai’s executive director. “Brave enough to be not only your true self, but brave enough to be your best self while respecting your culture and, in this case, the Hawaiian culture. There’s a lesson for all humans in this film.”

    The screening is hosted by the YWCA of Kauai, Malama Pono Health Services and PFLAG Kauai.

    “It’s an opportunity for the YWCA and Malama Pono to tell the community about our services,” said Matthew Houck, who is the YWCA’s LGBTQ services specialist. “All these agencies are in Lihue. We want people at the farther reaches of the island to know that there’s support for them.”

    As a lead-in to the screening in Hanalei, the Hawaii State Public Library System will present, “A Place in the Middle,” an anti-bullying short film that piggybacks off the “Kumu Hina” story, at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Hanapepe Public Library.

    This film, however, is geared toward the youth. It focuses on the story of the young Hawaiian girl who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe — the same girl Wong-Kalu mentors in “Kumu Hina.”

    The showing is part of a series of free community screenings at eight selected public libraries statewide.

    Following the screening, Wong-Kalu and the film’s co-directors will talk story with the audience.

    Continue reading
  • Penn Museum Film Series Explores Gender Boundaries with Hawaiian Stories

    by Ray Simon - PGN - October 8, 2015:

    “Gender Across Cultures” is the focus of the Penn Museum’s Second Sunday Culture Film Series, which begins Oct. 11. Two documentaries about Hawaii will be shown: “A Place in the Middle” and “Heart of the Sea.” The screening takes place at 2 p.m. in the Rainey Auditorium of the Penn Museum, located at 3260 South St. Museum admission applies ($15), giving attendees access to the museum’s exhibits.

    The film series is cosponsored by the Penn Humanities Forum and the William Way LGBT Community Center, among others. The theme, “Gender Across Cultures,” compliments the PHF’s yearlong exploration of the topic “Sex.”

    There will be six screenings between now and March. All of the films are relatively recent documentaries that examine how gender is shaped and understood in various cultures. At each screening, a knowledgeable speaker will provide context and answer questions from the audience.

    For Kate Pourshariati, curator of the series, these screenings are an excellent opportunity to see films that are not widely distributed.

    “I usually try to find films that are really pungent and interesting but that haven’t been seen much yet or are not easy to stream online,” she said.

    “Heart of the Sea” is a 2002 documentary about Rell Sunn, an accomplished female surfer who succumbed to breast cancer in 1998. Sunn, Hawaii’s number-one female amateur surfer for five years, was also a passionate advocate of traditional Hawaiian culture and an environmental activist.

    As a woman equally comfortable dancing the hula and spear-fishing, Sunn confounded stereotypes.

    “This person is really stepping outside of what was the normal, expected thing coming up, even in the 1960s, to not just be the girl on the beach watching the guys surfing,” Pourshariati said. “She stepped right into it, and she was a very strong, powerful person.”

    That afternoon’s other film, “A Place in the Middle,” will be of particular interest to PGN readers. The 2014 documentary by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson follows 11-year-old Ho’onani, a young girl whose goal is to lead the all-boys hula performance at the end of the school year.

    Ho’onani is encouraged by her teacher, Kumu Hina, a transgender woman. Kumu Hina’s life’s work has been to reintroduce native Hawaiians to their traditional culture, which includes the concept of being “in the middle.” People “in the middle” possess both masculine and feminine traits and were traditionally accorded respect.

    In one scene, Kumu Hina explains to the teenage boys why a girl, or wahine, is being included in a performance representing masculine spirit, or ku.

    “You have a biological wahine standing over here in front of you because she has more ku than everybody else around here, even though she lacks the main essential parts of ku,” Kumu Hina says. “But in her mind and in her heart, she has ku.”

    The concept of being “in the middle” is just one manifestation of a worldwide phenomenon, according to William Wierzbowski, who works as a keeper in the Penn Museum’s American Section. Wierzbowski is an expert on Two-Spirit culture among Native North Americans and will be on hand that day.

    When Europeans first encountered Native Americans, Wierzbowski explained, they were surprised to meet people we would now call gay. These people lived openly within their tribe and were accorded great respect. French trappers and explorers called them berdache, which was slightly pejorative. That perception gradually shifted as Native Americans began to reclaim their heritage.

    “It was Native-American activists who happened to be gay that coined this term Two Spirit, which basically means that the individual embodies within — and I’m going to speak specifically about males here — that embodies within himself both the male and the female. So it’s actually quite a beautiful, almost poetic term,” Wierzbowski said.

    Being Two Spirit or “in the middle,” he added, is not limited to any specific sexual behavior. Instead, it encompasses a wide range of attitudes, practices and roles. Within traditional cultures, for example, people like Kumu Hina and Ho’onani could be said to bridge the male and female aspects of the universe, actually helping to bind it together.

    Those are big ideas, but it should be noted that the two documentaries being screened are neither pretentious nor didactic. On the contrary, they are colorful, eye-opening and fun to watch.

    Pourshariati hopes that the film series will prompt attendees to be more receptive and respectful of other people and to consider new ideas. But she also wants them to enjoy themselves. Movies are an ideal medium to accomplish both goals.

    After a screening, Pourshariati said, “Everyone has something in common: You’ve already seen the film together, so now you can talk about it. I find that really invigorating.”

    For more information about the Penn Museum’s Second Sunday Culture Film Series, visit www.penn.museum/culturefilms.



    Continue reading
  • Encore Broadcast of Kumu Hina on PBS World Channel, October 28, 2015

    Imagine a world where a little boy can grow up to be the woman of his dreams, and a young girl can rise to become a leader among men. Kumu Hina tells the inspiring story of Hina Wong-Kalu, a transgender native Hawaiian teacher and cultural icon who brings to life Hawaii’s traditional embrace of māhū — those who embody both male and female spirit. The film traces Hina’s evolution from Collin Wong, a timid high school boy, to her present position as a married woman and cultural director of a school in one of Honolulu’s grittier neighborhoods. When Ho’onani, a charismatic 6th grade girl, asks to join the school’s all-male hula troupe, Hina gives her the opportunity to express her inner male spirit. As teacher and student prepare for a climactic end-of-year performance, they meet many obstacles, but hold fast to the idea that being true to oneself matters most. The film also delves into Hina’s pursuit of a dream of her own: a fulfilling romantic relationship. Her marriage to a headstrong Tongan man, and the challenges they encounter, offer a glimpse of a Hawaii rarely seen on film and a deeper understanding of the true meaning of aloha — love, honor, and respect for all. Get more details and check local listings here: http://worldchannel.org/programs/episode/independent-lens-kumu-hina/

    Continue reading
  • Hawaii State Public Library System Sponsors Kumu Hina's Bullying Prevention Campaign

    Hawaiian Anti-Bullying Film to Screen at Libraries Statewide

    An educational toolkit for safe and inclusive schools.

    HONOLULU, HI, Sept. 14, 2015 - The Hawaii State Public Library System will present "A Place in the Middle" - a short Hawaiian film at the heart of a new bullying prevention campaign centered on cultural empowerment and gender inclusion - in a series of screenings at eight selected public libraries statewide from Friday, Sept. 18 through Wednesday, Oct. 28.  (See list below for screening locations, dates, and times.)

    Created by Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu, and directed by Emmy-winners Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, "A Place in the Middle" tells the true story of a young girl who dreams of leading the boys' hula troupe at her Honolulu school, and an inspiring teacher who uses traditional Hawaiian culture to empower her. After each screening, the team will talk story with the audience about the film and educational campaign - supported by Pacific Islanders in Communications, Hawaii People's Fund, Ford Foundation, and PBS Learning Media.

    "We encourage our patrons to learn more about Hawaii's rich cultural heritage through our libraries' resources and programs," said State Librarian Stacy Aldrich.  "As community hubs, libraries serve as the perfect venues to host discussions that enable our patrons to connect, learn and celebrate Hawaii's indigenous and diverse cultures."

    This one-hour program is suitable for students, parents, and educators interested in Hawaiian culture and community-based efforts to make schools safe and inclusive for all.  Free DVDs and teaching guides will be available for participants committed to using them in their work.

    Sept. 18 (Friday) - 6:00pm: Thelma Parker Memorial Public & School Library (Kamuela, Hawaii Island)

    Sept. 29 (Tuesday) - 6:00pm: Kahuku Public & School Library (Oahu)

    Oct. 3 (Saturday) - 3:00pm: Kihei Public Library (Maui)

    Oct. 7 (Wednesday) - 6:30pm: Waianae Public Library (Oahu)

    Oct. 14 (Wednesday) - 6:30pm: Waimanalo Public & School Library (Oahu)

    Oct. 15 (Thursday) - 6:00pm: Hawaii State Library (Honolulu)

    Oct. 22 (Thursday) - 6:00pm: Hanapepe Public Library (Kauai)

    Oct. 28 (Wednesday) - 5:00pm: Molokai Public Library (Kaunakakai)

    For more information, contact Library Development Services Manager, Susan Nakata, at (808) 831-6878.

    Continue reading
  • Hawaiian Anti-Bullying Film to Show in Waimea

    September 10, 2015:

    One Big Island public library will be among seven in the state to present “A Place in the Middle,” a Hawai’i-made anti-bullying film.

    The film was made to support a culturally-centered campaign for safe and inclusive schools and will be shown at free screenings across the state between Sept. 18 and Oct. 28.

    Thelma Parker Memorial Public & School Library is the film’s first stop. The showing will take place on Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. before traveling to Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.

    “We encourage our patrons to learn more about Hawai’i’s rich cultural heritage throughout libraries’ resources and programs,” said State Librarian Stacey Aldrich. “As community hubs, libraries serve as the perfect venues to host discussions that enable our patrons to connect, learn, and celebrate Hawai’i’s indigenous and diverse cultures.”

    The one-hour program, created by Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu tells the story of a young Hawaiian girl who dreams of leading a boys-only hula troupe at her Honolulu school and an inspiring teacher who uses traditional culture to empower her. “A Place in the Middle” was directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson.

    Following the screening, a talk story session will take place with the audience about both the film and the educational campaign. Educational tools, including teaching guides and free DVDs, will be available following the program.

    Those who need a sign language interpreter or another special accommodation should contact Thelma Parker Memorial Public & School Library by calling 887-6067 as soon as possible.

    Continue reading
  • "Countering Bullying, with Aloha" - The Huffington Post

    It's back-to-school time in Hawaiʻi. Over 200,000 students will enter grades K-12 this year, full of curiosity and ideas. Unfortunately, many of them will have their studies disrupted and hopes crushed by bullying.

    Despite our reputation as the "Aloha State," surveys show that one-fifth to over one-half of students in both public and private schools have been bullied or harassed. And even though more than 90 percent of voters say that "bullying is important for the state of Hawai'i to address," attempts to pass a statewide Safe Schools Act have failed repeatedly in the legislature. Some parents, such as a father whose two young children were bullied for years without intervention in East Hawaiʻi schools, have even resorted to suing the Department of Education.

    We're fortunate that several local groups have stepped in to develop their own anti-bullying programs; the E Ola Pono, Adult Friends for Youth Anti-Bullying and Violence Convention, and Mental Health America of Hawaii Pono Youth Program are outstanding examples. Even local comedian Augie T is helping out through B.R.A.V.E. Hawaiʻi, a program started by his daughter after she herself fell victim to bullying.

    But bullying doesn't occur in a vacuum; it's the product of underlying stigma and prejudice. That's why it's time to move beyond telling children that it's bad to be mean, and start showing them why it's good to be inclusive and accepting - not just for the targets of bullying, but for everyone in the school and community.

    We had the opportunity to witness first-hand the effectiveness of this approach during our two years of filming Kumu Hina, a nationally broadcast PBS feature documentary about a Native Hawaiian teacher who empowers her students at a small public charter school in downtown Honolulu by showing them the true meaning of aloha: love, honor and respect for all. It's a powerful lesson for children and adults alike.

    In order to make Kumu Hina's teaching available to students and teachers in K-12 schools across the islands, we've produced a youth-friendly, short version of the film called A Place in the Middle that focuses on the story of one of her students, a sixth grade girl who dreams of joining the boys-only hula troupe. This might make her a target for ridicule and bullying in many schools, but the outcome of this story is very different. It's a powerful example of why students who are perceived to be different, in one way or another, deserve to be celebrated precisely because of those differences, not simply tolerated despite them.


    Overcoming bullying in Hawai'i requires a systemic, long-term, multifaceted approach. The true story of a local girl who just wants to be herself - and in so doing helps her fellow students and entire school - is a good place to start.

    A Place in the Middle is available at no cost for streaming and download from PBS Learning Media and on Vimeo, and the accompanying Hawai'i Teacher's Guide can be downloaded from the Hawai'i Educators Website. The program will be touring Public Libraries across the islands beginning this fall.

    Continue reading
  • "What Native Hawaiian Culture Can Teach Us About Gender Identity" - Yes! Magazine

    by Jade Snow for Yes! Magazine - July 28, 2015:

    In traditional Hawaiian culture, creative expression of gender and sexuality was celebrated as an authentic part of the human experience. Throughout Hawaiian history, “mahu” appear as individuals who identify their gender between male and female. Hawaiian songs often contain deeper meanings—called kaona—that refer to love and relationships that don’t conform to contemporary Western definitions of male and female gender roles.

    Expressions of sexuality and gender by mahu individuals were often reflected in Hawaiian arts, particularly in traditional hula and music, which continue today. The 2014 documentary Kumu Hina follows the journey of Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (“Hina”), a teacher—or kumu—at a Hawaiian charter school in Honolulu, who is mahu. Kumu Hina explores the role of mahu in Hawaiian society through the lens of a Native Hawaiian who is deeply rooted in the traditions of her ancestors and committed to living an authentic life.

    As a 21st century mahu, Hina’s experience is not unlike many others who defy Western gender classifications. Born Collin Kwai Kong Wong, she struggled to find acceptance throughout her youth. Today, Hina presents herself as a female in her dress and appearance, though she embraces both masculine and feminine aspects of her identity equally. And while the film focuses on her journey to become Hina, it characterizes her by more than her gender identity. The film presents a portrait of Hina as a devout cultural practitioner and educator whose most fundamental identity lies in being Hawaiian.

    As a kumu at the charter school Halau Lokahi, Hina instills time-honored traditions and cultural values in her students. One student in particular, middle schooler Ho‘onani, traverses the ever-treacherous waters of youth with the additional strain of identifying as being “in the middle.” Hina relates to Ho‘onani’s journey and challenges the students to create a safe and accepting environment. This proves transformative for Ho‘onani, as her determination to define herself and prove her capability garners her the lead role in the school’s all-male ensemble, which the boys do not dispute. Due to the example Hina sets, her classrooms embrace a new “normal” that openly acknowledges all identities. The result is a confident, empathetic community of young people who validate the complexities of Ho‘onani’s reality and provide her with a compassionate place to grow up.

    “It’s all a natural thing,” Ho’onani explains. “Kumu’s in the middle too. Everybody knows that, and it’s not a secret to anybody. What ‘middle’ means is a rare person.” Under Hina’s mentorship, Ho‘onani flourishes, excelling in all areas of study, including music and hula, and earning the respect of her peers. As she prepares for a school event, Hina instructs that shell leis be worn by students based on color: white for the girls and yellow for the boys. Without hesitation, Ho‘onani suggests she wear both, and Hina agrees. “See, you get both—because she’s both,” she explains. This is Hawaiian mahu, unique in its perspective that an individual who has embraced both sides of their gender identity does not require exclusive definition. Those who identify with being mahu may exude more masculine or feminine qualities, but their inner experience is one that ebbs between the two with the grace and subtlety of the ocean tide.

    When I interviewed Hina for MANA magazine’s 2014 feature “Beyond the Binary,” she explained: “A mahu is an individual that straddles somewhere in the middle of the male and female binary. It does not define their sexual preference or gender expression because gender roles, gender expressions, and sexual relationships have all been severely influenced by the changing times. It is dynamic. It is like life.” The “changing times” Hina refers to began with the arrival of Christian missionaries in the 1800s and the imposition of Western values on the Hawaiian community. They banned cultural expressions that celebrated diverse sexual views and traditions they believed to be profane, such as hula, and drove them underground. The suppression of traditional Hawaiian values and practices marked a turning point in Hawai‘i’s history, one in which mahu began a struggle to find acceptance.

    One of the greatest journeys of the human experience is the struggle to accept oneself and live authentically. Kumu Hina lifts the veil on the misunderstood and marginalized experience of “other” gendered individuals whose identity cannot be defined by the broad strokes of contemporary Western categorization. For many Native Hawaiians, authenticity is at the heart of the human experience. Living authentically is one of the highest honors individuals can bestow upon themselves, their families, and their communities. By embracing her identity, Hina not only fulfills her own personal journey to find love and happiness, but she is able to positively influence the lives of students like Ho‘onani who are grappling with their own identities.

    To continue promoting Kumu Hina’s message of acceptance, a 24-minute version of the film and teaching guide were created as an educational resource. This short film, called A Place in the Middle, premiered in February 2015 in Germany and played at Toronto’s TIFF Kids International Film Festival in April. According to co-producer Joe Wilson, the film “has struck a chord with educators and other professionals in need of resources on gender diversity and cultural empowerment.” The film demonstrates healthy ways to address gender identity in the classroom and promotes a safe academic environment for youth to thrive.

    Thanks to the determination of Hina and others, the Hawai‘i Marriage Equality Act of 2013 was passed in November 2013. And though further efforts are needed to reach equality, Hina finds validation in her home. “I’m fortunate to live in a place that allows me to love who I love,” she says. “I can be whoever I want to be. That’s what I hope most to leave with my students—a genuine understanding of unconditional acceptance and respect. To me, that’s the true meaning of aloha.”

    Continue reading
  • Educational Video "A Place In The Middle" Distributed with Subtitles in China

    In a new partnership between the Kumu Hina Project and Queer Comrades, the educational video "A Place In The Middle" is now available online to viewers in China, with Chinese subtitles!

    Queer Comrades is a project operating under the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute and receives support from the Ford Foundation and the Worldwide Fund Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

    The mission of Queer Comrades is to document queer culture in all its aspects in order to raise public awareness on LGBT matters. As queer issues are at the forefront of social debate in China’s present-day society, we believe that the need for information about LGBT and sexual health issues will continue to grow during the coming years.

    We aim to inform both the LGBT and the non-LGBT members of Chinese society in a relaxed and unrestrained way on the various aspects of queer culture, by sending out empowering images of queer life .

    Our main medium is a 3-monthly online show which discusses the dynamic characteristics of China’s burgeoning queer culture and the newest developments in the global gay movement. Another important medium consists of online video news items which cover important Chinese and foreign queer information and events.

     

    Our mission is to document queer culture in all its aspects in order to raise public awareness on LGBT matters. As queer issues are at the forefront of social debate in China’s present-day society, we believe that the need for information about LGBT and sexual health issues will continue to grow during the coming years.

    We aim to inform both the LGBT and the non-LGBT members of Chinese society in a relaxed and unrestrained way on the various aspects of queer culture, by sending out empowering images of queer life .

    Our main medium is a 3-monthly online show which discusses the dynamic characteristics of China’s burgeoning queer culture and the newest developments in the global gay movement. Another important medium consists of online video news items which cover important Chinese and foreign queer information and events.

    - See more at: http://www.queercomrades.com/en/about/#sthash.NTpHT98Z.dpuf

    Our mission is to document queer culture in all its aspects in order to raise public awareness on LGBT matters. As queer issues are at the forefront of social debate in China’s present-day society, we believe that the need for information about LGBT and sexual health issues will continue to grow during the coming years.

    We aim to inform both the LGBT and the non-LGBT members of Chinese society in a relaxed and unrestrained way on the various aspects of queer culture, by sending out empowering images of queer life .

    Our main medium is a 3-monthly online show which discusses the dynamic characteristics of China’s burgeoning queer culture and the newest developments in the global gay movement. Another important medium consists of online video news items which cover important Chinese and foreign queer information and events.

    - See more at: http://www.queercomrades.com/en/about/#sthash.NTpHT98Z.dpuf

    Our mission is to document queer culture in all its aspects in order to raise public awareness on LGBT matters. As queer issues are at the forefront of social debate in China’s present-day society, we believe that the need for information about LGBT and sexual health issues will continue to grow during the coming years.

    We aim to inform both the LGBT and the non-LGBT members of Chinese society in a relaxed and unrestrained way on the various aspects of queer culture, by sending out empowering images of queer life .

    Our main medium is a 3-monthly online show which discusses the dynamic characteristics of China’s burgeoning queer culture and the newest developments in the global gay movement. Another important medium consists of online video news items which cover important Chinese and foreign queer information and events.

    - See more at: http://www.queercomrades.com/en/about/#sthash.NTpHT98Z.dpuf

    Our mission is to document queer culture in all its aspects in order to raise public awareness on LGBT matters. As queer issues are at the forefront of social debate in China’s present-day society, we believe that the need for information about LGBT and sexual health issues will continue to grow during the coming years.

    We aim to inform both the LGBT and the non-LGBT members of Chinese society in a relaxed and unrestrained way on the various aspects of queer culture, by sending out empowering images of queer life .

    Our main medium is a 3-monthly online show which discusses the dynamic characteristics of China’s burgeoning queer culture and the newest developments in the global gay movement. Another important medium consists of online video news items which cover important Chinese and foreign queer information and events.

    - See more at: http://www.queercomrades.com/en/about/#sthash.NTpHT98Z.dpuf

    Continue reading
  • A Place In The Middle: An Educational Toolkit for Cultural Empowerment & Gender Diversity

    A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE tells the true story of an eleven year-old Hawaiian girl who dreams of leading her school's all-male hula troupe. The only trouble is that the group is just for boys.  She's fortunate to have a teacher who understands what it means to be "in the middle" - the Hawaiian tradition of embracing both male and female spirit.  Together they set out to prove that what matters most is what's in your heart and mind.

     

    This youth-focused educational film is a great way to get K-12 students thinking and talking about the values of diversity and inclusion, the power of knowing your heritage, and how to create a school climate of aloha, from their own point of view!

     

    The film is accompanied by a Classroom Discussion Guide that includes background information about Hawaiian culture and history, discussion questions, and lesson plans aligned with the Common Core State Educational Standards and additional educational benchmarks.

     

    The complete film, Discussion Guide, and other resources, including a displayable "Pledge of Aloha," are available for free at APlaceintheMiddle.org. They are also available on the trusted educator's website PBS LearningMedia, and in hard copy upon request.

     

    From the Berlin and Toronto International Film Festivals to classrooms across the United States, A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE is proving to be a powerful tool to talk about the intersections between gender, identity and culture, and the positive outcomes that occur when schools welcome students with love, honor and respect.

     

    View the short film trailer HERE.

     

    What people are saying about A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE

     

    "An inspiring coming-of-age story on the power of culture to shape identity, personal agency, and community cohesion, from a young person's point of view.

    -Cara Mertes, Ford Foundation


    "A valuable teaching tool for students in elementary, middle and high schools, as well as for parents and teachers."

    -Carol Crouch, Eleʻele Elementary School, Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi


    "An amazing tool to help educators understand the need for acceptance for each and every child regardless of gender expression."

    -Tracy Flynn, Welcoming Schools


    "One of the most positive films about the trans experience I've ever seen."

    -Jennifer Finney Boylan, author and writer-in-residence at Barnard College


    "Uniquely accessible for youth."

    -Gender Spectrum


    "A true-life 'Whale Rider' story."

    -The Huffington Post

    Continue reading
  • And the Winner of the 2014-15 PBS/Independent Lens Audience Award Is: "Kumu Hina"

    The winner of this season’s Independent Lens Audience Award, as chosen by voting viewers, is…. Kumu Hina!

    San Francisco, Ca. - July 1, 2015: Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson's Kumu Hina has received the Independent Lens Audience Award, recognizing its status as the highest-rated film of the 2014-15 season on the acclaimed Emmy and Dupont Award-winning PBS documentary series.

    The film tells the inspiring story of Hina Wong-Kalu, a transgender native Hawaiian teacher and cultural icon who brings to life Hawaii's traditional embrace of mahu - those who embody both male and female spirit. Over the course of a momentous year, Hina empowers a young girl to lead the school's all-male hula troupe, as she seeks love and a fulfilling romantic relationship in her own life.

    "The national broadcast premiere of Kumu Hina happened just as the country was struggling to understand Bruce Jenner's transition to Caitlyn," said the filmmakers. "Kumu Hina introduced the American public, mired in the Western mind-set of gender as a simple male-female binary, to Hawaiian culture's more inclusive and holistic philosophy, one that embraces rather than rejects those who, like Hina, inhabit a place in the middle of the gender spectrum."

    Recently Hamer and Wilson have launched an education campaign around a special children's version of the film, called A Place in the Middle, that tells the story of the young student through her own words and colorful Polynesian-style animation. The filmmakers are distributing the short video and teaching guides for free on their website and in partnership with PBS Learning Media because "Young people deserve to see a school where everyone is accepted and included," they said. "We hope this project will help spread Kumu Hina's message of aloha - love, honor and respect for all - to schools and communities everywhere."

    Kumu Hina was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Independent Television Service (ITVS), and Pacific Islanders in Communications. Prior to its national PBS broadcast on May 4, it premiered as the closing night film at the Hawaii International Film Festival, and won numerous festival awards including the Frameline Jury Award for Achievement in Documentary.

    Continue reading
  • "A Film about the People Who Fit in the In-Between" - Documentary Edge Festival, NZ

    Continue reading
  • On Cameron Croweʻs ʻAlohaʻ and Other, More Important, Indigenous Pacific Films

    By Hinemoana of Turtle Island: Lani Teves, Liza Keanuenueokalani Williams, Maile Arvin, Fuifuilupe Niumetolu, Natalee Kēhaulani Bauer, and Kēhaulani Vaughn:

    There’s been a lot of talk about the film Aloha. A standard Hollywood Romantic Comedy, Hawaiʻi, Hawaiians, ghosts, iwi (ancestral remains), and references to “mana” (power, supernatural power) are the backdrop for a settler colonial narrative that centers the U.S. military as a (fairly) benevolent presence that foregrounds a mundane story of boy meets girl; and boy gets redeemed by girl. The film itself is fairly nonsensical–a maze of tired plots that never resolve believably. Initially it seems the film is building towards the negotiation with a Kanaka Maoli community located in Waimānalo on the island of Oʻahu, regarding the removal of iwi and the blessing of a new pedestrian gate on the Hickam Air Force Base. (It is unclear why exactly a community in Waimānalo would be consulted for iwi at Hickam, on the other side of the island.) Yet, once the blessing is underway, the main characters are suddenly rushed off to a spontaneous, secret satellite launch (which Bradley Cooper’s character Brian Gilcrest must then blow up with sound waves because there are privately owned weapons hidden on it!).

    The Hickam gate blessing, and the plot lines that center Kanaka Maoli negotiations with the U.S. military, are made complicated in the sense that real-life Maoli community leaders and activists perform roles in the film as themselves, engaging the cultural and activist work they do in life. The gate blessing and Gilcrest’s rogue actions to blow up the “evil” privatized satellite encapsulate the major problem with the film, as well as the major problem with many critiques of the film currently circulating. The U.S. military comes out as a naive and duped presence that, if it were not for Gilcrest’s rogue behavior, would have allowed the crazy shenanigans of an uber-rich individual to surpass U.S. military intelligence by sending weapons into space orbit. In this sense, the U.S. military, despite its illegal occupation of Hawaiʻi (which is referenced in the film), comes out innocent – and the “bad-guy” is simply a wayward individual with too much money on his hands. Further, the film makes the matter of the iwi removal and gate blessing seem as if it is a nice courtesy the military is extending (or a stunt they are pulling to have good public relations), when in fact the removal of iwi is protected by state law and managed by island burial councils.

    Supposedly intending to be a film that really addresses authentic Hawaiʻi, the film literally rushes away from true respect or even engagement with Native Hawaiian culture, history and epistemology. The film is haunted with confusion, reflected in its inability to follow a through line in its overarching plot. More importantly though, the nonsensical plot lines may reveal deeper chasms between the American cultural imaginary and on-the-ground Kanaka Maoli politics. Attempting (and yet failing) to bridge the Hollywood imaginary with the complexity of lived life for Kānaka Maoli, ghosts (Night Marchers, a supernatural wind, and references to mana) emerge as the film’s only way of attempting to reconcile U.S. domination and histories of indigenous culturecide and dispossession in Hawaiʻi. In addition, the critiques of the film have remained superficial, failing to engage or respect Native Hawaiians, focusing instead on calls for Asian American actresses to replace Emma Stone.

    Rather than critique the nuances of its storyline, we would like to engage what the film represents, and suggest alternative films and readings for those who are interested in responsibly engaging Native Hawaiians and other Indigenous Pacific Islanders. Even though (or especially because) the film supposedly makes an effort to incorporate indigenous Hawaiian perspectives and advisors, we must call attention to how the film still relies on and recycles cinematic tropes about Hawaiʻi. Our critique is not about Cameron Crow’s intentions or the nonsensical plot lines of the film itself. Our critique centers on what Hawaiʻi means to a broad American audience, about how entitled they are to feel at home in Hawaiʻi, and about how settler colonialism in Hawaiʻi supports the larger U.S. settler colonial, imperial war machine.

    The Real Context of Aloha: Settler Colonialism in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific

    The historical or political context of the indigenous Pacific is frequently evacuated of any significance in the American cinematic imagination. The Pacific is viewed primarily as a site for anthropological investigation, white romantic fantasy, and as a staging area for U.S. imperial interventions to secure its military and economic interests in the region. This is something scholars and activists have been discussing for a long time. We suggest reading work by Haunani-Kay Trask, or Vernadette Gonzalez’s Securing Paradise for an introduction. We especially encourage thinking through the politics of what Teresia Teaiwa has called “militourism,” a process by which the colonization of the Pacific was made possible by a feminization of the region and its peoples in a manner that naturalized American military presence in the Pacific. This has created an environment wherein military force ensures the smooth running of a tourist industry, and that same tourist industry masks the military force behind it.

    What we see in the film Aloha, is a representation of how militourism facilitates white redemption for the individual, i.e. Bradley Cooper trying to better himself in the film. Thus, a rehashing of the old colonial trope of Hawaiʻi representing the promise of white renewal, specifically, a recuperation of hegemonic white masculinity that gets a “second chance.” Does white masculinity really deserve a second chance?

    While the film’s title Aloha, points to ways Hollywood continually appropriates Hawaiian culture, our interest and offense is not primarily focused on the deployment of aloha as a brand or name recognition for this film. Though the plot of Aloha is certainly maddening, the appropriation of aloha has almost progressed to the status of being banal. Welcome to Hawaiian reality. Aloha is so rapidly vacated of any spiritual significance in the American colonial imagination (thanks to tourism) that a film studio readily invokes the term, believing the title alone will draw paying audiences. And, as if naming the film Aloha was not enough for the film studio, screenwriters incorporated the word throughout the film in a myriad of ways that only reified the nonsensical plot lines, as its use was so repetitive it was confusing and it deprived the term of its power. Remember, Aloha was actually the studio’s better, second choice over the rather gross first title Deep Tiki (recalling the similar situation around the 2009 movie Princess Kaʻiulani, which was originally to be called Barbarian Princess!).

    Aloha is a dynamic expression of what it means to be Hawaiian which is intertwined with our deep intellectual, political, and emotional commitments to our culture, our oceans and lands, and one another. But, aloha does not always need to manifest itself in welcoming, harmonious or necessarily passive behaviors. As Maile Arvin and Lani Teves have written elsewhere, anger too can be an expression of aloha. Or, as explained by Noelani Arista and Judy Kertesz, “It is time that Hawaiians put out a sign that says, “no more love; aloha denied.”

    What’s Missing from Asian American Critiques of the Film

    Asian American critics seem pretty upset that Emma Stone is portraying a mixed race Asian character, but the critiques we have seen thus far have neglected to take issue with Stone’s character also portraying a mixed race Native Hawaiian. In some cases, it is even unclear if the authors of the critiques realize that Native Hawaiians exist, as a distinct people from Asian Americans local to Hawaiʻi. It is thus truly maddening that Emma Stone’s lack of Asian American features has taken center stage in public controversies over the film! This coincides with the appropriation of “hapa” which is a Hawaiian term connoting mixed Native Hawaiian ancestry, but has been adopted and used by Asian Americans of mixed ancestry. The critiques surrounding around the casting of Emma Stone due to her lack of Asian American ancestry (and not her lack of Native Hawaiian ancestry) signifies the erasure that is necessary for continued US settler colonialism of which all settlers including Asian Americans are beneficiaries. While of course, we would enjoy seeing mixed race Asian American and Pacific Islander actors on screen more often, we encourage everyone to rethink the endgame of fighting to be the “local” love interest of the white male lead. More generally, what is the point of fighting to be visible within films that refuse to relinquish the story of Hawaiʻi as a place of white romance, of white males being redeemed through obtaining young, female Hawaiian lovers?

    Remarkably, Aloha is actually one of the only Hollywood films to make any gesture towards the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, through its inclusion of Bumpy Kanahele, who reminds viewers that the Hawaiian Kingdom was illegally overthrown in 1893. We could perhaps read this inclusion as commendable in some respects, and therefore, it is particularly upsetting that all the Asian American criticisms have overshadowed any discussion of the film’s attempt to engage the sovereignty movement (as shallow and incomplete as it may have been). Not only this, but Kanahele’s community, which is located at the foot of the Koʻolau in Waimānalo (in real life and in the film), becomes a specified place that is staked as Maoli through such instances as Kanahele’s negotiation with the U.S. military and by the crossing of the ghostly Night Marchers. There are references through the film of Waimānalo, including in background set photographs and the song Waimānalo Blues, for instance. Ultimately, these attempts are superficial, and do not change the film’s adherence to a white romance set in a paradisical Hawaiʻi, especially since they do not show where Waimānalo is in relation to Hickam Air Force Base, or where Hickam is in relation to Honolulu or Waikīkī–instead, all of Oʻahu is blurred together. Two of us (Liza and Maile) in Hinemoana of Turtle Island have genealogies that tie us to Waimānalo specifically. It felt bittersweet at best to hear Waimānalo Blues, a song that directly critiques tourism in Hawaiʻi and expresses deep aloha for our family home, played in this Hollywood movie, to audiences who will likely not understand the context of this beloved song and place.

    We read the Asian American criticism of the film as yet another instance where Asian American and Pacific Islander racial categorizations fail to articulate the solidarity that the categories are imagined to bridge. Rather than express anger about the lack of Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian representation, or the ongoing representation of Hawaiʻi as a place devoid of complex political histories, we hear critiques from Asian American actor associations that focus on the general lack of diversity represented in the film. In one statement, the association (MANAA) took issue with stock Asian characters who were described in the abstract (i.e. “Indian pedestrian” or “upscale Japanese tourist”). The association seems to advocate for more nuanced representations, but neglects to mention why and how it could be that whiteness so easily inserts itself into Hawaiʻi, and how this practice has gone uncontested in Hollywood since the early twentieth century.

    Cameron Crowe has apologized for his decision to cast Emma Stone as a mixed race white, Chinese and Native Hawaiian character. Like many settler apologies, this one is laughably besides the point! Kānaka Maoli and other indigenous peoples are accustomed to these kinds of settler apologies for their ignorance. It echoes the language of settler-states and their neocolonial forms of management that employ apologies and the language of “reconciliation” and “recognition.” Yes, it is a first step, but it is often the only step. It is reminiscent of the 1993 “Apology Bill,” signed by President Bill Clinton, that acknowledges the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. These apologies carry little weight after the fact because they are often qualified with an abdication of any responsibility for reparation on the part of the State, or Hollywood, in this instance. In other words, the apology becomes a stand-in for any sort of real institutional or systemic change. As Haunani-Kay Trask noted in her poem, “Apologies,” “And all our dead and barely living, rejoice. For now we own one dozen dirty pages of American paper to feed our people and govern our land.” Crowe’s apology is a move to settler innocence that can simply be viewed as a product of an ongoing tradition of settler-colonialism in Hawaiʻi.

    Again, our critique is much less about what Emma Stone’s character looks like–for indeed, Native Hawaiians look a lot of different ways (and so do multiracial Asian American people). Even if there was a Native Hawaiian actress playing Emma Stone’s character, the film would participate in perpetuating very old settler colonial narratives, including making that character’s Hawaiian ancestry into something of a joke (as other characters in the film remark disparagingly about how often she says she is Hawaiian). We aren’t after an apology from Crowe. We are after decolonization and structural change that would end the seemingly tireless repetition of Hollywood cliches about Hawaiʻi. We also call for the resources to support other stories about Hawaiʻi.

    Kapu Aloha and Aloha ʻāina

    In one of its many plot points, Aloha repeatedly emphasizes the sky as a place of wonder, beauty and knowledge. Emma Stone’s character holds a childlike wonder for the sky, and is similarly rather naively outraged that someone would weaponize a satellite, because the sky belongs to no man. Kanaka Maoli certainly have reverence for the sky and the stars, but it is not merely a childlike wonder. Traditional seafaring, as just one example, relies on ancestral ways of understanding the stars and sky as a navigational map. Yet, the film and most of its critics overlook an ongoing struggle Kanaka Maoli are currently engaged in, on the slopes of Mauna Kea, a volcanic mountain on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. This fight is in part about the sky; about the struggle between differing epistemologies regarding knowledge, human connection, and the quest for understanding our collective pasts. The struggle at Mauna Kea is about whose knowledge about the sky matters. It is about the ways Western science is touted as a privileged form of knowledge seeking, subsuming the sacredness of the land it operates on, to scientific and Western forms of relationality. Mauna Kea becomes something to commodify, to develop, to negotiate, and to use, despite thousands of years of Hawaiian spiritual and cultural relationship to that mauna. For the last three months, Kanaka Maoli protectors of Mauna Kea have been camped out on the road leading to the summit, blocking the construction of a proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (over 18 stories tall, and covering 5 acres) which would destroy an incredibly beautiful, rare and sacred site, and likely impact the environment and water aquifer for all those on Hawaiʻi Island.

    Recently, at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Conference, a few of us were able to learn from Kanaka Maoli scholars involved with the struggle over Mauna Kea. We were especially excited by the work of Mary Tuti Baker who discussed the ways that aloha ʻāina (love of the land) discourse is used by Kānaka to build Lāhui and challenge the primacy of Western thought and ongoing U.S. military occupation in Hawaiʻi. She cited the actions of the Mauna Kea protectors who are using forms of kapu aloha to guide their actions on the mauna. Manulani Meyer describes Kapu Aloha as a discipline of compassion to express aloha to all, especially those who are perceived to be on opposing political sides. Meyer explains that kapu aloha “honors the energy and life found in aloha—compassion—and helps us focus on its ultimate purpose and meaning.” The protectors of Mauna Kea are guided by kapu aloha and we think that this is the kind of aloha that deserves our attention, not a Hollywood film. We would hope that in the future kapu aloha and aloha ʻāina would garner the support of the general public. These are the kinds of aloha that guide our actions, that honor the genealogies of Kānaka Maoli, that prioritize the protection of sacred sites and the self-determination efforts of Indigenous peoples everywhere.

    Indigenous Pacific Films We Actually Recommend

    There are so many other stories to tell about Hawaiʻi and Kānaka Maoli, and Cameron Crowe isnʻt the one to do the telling. For those upset by Cameron Crowe’s vision of Hawaiʻi, and for those who would prefer to never have to think about how distorted Hollywood representations of the Pacific Islands are, we urge you to support films and filmmakers who do center Native Hawaiian and other Indigenous Pacific Islander stories. Here are some of our suggestions for films about the Indigenous Pacific that we actually recommend. They are listed in no particular order, and we acknowledge that the following list is far from comprehensive. We welcome further suggestions for films we should all see in the comments!

    Noho Hewa (http://www.nohohewa.com/)

    Now streaming on Vimeo as a fundraiser for Anne Keala Kelly’s next project, which you should also support, Why the Mountain, “a documentary for and about Mauna Kea”: https://vimeo.com/124882949

    2008, Dir. Anne Keala Kelly

    Many of us screen Noho Hewa in the classes we teach, because it can be very eye-opening for those who may only associate Hawaiʻi with the tourist experience. The film addresses a number of political issues important to Kānaka Maoli, including the protection of iwi (ancestral remains) during the construction of a new Walmart in Honolulu and vacation homes, as well as from military live firing exercises, struggles over GMOs, water rights, and houselessness.

    Living Along the Fenceline (http://www.guam.festpro.com/films/detail/living_along_the_fenceline_2013)

    2011, Dirs. Lina Hoshino and Gwyn Kirk

    From Guam International Film Festival website: “This ground-breaking film tells the stories of seven women who live alongside US military bases in Texas, Puerto Rico, Hawaiʻi, Guam, the Philippines, South Korea, and Okinawa (Japan). They take us into their homes, walk us through their neighborhoods, and introduce us to their communities. We see how military operations and bloated military budgets have affected their lives as we listen to their experiences and take in their surroundings.”

    Kumu Hina (http://kumuhina.com/ available on iTunes)

    2014, Dir. Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson

    An actual love story, not just set in Hawaiʻi, but about the very real difficulties of having and sustaining love in a place that is supposed to naturally exude it! Love, or shall we say, aloha, here – expands aloha to ʻohana, community, to the ʻāina. Aloha in this film is lived through Hina’s kuleana to her community and her students at a Maoli charter school in Honolulu. Gender, sexuality, decolonization, and aloha are interwoven themes through the film and through Hina’s personal story. Hina’s struggle in love and life help to tell the larger stories of ways that colonial histories have shaped Maoli lives in intimate ways in the present.

    Haku Inoa (http://hakuinoa.com)

    2012, Dir. Christen Hepuakoa Marquez

    This documentary follows the personal story of director Christen Hepuakoa Marquez, who embarks on a quest to discover the origins of her long Hawaiian middle name. In the process, she learns more about how she became distanced from her mother, tentatively reconnecting with her as an adult. This film is very personal and very brave, showcasing some of the difficulties that many Native Hawaiians face when living in diaspora in the continental United States. The film also shows the many ways those Native Hawaiians work very hard to repair and maintain connections with their families and homelands in Hawaiʻi.

    The Land Has Eyes / Pear ta ma ‘on maf (streaming free on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/112031380 )

    2004, Dir. Vilsoni Hereniko

    From IMDB: “The Land Has Eyes is an 87-minute narrative drama about Viki, (introducing Sapeta Taito) a young South Pacific Islander who redeems her family’s name by exposing the secrets of her island’s most powerful and important people. Shamed by her village for being poor and the daughter of a wrongly convicted thief, Viki is inspired and haunted by the island’s mythical ‘warrior woman’ (Rena Owen, Once Were Warriors). The lush tropical beauty of Rotuma (part of Fiji) contrasts with the stifling conformity of her island’s culture as Viki confronts notions of justice and her own personal freedom.”

    Boy (http://boythefilm.com, available on Netflix Instant)

    2010, Dir. Taika Waititi

    Boy is about a Maori boy growing up in the 1980s, with a great love of Michael Jackson, and an even greater love for his largely absent father. This film is absolutely hilarious, in the familiar way that kids can deliver the funniest lines in an absolutely earnest, deadpan manner. It is also full of heart, delighting in the daydreams of kids and gently following the larger-than-life hopes they have for their families, which cannot always be fulfilled. The quirky humor and vision of director Taika Waititi (of Eagle v. Shark, and Flight of the Conchords) is used to great effect here. What we love the most about this film is that it resists a narrative that pathologizes Maori families (as the more famous film Once Were Warriors may do), but highlights Maori love, desire, and dreams for the future.

    The Deadlands (http://www.thedeadlandsmovie.com, available for rent on iTunes)

    2015, Dir. Toa Fraser

    This Maori action film follows the story of the son of a tribal chief who seeks vengeance after most of his village is slaughtered by a rival tribe. Set entirely in an Aotearoa that predates European contact and colonialism, and scripted entirely in Maori language (with English subtitles), the film immerses its audience in an awe-inspiring Maori world. The film complicates notions of humanity, nobility and familial duty, while maintaining a deep respect for Maori epistemologies and relationships with land and ancestors. There are also a few very fierce female characters we loved. James Rolleston, the charming star of Boy, also stars here, playing Hongi, the main character of The Deadlands.

    The Orator / O Le Tulafale (http://theoratorfilm.co.nz/, available on Hulu)

    2011, Dir. Tusi Tamasese

    From the film’s official website: “The Orator (O Le Tulafale) is a contemporary drama about courage, forgiveness and love. Small in stature and humble, Saili lives a simple life with his beloved wife and daughter in an isolated, traditional village in the islands of Samoa.  Forced to protect his land and family, Saili must face his fears and seek the right to speak up for those he loves.”

    Close of the Day (http://mickidavis.com/, excerpt here: https://vimeo.com/29652089)

    Also on view at the Pacific Islander Ethnic Museum in Long Beach, CA through July 5

    2011, Dir. Micki Davis

    From the director: “This project was an exploration of my Chamorro heritage via the lives and memories surrounding my Grandparent’s small grocery store in Agat, Guam. Taped in the month of July 2010, several hours of home footage, interviews with villagers about the store, and semi-theatrical staging of daily rituals composed into my version of a visual fugue. The theme stated in the title of the show and restated in the opening video reoccurs in several variations throughout the video and installation: Close of Day is a social hour, it is time of day when our ancestors are most active and it is the time when we reflect on our present day, our past and speculate our future.”

    Sione’s Journey (https://myspace.com/264395542/video/sione-s-journey-what-is-a-tongan-dedicated-to-johnny-folau/33006522)

    2011, Dir. Folola Takapu

    From De Anza College IMPACT AAPI: “About a young Tongan American man’s search for answers to the question, “What is a Tongan?” The film humorously and touchingly presents stereotypes about Tongans, and features interviews with Tongan immigrants (many who speak Tongan) and younger Tongan Americans discussing life in the Bay Area, including a professional dancer, an artist, and a fashion designer/entrepreneur. Produced by Folola (Lola) Takapu (with no previous filmmaking experience) when she was a student at UC Berkeley, the film has gained popularity mostly through word of mouth and Lola was even invited to Tonga to show her film at an academic conference.”

    Other resources to help find films that center Indigenous Pacific Islanders:

    Continue reading
  • "Staff Picks: What We're Watching" - Teaching Tolerance

    Dim the lights and get ready to learn with these TT-approved films!

    A Place in the Middle: The True Meaning of Aloha, a documentary short by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, tells the story of a school in Honolulu, Hawaii, that is demonstrating respect for and inclusion of gender-fluid students. The film centers on 11-year-old Ho’onani, who embodies māhū, a Hawaiian term that refers to people who embrace feminine and masculine spirits. Ho’onani occupies “a place in the middle” on the gender spectrum and leads her school’s hula troupe, typically for boys only. Ho’onani’s teacher Kumu Hina—a transgender woman—tells the troupe, “I want every student to know that if you are my student, you have a place to be—in the middle.” A Place in the Middle documents some of the positive outcomes that can occur when schools welcome students with love, harmony and respect (the deeper meaning of aloha). The film also makes the point that this welcome should not be extended despite students’ gender identity or expression, but precisely because of who they are. (25 min.)*

     

    Additional films in this collection include "Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot" - "Documented" - and "The Homestretch"

    See more HERE.

    Continue reading
  • "Hollywood's Appropriation of Hawaiian Culture" - Janet Mock, MSNBC's So Popular!

    Janet Mock of MSNBC’s weekly talk show “So Popular!” talks about how the film title “Aloha” is misused and how Hollywood, in general, has a history of doing this with Hawaiian culture and language. Mock, who’s Native Hawaiian, is frustrated at how some people view Hawai‘i as a “pretty movie backdrop” and don’t learn or understand its culture.

    “The ongoing appropriation and commercialization of all things Hawaiian only makes it clear as to why it is inappropriate for those with no ties to Hawai‘i, its language, culture and people, to invoke the Hawaiian language,” she says.

     

    Continue reading
  • "Making 'A Place in the Middle' in Every Classroom" - Teaching Tolerance

    By Dean Hamer, Co-Producer/Director of "Kumu Hina" --

    Many U.S. schools serve groups of kids who are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, age, religious or non-religious belief, national origin, family situation, ability, sexual orientation and gender identity. This diversity is especially vibrant here in Hawai'i, where many people describe their ethnic background as “chop suey,” Christians are in a minority and gender-nonconforming individuals are not only accepted but are respected and admired for their important role in perpetuating cultural knowledge and traditions.

    For two years, we were given the opportunity to film a remarkable māhū (transgender) native Hawaiian teacher, Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu, as she created a “place in the middle” where every student at her small Honolulu charter school felt welcome, included and ready to learn to the best of their ability. Hina's story is portrayed in our PBS feature documentary Kumu Hina, which is being nationally broadcast on Independent Lens as of May 4, 2015.

    But we also wanted to bring Hina's teaching to K-12 schools, which led us to produce a youth-friendly, short version of the film called A Place in the Middle that has been excerpted for the Perspectives for a Diverse America anthology. Here are some ways these video clips can be used to help students appreciate the value of inclusion, the strengths they inherit from their cultural heritage and their own power to create a school climate of honor and respect.

    Celebrate Difference. In the scene “Welcome to Hawai'i,” Kumu Hina is preparing the students for a hula performance by handing out lei necklaces, yellow for boys and white for girls. But 11-year-old Ho'onani decides that she wants to wear both colors—a decision that her classmates meet with envy rather than scorn. In a later scene, “Kāne-Wahine and Wahine-Kāne” (Boy-Girls and Girl-Boys), Hina explains that she has created this “place in the middle” so that gender-creative students have a specific space they can call their own.

    These clips are a reminder to teachers that students who are perceived to be different, in one way or another, deserve to be celebrated precisely because of those differences, not simply tolerated despite them. And it's a jumping off place for students to think and talk about how every person's identity is comprised of multiple interacting facets. A good discussion prompt is to note that Ho'onani is in the middle between male and female, then ask how many other ways people can be “in the middle”; for example, being more than one race or bilingual, being part of two households after a divorce and so on.

    Use the Power of Heritage. In “Hawai'i Poniʻī,” the principal of the school urges her students to take seriously their lessons on Hawaiian culture because, “We didn't get to sing ‘Hawai'i Poniʻī’ (the Hawaiian national anthem) in our schools. We had to pledge allegiance to the flag that took over Hawai'i.” Her approach works: By the end of the film, even the students who began the year with little enthusiasm have become full participants in the school's activities.

    You can use this clip to inspire students to inquire into their own heritage, starting with well-known aspects, such as food, holidays, etc., and progressing to a deeper conversation that incorporates social, cultural, political and historical contexts. Ask students to bring in food dishes typical of their heritage, and after the Smorgasbord is consumed, ask what ideas, values or practices their home cultures could contribute to their classroom or school.

    Another clip, “Hawaiians Live in Aloha,” uses Polynesian-style animated figures to tell the history of how early Hawaiians respected and admired people with both male and female spirits, giving them the special name of māhū. Asking students to interpret images from this animated portrayal of Hawaiian history prior to and after viewing the film is a good ice-breaker for what some consider a sensitive topic. You can follow up by asking them to draw their own interpretation of what it means to be “in the middle.”

    Teach With Aloha. Many people think of “aloha” as just a cute way to say hello or goodbye, but as Kumu Hina explains in a clip about her transition, the deeper meaning is to have love, honor and respect for everyone. Ask students how the characters in the film demonstrate aloha, and then how they do (or could) demonstrate it themselves. Most important, how do you rate your own classroom and school on living up to this standard?

    You can help spread the concept of aloha by hanging a Pledge of Aloha poster in your classroom or by handing out Pledge of Aloha postcards that can be signed and returned to Kumu Hina in Hawai'i. The module can be considered a success if students use this opportunity to share what they've learned about Hawai'i and its uniquely inclusive approach to gender and many other types of diversity.

    Continue reading
  • "Transgender Kumu Finds Acceptance Far From Home" - Honolulu Star-Advertiser

    By Nina Wu - May 3, 2015:

    Standing by the Sun Yat-sen statue at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, kumu Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu reflected on a recent journey to southern China to explore her family roots.

    There, in a small village more than 5,500 miles from home, she found acceptance from long-lost relatives, a powerful testament to the role of family in self-identity.

    Being a mahu, or transgender person, as well as both Hawaiian and Chinese, defines her identity "in the middle" and is the subject of a documentary film, "Kumu Hina," which premieres nationally on PBS' "Independent Lens" on Monday in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

    The film, by Haleiwa filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, tells of Wong-Kalu's evolution from a timid high school boy to a confident mahu and respected kumu and community leader in modern-day Honolulu.

    All through her struggles, family is what gave her strength.

    "My purpose in this life is to pass on the true meaning of aloha — love, honor and respect," says Wong-Kalu in the film. "It's a responsibility that I take very seriously."

    Born a boy named Collin, Wong-Kalu was raised by both a Hawaiian tutu on her mother's side, Mona Kealoha, and a Chinese popo on her father's side, Edith Kamque Luke.

    "My Hawaiian tutu and popo were the most influential in my life," Wong-Kalu said in an interview with the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser. "Both of them raised me to be very cognizant and respectful, and to be very mindful of Hawaiian culture and Chinese culture."

    With both parents working full time, Wong-Kalu spent much of her childhood with extended family — the Hawaiian side in Mililani and the Chinese side in Liliha.

    With the Hawaiian side, she was called the "pake child" because of her more Asian looks. The Chinese side referred to her as the "Hawaiian one" because of her darker skin and larger size.

    "I grew up in the middle," said Wong-Kalu, whose parents separated when she was in the second grade. "I grew up not belonging completely to one or the other. Being both, and going to one side, they always consider you ‘the other.'"

    So it was, as well, with gender.

    Wong-Kalu, 42, remembers from a very young age feeling that she was more female than male. She would sneak into her mother's closet while she was away at work.

    "I'd put on her clothes and high heels and prance around the house for hours on end," she said. "I wanted to be as beautiful as my mother."

    It was after graduating from Kamehameha Schools in 1990 and attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa that Wong-Kalu fully emerged as a transgender, taking the name Hina.

    Besides being teased in elementary and middle schools for being too girlish, she was also taunted for her Chinese name, Kwai Kong, with kids calling her "King Kong" or "Ding Dong."

    "It was very hurtful," said Wong-Kalu.

    She said she found refuge in Hawaiian culture, where mahu — those who embody both the male and female spirit — are respected as a source of ancient knowledge.

    Her father's Chinese side of the family also accepted her transition. During high school Wong-Kalu had stayed mostly in Liliha, becoming the primary caregiver for Luke up to her death in 1997.

    "Because I was the caregiver for the matriarch and everybody loved her, they all loved and accepted me," she said. "She was the kindest one."

    Wong-Kalu has three older siblings — two sisters and a brother, famed Hono­lulu chef Alan Wong. She said her father, Henry Dai Yau Wong, a former U.S. Army sergeant and man of few words, accepted her as well.

    "No matter my father's internal struggles — and he did struggle — with the changes in my life, he never, ever made me feel less than — ever."

    An invitation to join Hamer and Wilson at the Beijing Queer Film Festival in September turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Wong-Kalu to search for her father's relatives, with whom the family had lost touch. Through research, Wong-Kalu was able to find the name of her grandmother's village, Gam Sek, in southern China.

    Her popo, Luke, had always kept a framed family portrait in a side cabinet and Wong-Kalu brought a copy of it with her when she and the filmmakers took a two-hour taxi drive past numerous factories to the stone gate at the entrance to the small village.

    Upon entering, Wong-Kalu met Luc Lu Moy, wife of a distant cousin. At an ancestral shrine there, she found a matching copy of the family portrait. It turns out a great uncle from Hono­lulu had brought it with him in the 1970s.

    "I burst into tears," said Wong-Kalu. She placed her lei over the photo.

    To introduce herself, Wong-Kalu showed the film to her relatives in China and found they embraced her despite her transgender identity.

    "KUMU  HINA" follows Wong-Kalu in her former role as cultural director of Halau Lokahi, a Hawaiian public charter school, as she prepares students for an end-of-the-year performance. According to the filmmakers, the documentary is as much about the importance of understanding one's culture as it is about family and societal acceptance of those who are different.

    "This is really a reflection, through Hina's life, of what family values can mean in the most positive and comprehensive sense," Wilson said. "With her (students), she often talks about no matter who you are, where you come from, you should know there's a place in the middle for you."

    A 25-minute version of the film, titled "A Place in the Middle," is available for free through PBS Learning Media along with a classroom discussion guide for educators.

    For Wong-Kalu, finding acceptance from relatives in China, a country where most transgenders largely remain invisible, was affirming. It was in the same spirit of aloha that she lives by.

    Standing in Hono­lulu's Chinatown, Wong-Kalu cited an inscription below the Sun Yat-sen statue that reads, "All under heaven are equal."

    Besides Beijing, "Kumu Hina" screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival in April 2014 and has been shown on the U.S. mainland and in Tahiti.

    "The film emphasizes my life as a Hawaiian, but I am also very influenced by my life as a descendant of some of the very first Chinese that came to Hawaii," Wong-Kalu said. "The influence on me makes me very devoted to the name of the family and to honor my parents and grandparents."


    On the Net:

    » Learn more about "Kumu Hina" at kumuhina.com.

    » Learn more about PBS/Independent Lens at pbs.org/independentlens/kumu-hina/.

    » Watch the trailer at youtube.com/user/Kumu Hina.

    » Order "A Place in the Middle" with free classroom discussion guide at aplaceinthemiddle.org.

    Continue reading
  • "Kumu Hina and A Place in the Middle: New Inspiring Films Explore Gender in Hawaiian Culture" - Welcoming Schools

    By Beth Sherouse, Ph.D., May 01, 2015 - Welcoming Schools:

    Numerous indigenous cultures across the globe have traditions of recognizing a third gender, people who don’t fit within traditional gender binaries or whom we might now call transgender.

    While European colonialism sought to suppress or marginalize these identities, some of these traditions have survived and are seeing renewed interest and attention. In some indigenous North American cultures, for example, people identify as two-spirit. In Thai culture, people assigned male at birth but who live as women identify as kathoey.

    In native Hawaiian culture, people whose gender identity or expression is somewhere "in the middle" of the binary sometimes identify as māhū, which is the subject of the new documentary, Kumu Hina, premiering Monday, May 4 on the popular PBS series Independent Lens. The film follows the story of Hina, a teacher (or a Kumu in Hawaiian) who identifies as māhū, and her 11-year-old student, Ho’onani, who describes herself as “in the middle.”

    The filmmakers, Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer have also made a shorter version of the film called A Place In the Middle – which focuses on Ho’onani and her dream of leading the boys-only hula group at her school – available as a resource for educators to help facilitate discussions on gender. The film is available to stream or download for free from their website.

    Filmmaker Dean Hamer explains that "Kumu Hina recognizes that when the class lines up, boys on one side and girls on the other side, there needs to be a place, an actual physical space in the middle” for Ho'onani and other students who don't naturally belong on one side or the other."

    “In the end, Ho'onani becomes an incredible force and leads the boys into the final performance of the school year, and they come to not only respect her, but really embrace her,” says Hamer. “The strong girl wins at the end.”

    “Unlike most educational films, it’s not just about kids, it’s for kids,” says Hamer, and Ho’onani narrates much of her own story. Hamer and Wilson have prepared a guide to help teachers facilitate discussions based on the film about “how gender is interpreted by culture, and how instead of just accepting people who are ‘in the middle,’ this culture celebrates them.”

    HRC Foundation Welcoming Schools consultant Tracy Flynn has used A Place In the Middle to work with educators on what welcoming school environments can look like for LGBTQ and gender-expansive kids.

    “This film shows one culturally specific story with the universal message of acceptance,” Flynn explains. “It’s an amazing tool to help educators understand the need for acceptance for each and every child regardless of gender expression.”

    For more ideas on talking about gender in the classroom, check out the resources available from HRC’s Welcoming Schools. For ways to support transgender and gender-expansive children and youth, visit hrc.org/trans-youth.

    Continue reading
  • "National PBS Premiere of ‘Kumu Hina’ to Launch Educational Campaign" - Teaching Tolerance

    April 28, 2015:

    Mark your calendar for Monday, May 4 from 10 to 11 p.m. (EST)! PBS’ Independent Lens will be hosting the national broadcast premiere of Kumu Hina, a documentary by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson that addresses themes of gender diversity and fluidity, inclusion and cultural empowerment.

    Kumu Hina focuses on a transgender teacher in Hawaii named Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, also known as Kumu Hina. Viewers learn about māhū, a Hawaiian term that refers to people who embrace feminine and masculine spirits. Kumu Hina is one of these people; the film describes Hina’s transition from being a timid high school student into a profound teacher and cultural icon. Kumu Hina is also the director of an all-male hula troupe at an inner-city Honolulu school and supports Ho’onani Kamai—a sixth-grade student who occupies “a place in the middle” on the gender spectrum—in becoming the troupe’s student leader.

    May 4 also marks the launch of an educational campaign from the creators of Kumu Hina. Hamer and Wilson created a 30-minute educational version of Kumu Hina called A Place in the Middle, distributed for free on PBS LearningMedia. Ho’onani’s inspiring story takes center stage in A Place in the Middle. Viewers can commit to making their schools more inclusive and welcoming by taking a #PledgeofAloha—an expression of love, honor and respect for all. Additional educational resources can be found in the free discussion guide that accompanies A Place in the Middle. (Look for references to the Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework!)

    We hope you tune in and watch Kumu Hina on May 4! In the meantime, you can access excerpts from A Place in the Middle in Perspectives for a Diverse America. To find these excerpts, search for the title in the Central Text Anthology.

    Continue reading
  • "TRUE LIBERATION" - The Huffington Post

    Kumu Hina premieres on PBS on Monday, May 4 at 10 p.m. EST (9 PM CST).

    In traditional, Western culture, gender identity is often considered a binary concept: You are either male or you are female.

    This restrictive and defining construct makes it difficult for our society to understand people like Bruce Jenner, who recently came out as transgender, because they don't always fit neatly into a box. While some transgender people move from one end of the gender spectrum to the other when they transition, other transgender people exist somewhere in between, embracing both genders, neither genders or a multiplicity of genders.

    Ultimately, by changing and broadening our definition of gender identity, we can not only better understand it, we can truly embrace it.

    In Native Hawaiian culture, for instance, the idea of someone who embodies both the male and female spirit is a familiar and even revered concept. Gender identity is considered fluid and amorphous, allowing room for māhū, who would fall under the transgender umbrella in Western society.

    “Māhū is the expression of the third self," Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole, a Native Hawaiian activist and performer told Mana magazine. "It is not a gender, it’s not an orientation, it’s not a sect, it’s not a particular demographic and it’s definitely not a race. It is simply an expression of the third person as it involves the individual. When you find that place in yourself to acknowledge both male and female aspects within and accept the capacity to embrace both … that is where the māhū exists and true liberation happens.”

    As an upcoming PBS documentary "Kumu Hina," about a transgender woman and teacher, shows, māhū are thought to inhabit "a place in the middle."

    Māhū are valued and respected in traditional Hawaiian culture because their gender fluidity is seen as an asset; the ability to embrace both male and female qualities is thought to empower them as healers, teachers and caregivers.

    That ability also helps when it comes to navigating life's challenges.

    "I didn’t take to life as my family’s son," Hina Wong-Kalu, the subject of Kumu Hina, says in Mana. "I wanted to be their daughter. However, for me to expand my own personal journey and the challenges in my life, I’ve had to embrace the side of me that is the more aggressive, the more Western-associated masculine when I need to. But that’s the beauty of being māhū, that’s the blessing. We have all aspects to embrace.”



    Continue reading
  • "A Captivating, Gorgeous, and Inspiring Love Story" - Lei Magazine

    Hawaiian culture empowers and inspires throughout the islands, from the beautiful dance of hula to the traditions of mahu. For Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu, a cultural advocate and transgender woman at the center of docu-drama Kumu Hina, this culture has defined her life.

    Lei Magazine – Text by Kelli Gratz | Images by Kai Markell

    In 2011, filmmakers and partners Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson began a cinematic journey—one that neither of them could have anticipated. The subject they started with was Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu, cultural advocate, transgender woman, and Director of Culture at Hawaiian values-based public charter school Halau Lokahi. For the next two years, they followed Wong-Kalu through an interesting time in her life—she had recently married Haemaccelo Kalu, a native of Tonga, and was facing the daily struggles of leading an all-male hula troupe. But throughout the filming process, another story presented itself in the form of a sixth-grade girl named Hoonani, who insisted on joining the troupe. The result of that collision of stories is the gorgeous, inspiring three-character docu-drama Kumu Hina, which comes to PBS in May.

    Being in the spotlight seems natural for 42-year-old Wong-Kalu. For more than two decades, she has lived her life as a mahu wahine, or transgender woman, and hasn’t ever looked back. As a child growing up in Honolulu, Wong-Kalu, then named Collin Kwai Kong Wong, knew he was different. He played dress up in his mother’s closet, and as an adolescent attending Kamehameha Schools, was often teased for being too feminine. He felt pressured to be what biology and society deemed him—a boy. But, by the time he was 20 years old, he decided to stop the charade, and transformed into Hinaleimoana, or the goddess of the moon.

    Since then, Wong-Kalu has made incredible contributions to the Hawaiian community. A founding member of Kulia Na Mamoa, a community organization aimed to improve the quality of life for mahu wahine, she now chairs the Oahu Burial Council and even ran for a board position on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, one of the first transgender candidates for political office in the United States. Clearly, she does not limit herself to anything or anyone, and believes in the cultural traditions of mahu, respected teachers and keepers of cultural traditions who were never stigmatized or discriminated. “They have the sensitivity for caring and the soft side which is more associated with wahine (women),”Wong-Kalu says. “Yet they have enough aggressiveness and enough strength—the backbone. Not to say that Hawaiian women were not strong … but the mahu had qualities of both man and woman in them.”

    In person, Wong-Kalu is equally aggressive and nurturing. Her large figure, covered in Polynesian tattoos, is easily recognizable by many, and her presence is welcomed at community events and gatherings. I recall one in particular: the Hawaii Marriage Equality Bill signing in 2013. Her voice echoed through the corridors, and though I couldn’t understand everything she was saying since she was speaking in her native tongue, Hawaiian, I could feel her ha (spirit). Her oli (chant) was so powerful that days later, I would get chicken skin just thinking about it.

    The film’s trailer has a similar effect. It’s a huge, controversial subject told through a captivating love story. A love between a man and a woman, a love shared between a teacher and student, and a love for culture and tradition. Kumu Hina examines the intricacies of a woman who struggled with her identity and the modern-day perceptions of what it meant to be a mahu. Always hovering in the “place in the middle,”Wong-Kalu is figuring out what her next move will be. No matter what, she will continue to speak her opinion, and inspire all around her.

    Kumu Hina Premieres on Independent Lens Monday, May 4, 2015 on PBS. For more information, visit pbs.org/independentlens.

    To learn more about the documentary and the woman who inspired it, visit kumuhina.com or aplaceinthemiddle.org.

     

     

     

    Continue reading
  • "Kumu Hina Has Sparked A New Passion In My Life" - Barb Baus, Bethlehem, Pa

    Here is a moving example of why we do what we do as a filmmaking and community education and engagement team.  Mahalo Barb, and All in the Lehigh Valley for being a part of these efforts!

     

    Dear Joe, Dean, and Hina:

    We had our screening of "Kumu Hina" this past Sunday evening at ArtsQuest Cinema in Bethlehem, Pa.  Dana Baker and Ryan Hill at ArtsQuest were most helpful in getting this event here.

    I have never been so touched emotionally by any other movie I've seen.  My emotions ran the gamut, from joy to anger, from confusion to compassion.  I saw a love story unfold before me, love on so many levels and between so many participants.  I thank you for making this movie..my thanks to all who were involved.

    I get so angry when I see another Facebook post about someone committing suicide because of their gender identity.  Another, and another and another.  My soul cries for the trans youth of today, who are not getting the support and love they deserve as human beings.

    The folks who viewed this movie Sunday night were there because they care.  Our panel discussion after the movie was way too short.  It became obvious to me that our first order of business here in the Lehigh Valley is education about transgender issues and communication to the trans community that there are many of us who do care, love and support them.  I will be planning more panels and opportunities to educate in the near future.

    Sorry for the long email. You just need to know that Kumu Hina has sparked a new passion in my life.  It has put a face to a GLBT issue that has been overlooked for far too long.  Here in the Lehigh Valley, we will be making a difference.

    Blessings to you all,

    Barb Baus

    April 13, 2015

    Continue reading
  • PBS Learning Media Unveils Kumu Hina Educational Resource: 'A Place In The Middle'

    A Place in the Middle

    Learn about the native Hawaiian approach to gender diversity, the power of cultural heritage, and the true meaning of aloha – love, honor and respect for all – in this short film about an eleven year-old girl who dreams of leading the all-male hula troupe at her school in Honolulu. She's fortunate that her teacher understands the traditional Hawaiian embrace of māhū - those who are “in the middle” between male and female. Together they set out to prove that what matters most is what's inside a person's heart and mind. For further background and materials to support student understanding of the issue see the Classroom Discussion Guide.


    Continue reading
  • "Kumu Hina, un mahu efféminé, une histoire émouvante." - FranceTV

    • Par Marie-Ange Bartoli FranceTV
    • Publié le 25/03/2015

    Hina, une jeune femme transsexuelle de Hawaï, professeur, défend l'image traditionnelle de "mahu" incarnant à la fois l'esprit masculin et féminin. Le documentaire raconte la transformation de Colin Wong, lycéen timide devenu Hina, femme mariée et directrice culturelle d'un école à Honolulu. Dans cette école, il y a une petite fille à la forte personnalité qui veut rejoindre la troupe d'Hina, une troupe de garçons.

    Continue reading
  • Kumu Hina Premieres on Independent Lens Monday, May 4, 2015 on PBS

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Kumu Hina Premieres on Independent Lens

    Monday, May 4, 2015 on PBS

     

    Film About a Transgender Teacher in Hawaii Brings an Ancient Cultural Perspective to National Debate on Transgender Rights

     

    In high school, I was teased and tormented for being too girlish. But I found refuge in being Hawaiian. What I hope most to leave with my students is the true meaning of aloha: love, honor, and respect.

    It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.” - Kumu Hina

     

    (San Francisco, CA) — At a time when transgender and gender nonconforming people across the U.S. and around the world have achieved unprecedented visibility in popular culture, but continue to suffer extreme violence, harassment, discrimination, and isolation, Independent Lens presents Kumu Hina, a moving film from Hawaii that offers a bold new perspective on gender diversity and inclusion through cultural empowerment. Directed and produced by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, Kumu Hina premieres on Independent Lens Monday, May 4, 2015, 10:00- 11:00 PM ET (check local listings), as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month programming on PBS.

     

    Kumu Hina is the inspiring story of Hina Wong- Kalu, a transgender native Hawaiian teacher and cultural icon who brings to life Hawaii’s traditional embrace of mahu — those who embody both male and female spirit. The film traces Hina’s evolution from a timid high school boy to her position as a married woman and cultural director of a school in one of Honolulu’s grittier neighborhoods. As she contemplates who should lead the school's all-male hula troupe in their final performance, a surprising candidate presents herself: Ho‘onani, a sixth grader who is proud to be seen as a mixture of boy and girl. As Kumu Hina helps Ho‘onani to negotiate the mixed reactions of her classmates and her family, the power of culture to instill a sense of pride and acceptance becomes clear.

     

    The film also delves into Hina's pursuit of a dream of her own — a fulfilling romantic relationship. Her tumultuous marriage to a headstrong Tongan man offers insight into the universal challenge of loving somebody outside the norm, and a glimpse of Hawaii never before seen on film.

     

    “This film introduces us to an unforgettable and courageous woman whose life is simultaneously grounded in ancient tradition and on the forefront of one the most contemporary movements in society today,” said Lois Vossen, founding and deputy executive producer of Independent Lens. “Gender fluidity is a concept that has been understood for thousands of years in Polynesian culture, but is only now beginning to be accepted in the West. Kumu Hina teaches us all how to love and accept ourselves as we are.”

     

    Hamer and Wilson wanted to break new ground with this film project by focusing on the abilities, accomplishments, and contributions of a transgender woman rather than on the prejudice and hostility she has faced. “Kumu Hina portrays a world where instead of transgender people being marginalized because of who they are, they are actually visible, honored, and included,” said the filmmakers. “A world where youth who are searching for their own creative forms of gender expression are embraced and encouraged to be themselves rather than to hide in fear or pretend they are just like everyone one else.”

     

    In conjunction with the national broadcast premiere, the film team is launching an education campaign that includes a special children’s version of the film, distributed for free on PBS LearningMedia, PBS’s destination for educators and students. The film tells Ho‘onani’s story through her own words and colorful animation. “Young people deserve to see a school where everyone is accepted and included,” said Kumu Hina. “That's why it’s so important to also have this short video, A Place in the Middle, that kids as well as teachers and parents will enjoy watching.”

     

    Visit the Kumu Hina companion website (http://www.pbs.org/kumu-hina/), which features information about the film including an interview with the filmmakers, preview clips, and a discussion guide, plus links to A Place in the Middle, and how viewers can make their schools and communities more welcoming and inclusive by taking a #PledgeofAloha.

     

    About the Participants

     

    Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (Kumu Hina) is a kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiian) teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader. Born in the Nu’uanu District of Oʻahu Island, Kumu Hina was educated at Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaii. She was previously a founding member of Kulia Na Mamo, a community organization established to improve the quality of life for māhū wahine (transgender women), and Cultural Director at a public charter school dedicated to using native Hawaiian culture, history, and education as tools for developing and empowering the next generation of warrior scholars. Kumu Hina is currently a cultural advisor and leader in many community affairs and civic activities, including Chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council, which oversees the management of Native Hawaiian burial sites and ancestral remains. In 2014, Hina announced her bid for a position on the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, one of the first transgender candidates to run for statewide political office in the United States.

     

    Haemaccelo Kalu, Kumu Hina’s husband, was born on Niuafo’ou, a small island in the Kingdom of Tonga, and currently lives in Honolulu where he works at 'Iolani Palace.

     

    Ho’onani Kamai, a sixth grade student at the school where Kumu Hina taught, rises to become leader of the all-male hula troupe.

     

    About the Filmmakers

     

    Dean Hamer (Director, Producer) is a National Institutes of Health scientist emeritus, bestselling author, and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker with a long history of communicating complex and controversial ideas to diverse publics. In 2004 he formed Qwaves with partner Joe Wilson to produce insightful and provocative documentaries about often-overlooked social issues. Their films were part of the pioneering days of citizen-generated content on the Internet and cable television, won numerous awards, and have been used as outreach and educational tools by many community and educational organizations. Out in the Silence, the first feature film from Qwaves, premiered at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at Lincoln Center to great critical acclaim. Hamer is also known for his research on the genetics of sexual orientation, which was described in his New York Times Book of the Year The Science of Desire. In 2011, he and Joe moved to Oahu, Hawaii to work on Kumu Hina, first in a series of films about Hawaiian lives and voices.

     

    Joe Wilson (Director, Producer) got involved in documentary filmmaking through his professional work and social activism on human rights issues. Frustrated by the limitations of traditional organizing and advocacy, he picked up a camera with hopes of reaching broader audiences with stories that would inform and compel people to act. Together with Qwaves co-founder Dean Hamer, his films on controversial and often ignored human rights issues have won jury and audience awards and official selection at more than 100 film festivals around the country and the world, and received widespread attention for their role in promoting social change. In 2004, Wilson returned to his small hometown of Oil City, Pa., to direct and produce the Sundance-supported, Emmy Award- winning PBS documentary Out in the Silence. Through more than 700 grassroots screenings across the country, this film has become part of a national movement to open dialogue, counter school bullying, and support fairness and equality for all. Wilson and Hamer are currently living and working in Hawaii.

     

    CREDITS

     

    Written, Produced and Directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson

    Editor – Nels Bangerter

    CoProducer – Connie M. Florez

    Original Score – Makana

    Animation – Jared Greenleaf, Jed Henry, Ryan Woodward

    Camera – Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, Connie M. Florez, Fred Vanderpoel, John Kuamoo, Cindy Iodice

     

    Kumu Hina is a co-production of Qwaves, LLC and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with Pacific Islanders in Communications, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

     

    About Independent Lens

     

    Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing on PBS Monday nights at 10:00 PM. The acclaimed series features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers. Presented by Independent Television Service, the series is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding from PBS and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. For more visit pbs.org/independentlens. Join the conversation: facebook.com/independentlens and on Twitter @IndependentLens.

     

    CONTACT

    Lisa Tawil 415-356-8383 lisa_tawil@itvs.org

    Mary Lugo 770-623-8190 lugo@negia.net

    Cara White 843-881-1480 cara.white@mac.com

     

    ###

    Continue reading
  • CHILDRENʻS JURY AWARD 2015: Childrenʻs Film Festival Seattle

    Continue reading
  • Keali'i Reichel and Kumu Hina in New York

    "Kumu Hina is the Wahine Alo Ehuehu of our time, the Woman Who Faces the Storm," said Keali'i Reichel as he sang "E O Mai" before a screening of "Kumu Hina" at the Ford Foundation in New York on December 10, 2014:

    Continue reading
  • Pacific Islander Culture, Gender Identity Focus of University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu series

    The University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu welcomes distinguished visiting scholar and Kanaka Maoli teacher, cultural practitioner and community leader Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu to UH West Oʻahu for a film screening and a series of presentations this February. Wong-Kalu is a founding member and outreach specialist for Kulia Na Mamo, a community organization with a mission to improve the quality of life for māhū wahine (transgender women) and cultural director for Hālau Lōkahi public charter school.

    All events are free and open to the public, and sponsored by the UH West Oʻahu Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program.

    The program brings seasoned scholars and practitioners in the humanities, social sciences, and indigenous arts, traditions and cultures to UH West Oʻahu for the benefit of students, faculty, staff and the community.

    Event information

    • Kumu Hina reception, film screening and discussion
      Monday, February 23, 4–7 p.m.
      UH West Oʻahu, Campus Center Multi-purpose Room, C208

      UH West Oʻahu will host a film screening of the documentary Kumu Hina followed by a discussion with Wong-Kalu and Kuma Hina Director/Producers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer. Kumu Hina is told through the lens of Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, an extraordinary Native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident māhū (transgender woman) and an honored and respected kumu (teacher) and community leader. The documentary focuses on her struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture in the midst of a modern day Hawaiʻi influenced by Western values.

    • “Māhū-Beyond the Binary” class presentation and discussion
      Tuesday, February 24, 2–3:20 p.m.
      UH West Oʻahu, Classroom Building D253

      Wong-Kalu will discuss transgender identity with UH West Oʻahu students taking a sociology of sexuality class. There will be a 30 minute presentation followed by a question and answer session.

    • Panel discussion with Wong-Kalu
      Wednesday, Feb. 25, 5-6:20 p.m.
      UH West Oʻahu, Classroom Building D141

      Wong-Kalu and UH West Oʻahu students taking gender and sexuality in literature and film English class will discuss Western and Pacific Islander constructions of gender identities in a panel presentation format.

    See Photos of Event HERE.

    Continue reading
  • "The True meaning of Aloha" - The Northern Star, Australia

    by Javier Encalada, The Northern Star - February 28, 2015:

    KUMU HINA is the story of Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a transgender woman in modern Hawaii, and the work she does to keep her culture alive and her community together.

    Imagine a world where a little boy can grow up to be the woman of his dreams, and where a young girl can rise to become a leader among men.

    Welcome to Kumu Hina's Hawaii.

    Kumu Hina will be the feature film for an ACON (AIDS Council of NSW) fundraiser in Lismore as part of the Byron Bay Film Festival.

    We had a chat with co-producer/director Joe Wilson after the children's version of the film had its world premiere last week at the Berlin Biennale.

    How was the feature film received by the broader Hawaiian community?

    The film premiered in Honolulu's historic Hawaii Theatre as the closing night film in the Hawaii International Film Festival, before a wildly enthusiastic audience of 1,500 people.

    Since then, it has been invited for numerous screenings on Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island, opening up visibility and conversation about Hawaii's historic embrace of mahu, those who embody both male and female spirit, and have been forced into the shadows for far too long as a result of Western, primarily religious, intolerance.

    What is the film's final goal? What does it want to portray, achieve or change?

    Although there have been several high profile films about transgender and gender non-conforming people over the years, they have tended to focus on the prejudice, discrimination and hostility that trans people face, rather than on their abilities and accomplishments.

    Kumu Hina turns this paradigm around by portraying a world that recognizes those who display both male and female characteristics as gifted and special.

    A world where transgender people are visible, included and honoured.

    A world where youth who are searching for their own creative forms of gender expression are embraced and encouraged to be themselves rather than to hide in fear or pretend they are just like everyone else.

    Who is Hina?

    Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, aka Kumu Hina, is a transformational native Hawaiian mahu or transgender woman living a fully-empowered life in a land whose ancient culture was inclusive and accepting.

    As a teacher in modern Honolulu, where the westernized environment is much less tolerant, Kumu Hina uses her cultural wisdom to create a place in the middle where all students are welcome, and as a community leader, to help imagine and build a future that is embracing of all.

    Do you think the film can trigger a positive change in attitude towards transgender people in the different places it's shown, despite cultural differences?

    Yes, absolutely. We have shown the film in a diversity of countries and communities - from New Zealand to China, Venezuela to Germany, New York to San Francisco - and the responses have been overwhelmingly positive.

    The film has also been selected for national television broadcast in the US, on PBS Independent Lens, the most prestigious platform for a social issue documentary.

    It will reach an audience of more than two million.

     

    The BBFF ACON fundraiser will be held at the Star Court Theatre, Session 1, on Thursday, March 12 from 7.30pm. $15. For details visit www.bbff.com.au.

    Continue reading
  • "Words of Wisdom: Kumu Hina" - Center for Asian American Media

    February 18, 2015 on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar is New Year’s eve. As I scramble to prepare traditional foods and rituals to usher in the year of the goat, I found myself reflecting on the powerful convictions of a great teacher. You may not have heard of her yet, but I’m sure that in due time, you will because Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu (黄貴光) has an inspiring spirit that shines bright on and off the screen. Hinaleimoana is the starring character in a feature documentary called Kumu Hina showing at CAAMFest this year. Here’s an excerpt of an interview I did with her and filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson.

    —Kar Yin Tham, Center for Asian American Media

    Can you talk about how Hawaiian culture became such an important part of your life, in terms of teaching traditions?
    Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu: Well, on both sides of my family, I was exposed to the strength [from] both my grandmothers actually. My Hawaiian grandmother, she insisted that I be staunch and fastidious about language and accuracy of our culture. She advocated for me to establish a Hawaiian sense of place, Hawaiian presence, Hawaiian manner, a Hawaiian sense of decorum. And she did this because Hawai’i in my growing up was such a rapidly changing place that I know now, later in life, that Hawai’i was so very different from what she knew.

    So you were raised by your grandmother?
    HW: I have been reared primarily by her and my Popo, my Chinese grandmother. She shared much with me that she did not share with my mother and her siblings. My Popo, in her own way, was the same kind of person but more from a place of being. You know, I had this engrained into me growing up that both grandmothers were staunchly holding on to what they could just by virtue of the fact that were bi-cultural.

    During Chinese New Year, offering tea to our family is the one of the last few things that I still am able to do. You can’t replace that. [If] there’s any one day out of the year you can’t miss, it’s new year. A birthday you might be able to get away with. But you must show up for Chinese New Year, and wish your elders Gong Hei Fat Choy (“Happy New Year” in Cantonese).

    Why is it so important for us to have that connection to tradition?
    HW: What is modern life? And who dictates modern life? And who sets the standards? And who says that modern life is equated to Western life? And that it is better? For me, that’s been more detrimental. I’ve had to wrestle with, am I going to embrace the mainstream trends that assimilate my manner of engagement and my interaction with people to something more Western? And I say, no, this how I’m going to be. Because if I don’t say it, that I’m going to [live] in the way that I understand my people to be, then what’s the sense of holding onto language? What’s the sense of trying to hold onto culture? It would become a shell. If I were to engage in the Chinese language, but then I had no sense of the Chinese understanding of respect, but I just used the words, it’s an empty shell. Ornamental culture – I’m not a fan of that at all.

    Is tradition something you try to communicate to the students? And do you feel like its working, because there are a lot of factors against it.
    HW: Yes, It works in ways that are not always so obvious. They will realize what they’ve learned when they go. Just before I came up here (San Francisco), I ran into one of my former students. And he didn’t graduate with us, but he had a very, very rough road with us, and he was released because of it. He shared with me, “Thank you Kumu. You know, I remember you teaching us this.” He was extending a helping hand with someone he didn’t always get along with when he was in school [Hālau Lōkahi Public Charter School]. But this other former schoolmate was down and out. And he gave him a helping hand and he said, “I remember that you taught that to us. And that’s how it has to be.” So then I know that, this young man who has been through his life ordeals and now is a father of two is practicing what he was taught. So that’s one of the biggest rewards to have.

    Can you talk more about how gender is portrayed in the film?
    Dean Hamer: I’d say that, the way we made the film was simply to follow Hina. We didn’t set out to say we were going to make a film about gender. We said we were going to make a film about Hina. When Hina lives her life, gender comes up a lot.

    HW: You know, in the Western context, for the transgender, “passing” or “being passable” for a female to male that has to tie her breasts, for the male the facial hair, an Adam’s Apple and all of these things that are the giveaways for what your true nature is, but in Pacific Island culture there’s more freedom and fluidity to be somewhere in between, but you find the conflict when you have to engage with Western society.

    With more traditional elements of Hawaiian society, there are clear roles for the male and for the female, but the definition and the articulation of that is not the same as Western eyes would have it. So, when I say articulation, I mean the physical articulation of a male and a female.

    In the film, it shows my friends on the island of Kauai and, you know, they’re certainly very, very androgynous. There’s elements of them that are feminine—Western feminine—and there’s also elements of them that are Western masculine. And there’s no issue.

    These are all things that, by Western context, will divide you. Are you this or are you that? But really, it’s the roles that you live. So, the fluidity comes in when you consider that the mahu can exist somewhere in there, but it’s all context specific.

    Joe Wilson: It is for Western audiences to view the film in a way that allows them to see how people live in family, community and society outside of construct of labels and who people are supposed to be.

    DH: Outside of strict male female labels.

    HW: Yes, and for me, I do not like the fact that we are consistently imposed upon by these values that . . . someone from within the LGBT Western perspective have to be so separate and distinct, and this whole idea about a way of life. But, I do not agree with that. I’d rather just be myself, and encourage others to participate in the larger fabric of community and family life.

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Kumu Hina screenings

    Co-presented by Frameline and sponsored by Pacific Islanders in Communications and Cooper White & Cooper.

    New People Cinema
    March 13, 2015 7:40 pm
    Buy Tickets

    PFA
    March 15, 2015 3:30 pm
    Buy Tickets

    Continue reading
  • "Kumu In The Middle" - Hana Hou! The Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines

    By Chad Blair for Hana Hou! The Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines

    There’s a scene in the film Kumu Hina in which the hula teacher at Halau Lokahi stands facing six boys slouching in a doorway of the public charter school in Honolulu. The tattooed, five-foot-ten-inch-tall kumu (teacher) looks imposing despite the yellow plumeria tucked behind her ear. “Stand up straight. Stand tall,” she commands. She demonstrates: shoulders back, feet rooted. “I need this. This is what I need from you, all the time.” The boys comply, looking uncomfortable. Once the kumu is satisfied, she invites them to enter and sit before her. She belts the opening line of a chant from Hawai‘i Island hula teachers: “‘Ai ka mumu keke pahoehoe ke!” Her voice resounds in the huge space as she waits for them to repeat it.

    It’s all in a day’s work for any kumu trying to whip a group of hula-challenged high school boys into performance-ready shape. Forty-two-year-old Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu is a kumu hula, cultural practitioner and activist; the acclaimed documentary film based on her life premiered in April 2014 at Hawaii Theatre and has been shown on the Mainland and in Asia. It will be featured at the Pacific International Film Festival in Tahiti this February and air nationally in the United States on PBS in May. Kumu Hina is a portrait of a respected cultural practitioner passing Native Hawaiian values to her students. It is a love story, too, between Hina and her Tongan husband. More than anything it is the story of what it means to be mahu.

    Kumu Hina has a long way to go with these boys. They try sheepishly to imitate her chant, their voices weak. Hina gently mocks them by whispering back: “‘Ai ka mumu keke …? No. Listen to my voice. There’s nothing wahine [female] about my voice. It’s thick and it’s too low.” She clears her throat, then chants the phrase again, deeper, louder and with almost physical force. The boys laugh, embarrassed and unnerved. Then she addresses them seriously, directly. “When I am in front of the entire school,” she intones, “you guys know that I expose my life. What the younger kids think about me, that’s up to them. But you, as older people, know.” What the boys know—and accept without question—is that their kumu was born male. “Now you, gentlemen,” says Kumu Hina, “gotta get over your inhibitions.”

    Before the arrival of American missionaries in 1820, Hina explains in the film, every gender—male, female, mahu —had a role. Native Hawaiians believed that every person possessed both feminine and masculine qualities, and the Hawaiians embraced both, regardless of the body into which a person was born. Those in the middle—mahu—were thought to possess great mana, or spiritual power, and they were venerated as healers and carriers of tradition in ancient Polynesia. “We passed on sacred knowledge from one generation to the next through hula, chant and other forms of wisdom,” Hina narrates. After contact with the West, however, the missionaries “were shocked and infuriated. … They condemned our hula and chants as immoral, they outlawed our language and they imposed their religious strictures across our lands. But we Hawaiians are a steadfast and resilient people. … We are still here.”

    From an early age Collin Kwai Kong Wong knew he was “different,” as Hina puts it now. “I wanted to be as beautiful and glamorous and smart as my mother. I wanted to be this beautiful woman. When my mother would go to work and leave me at home alone, I was in her closet.” Hina laughs recalling this, but it was hardly funny when it was happening: Collin was teased for being too feminine, and he didn’t know how to talk to his family about what he was going through. He tried, like others in such situations, to conform. “I had girlfriends when I was younger, and I tried to play the role,” Hina recalls. “I tried to be the person that I thought my friends and family were expecting to see.”

    Collin learned Native Hawaiian values through his grandmother, but it wasn’t until he enrolled at Kamehameha Schools that he learned the practices: hula, oli and ‘olelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language). After graduating he worked as an assistant to a kumu hula and traveled throughout the Pacific to places like Tahiti and Rarotonga.

    Back home in the Islands, he connected with Polynesians from other island groups, particularly those from Samoa and Tonga, among whom he felt more comfortable expressing his feminine side. “They had a more inclusive way about them,” Hina says. “It seemed easier to migrate toward transitioning into how my heart and spirit felt and know that there would still be a place for me. That I could be myself and people wouldn’t look at me with such scrutinizing eyes.”

    Hina was delicate with her family as she began to transition at 20 years old, though her Hawaiian mother nonetheless struggled with it. “How did I transition from being my family’s son to being my family’s daughter? Not by throwing it in their face. Not by being militantly loud and obtrusive,” she says. Her Chinese father, perhaps ironically, was more accepting. “He said, ‘I don’t care what you do in your lifetime, just finish school and take care of your grandmother.’ He didn’t impose other things on me, and that said to me that my father would accept me unconditionally.”

    Collin chose the name Hinaleimoana. Hina is the Hawaiian goddess of the moon, among the most desired figures in Polynesian mo‘olelo (stories), a name she says honors her mother’s cultural heritage and one that Hina hopes to “live up to.”

    Hina had been teaching at Halau Lokahi for ten years when filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer met her in 2011 through a mutual friend, Connie Florez, who became a co-producer of Kumu Hina. Wilson and Hamer were already known for their Emmy-winning 2009 film Out in the Silence, which chronicles Wilson and Hamer’s same-sex wedding and the uproar it subsequently caused in Wilson’s Rust Belt hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania. Wilson and Hamer saw Hina’s story as a fresh approach to the topic. “As people who come from the continent, we often have a superficial understanding of Hawai‘i,” Wilson says. “Meeting Hina introduced us to a Hawai‘i that we might not otherwise know about. When she embraced us as filmmakers to document her story, we realized that this is a Hawai‘i that everybody needs to know about.”

    That Hina was both respected and approachable was evident from their first meeting with her. “As we went to dinner at Kenny’s in Kalihi, just walking from the parking lot to the restaurant took about thirty minutes,” says Hamer. “There were so many people who knew her and came up to her. Coming from the Mainland, where a mahu might be looked at as suspicious, it was so different and wonderful to see her as part of her community.”

    The crew shadowed Hina for two years and just let the cameras roll, often capturing touching moments between Hina and her students as well as a surprisingly intimate and honest view of her marriage. They filmed at Halau Lokahi, in her home and in Fiji. Much of the film focuses on Hina’s poignant relationship with a tough and talented middle school student, Ho‘onani Kamai, a girl who, like Hina, is “in the middle” and who, despite being female and considerably younger, confidently directs the high school boys as they practice their hula and leads them during the end-of-year performance. Wilson and Hamer are editing an age-appropriate version of the film that emphasizes Ho‘onani’s story to be shown in Hawai‘i schools. (The working title: A Place in the Middle.) “It’s told through the students’ point of view,” Wilson explains. “The value of that film is to reach people in the classroom setting.”

    For her part, Hina says she is happy with the film and its success, though she insists that she didn’t do it for the stardom. “I don’t need the glory, I don’t need the fame,” she says, “but who doesn’t appreciate a pat on the back? What I want to know is that there is value and worth in my life—not the everyday value, but the larger value. Can I serve our people? Can I serve our community in ways big and small? I firmly believe that through being oneself, through living one’s truths and embracing one’s realities, others may find strength and courage.”

    Not only are Hawaiians “still here,” as Hina says in the film, but once-suppressed native traditions like oli and hula are flourishing, and aikane (same-sex) marriages are today protected by Hawai‘i state law.

    During the 2013 bill-signing ceremony for same-sex marriage in Hawai‘i, Kumu Hina delivered a stirring oli that sounded as if it roared from the caldera of Kilauea. She chanted before a packed auditorium of government officials, marriage equality advocates and friends and families at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Those in the audience who did not understand Hawaiian wouldn’t know that Hina sang of “a new dawn.” But when Hina chanted about “the precious day of the aikane and of the mahu,” many in the audience laughed, clapped and whooped upon hearing the word “mahu,” causing the kumu herself to stop for a moment and break into a smile. (You can view the clip, with English subtitles, on YouTube.)

    While she says she was honored to be asked by then-Governor Neil Abercrombie to deliver the oli, she did so “to be a catalyst for this change” and not, she says, to become a standard-bearer for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) issues. That’s not a label, she says, that suits her; “I am not someone who wants to embrace LGBT and apply it to myself,” she says. Rather, it is her Hawaiian identity that predominates; if working in support of LGBT issues helps to serve that larger purpose, Hina is willing. But she points out that LGBT interests might well be served indirectly. “I put my-self out there for the larger community,” she says, “and if I do good for the larger community, then a more positive light will be cast on people like me.”

    Last fall Hina concluded thirteen years as cultural director at Halau Lokahi. She’s still considering what she’ll do next, but whatever it is, it’s likely that she will advocate on behalf of Native Hawaiians. In 2014 she ran unsuccessfully for a position on the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Hina also chairs the O‘ahu Island Burial Council, which ensures that iwi kupuna—the remains of Hawaiian ancestors—are treated properly when they are unearthed during construction projects. Jonathan Likeke Scheuer, who served as her vice chairman before his term ended last June, praises Hina’s ability to reach consensus between developers and descendants —no small accomplishment, he points out, given the intensity of the disputes that erupt over the treatment of iwi kupuna. “Her leadership comes from an absolutely culturally grounded place,” Scheuer says. “She is so comfortable in her own skin, in being the person she is. She embodies who she is in this wonderful way that is really the source of her power.”

    I really don’t know what’s in store,” Hina says at the end of the film, and though she’s referring specifically to her marriage, she might as well be talking about her life as a whole. “What I do know is that I’m fortunate to live in a place that allows me to love who I love. I can be whoever I want to be. That’s what I hope most to leave with my students: A genuine understanding of unconditional acceptance and respect. To me that’s the true meaning of aloha.”

     

     

    Continue reading
  • Kumu Hina: Teaching Us All About Love and Acceptance

    by Margo Seeto - The International Examiner:

    In traditional Polynesian cultures, people who embraced the spirit of a third gender, who embraced a blend of the constructed notions of male and female, were accepted and even revered. Among the kanaka maoli—the Native Hawaiians—men who fluidly move between roles of male and female are known as mahu. Mahu were often guardians of traditional cultural practices, such as hula. However, the 18th century introduction of Western European cultures and religions brought disease and war, in addition to a clash of values that continues to this day. No longer was it OK for aikane, or men who loved other men, to freely express affection for one another. Western religion said it was wrong.

    Fast forward to contemporary Hawai‘i, and mahu still feel the affects of this intolerance of a traditionally-accepted group of people. Those who choose not to hide their identities must constantly fight barriers in family life, school, the workplace and politics. Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, born male as Colin Wong, is one such example of a fierce mahu who decided to pursue a life that spoke to her true self. “My progression is simply indicative of me coming to a different understanding. It was my own process of self-decolonization,” said Wong-Kalu to the International Examiner. It’s this attitude that garnered the attention of accomplished filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson of qWaves Films.

    Through Honolulu-based film producer Connie M. Florez, Hamer and Wilson met Wong-Kalu and filmed her from 2011 to 2013 for a documentary titled Kumu Hina. “They came to me and said that my life was interesting. I said, ‘Oh I don’t think so,’” said Wong-Kalu modestly. But in being a true individual with unwavering principles, Wong-Kalu went on to share about the film, “I wanted people to focus on me and my name, Hina … I just wanted it to represent my life. I don’t want the emphasis to be placed on transgender, though it can show me having challenges sometimes.”

    During this time, Wong-Kalu was the Director of Culture at Halau Lokahi Public Charter School. As a kumu, or teacher, of traditional Hawaiian cultural practices, Wong-Kalu was the bearer of culture, as well as a role model for her students. And as if almost meant for film, three major developments created a trifecta of stories for the documentary: Wong-Kalu’s background and continued journey to become herself, her mentorship of a young girl determined to join and lead an all-boys hula troupe, and Wong-Kalu’s new marriage to a young Tongan man, Haemaccelo Kalu. With a prolonged lens into one’s private life, Wong-Kalu’s answer to a question about the camera’s constant presence was, “I simply said to myself that I have to be as honest and myself as possible. So that way, I don’t have an affected kind of representation in the film.”

    In the past year, the documentary Kumu Hina has played around the global film festival circuit, from the Pacific Islands to Scotland, to China. While grounded in Hawai‘i, the documentary’s universal message of overcoming adversity has resonated with audiences. “It’s been a very powerful film and very well received in the places that it shows. Many people come up and are very expressive and appreciative about bringing the story to the forefront,” says Wong-Kalu. And true to her continued journey to becoming herself and connecting with her genealogy, Wong-Kalu shared, “My most significant [film festival] trip was to China. I got a chance to connect with my family there.” She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, and English heritage, and can speak English, Hawaiian, Tongan, Samoan, and Tahitian. As a self-professed “fan of languages,” Wong-Kalu looks forward to one day learning Cantonese in order to further get closer to her Chinese heritage.

    While the cameras stopped rolling in 2013, the chapters of this kumu’s amazing life continue to be written. Having left Halau Lokahi Public Charter School in November 2014 after more than a decade on staff, Wong-Kalu is now an independent consultant currently working as a Native Hawaiian cultural adviser to the development group Howard Hughes Corporation. “I’m much more confident now to sit at the table with men in business and politics. Those are the kinds of tables that I sit at now, where you don’t usually have transgenders,” said Wong-Kalu of her current position. When asked if she was still teaching, Wong-Kalu responded, “I don’t teach anymore. Well, I do—I teach adults.” Continuing to build bridges and encourage understanding between communities seems to be in Wong-Kalu’s blood.

    As for her hopes for what audiences will take away from watching Kumu Hina, Wong-Kalu said at the end of the International Examiner’s interview, “I’d like them to have unconditional love and understanding and acceptance of people who are different. I’d like them to understand that there are different paradigms of life that can exist. All are acceptable. … To other transgenders out there, all they have to do is put their heart and soul into their mind, and go north toward it.”

    Kumu Hina screens at Northwest Film Forum Screen 1 (large theater) on Saturday, February 14 at 3:00 p.m. and at Northwest Film Forum Screen 2 (small theater) on Sunday, February 15 at 6:00 p.m. Kumu Hina is preceded by the short films Intersections and To Sit with Her. For tickets and more information, click here.

    Continue reading
  • "A Beautiful Look into Hawaiian Culture and Living Outside the Gender Binary" -- AfterEllen.com

    by Miranda Meyer - AfterEllen - January, 30, 2015:

    A Place in the Middle is a documentary short about a young Hawai’ian person growing up “in the middle” of the gender binary; about the reclamation and celebration of Hawai’ian culture; the wounds of colonialism; the bonds between students and teachers; about acceptance. It is as much the story of Kumu Hina, a teacher and cultural activist, as it is of Ho’onani Kamai, her 11-year-old student, and much of the emotion that pours through the screen emerges from the profound differences in the experiences of these two “middle people” growing up.

    I want to say up front that it can be tempting to try to evaluate the concepts and statements made in the short on the basis of my own understanding of post-colonial life, or of how we usually talk about trans, genderqueer, genderfluid, or agender people in the mainland United States. But I am not Hawai’ian, and so I have chosen to discuss these concepts in the filmmakers’ terms, sometimes skipping terminology that feels more familiar or “appropriate” in the contexts I am used to. This may feel jarring at times (I struggled with wording a lot on this basis), and I hope I’ve managed to stick to their terms without hurting anyone here—if I messed up, I hope we can talk about it. Also, though Ho’onani’s gender identity is certainly not cis-female nor specifically transfeminine, she is consistently referred to by those around her using female pronouns and does not seem to object, so I will do the same here.

    The film states its subject right at the start, informing us that “In the Hawaiian language, kāne means ‘male’ and wahine means ‘female.’ But ancient Hawaiians recognized that some people are not simply one or the other.” We then go immediately to Ho’onani, in a backwards cap, playing ukulele and narrating herself in a mixture of Hawai’ian and English words:

    Sometimes Kumu says I have more kāne inside than most of the kāne. And some kāne have more wahine than the wahine. Some people don’t accept it, they tease about it, but—I don’t care. At all. Because I’m myself; other people are theirselves.
    Advertisement
    Advertisement
    Already we know a lot about our protagonist! She is certainly aware andconscious of the ways her gender is unusual, and that others sometimes

    object to this. Her gender is a topic she has thought about.But what is maybe more remarkable in her, to my eyes, is how self-possessed and articulate she is. This 11-year-old kid has more confidence and security in herself, pouring out of her every word and gesture, than most adults or kids I know, and seeing that in her affect immediately makes the viewer feel safe.

    We are not going to watch terrible things happen to Ho’onani. It is obvious that she is loved by people who support her. This all happened within the first minute and already I felt like I was in a group hug.

    We move quickly to Ho’onani’s school in Honolulu, where it’s immediately obvious that the support you intuit from her brief speech is real. Kumu Hina, her teacher, is passing out leis, declaring that yellow leis are for the boys; all the boys should be in yellow leis. Kumu then checks in with Ho’onani: “You’re happy? You’re in a boy lei.” And indeed she is. She considers the question for a second, looking over a boy in his boy lei next to her, then perks up with all the force of a great idea: “I wanna just wear both!” The girl on her other side (in her white lei) looks up with an expression like Ho’onani has just won the lottery or cracked the code of life. SHE GETS TWO LEIS, GUYS!!!

    I can’t hear what she says next, but she turns to Ho’onani—presumably to express her congratulations—and Ho’onani makes all kinds of triumphant “nailed it” gestures. Without questioning it, Kumu brings her a white lei and puts it on her, saying to the room at large, “You get both, cause she’s both.”

    Honestly, I would love to describe the entire film in such detail because everything is just so great, but that would be unwieldy and spoilery. But this sequence very much sets the tone: Ho’onani’s gender, her bothness, is supported by her teacher and accepted by her peers. This incident is in no way a big deal to anyone in the room (except perhaps Kumu, but more on her later). Not only is she accommodated by her school in her self-expression, she is actively supported in a way I wish so much every kid could be. She didn’t have to speak up to ask for another lei; she was asked what would make her happy, and given the time to consider it.

    The narrative thread of A Place in the Middle is preparations for the end-of-year school hula performance. This story is interspersed with some beautiful animated sequences explaining briefly and clearly some aspects of traditional Hawai’ian culture and it’s suppression by US colonial authority, as well as Kumu’s perspective. (I wish there were gifs out there somewhere of these animations, as their fluid quality of motion is really arresting, but alas we will have to make do with screenshots.)

    The animation introduces us to māhū, or people in the middle, who prior to the cultural destruction of colonization “embraced both the feminine and the masculine traits that are embodied within each and every one of us.” As will happen frequently in these animated sequences, there are small but significant choices in how to illustrate concepts that make an enormous difference. The māhū icon does not appear already demonstrating their status of “in the middle;” instead, they stand between a male and a female icon who respectively offer them a flower and a spear. That these symbols of gender expression are shared freely reinforces the message that māhū were supported by and integrated in their societies.

    We learn about the traditional role of the māhū, who were “valued and respected as caretakers, healers, and teachers of ancient traditions,” as well as the Europeans’ rejection of their existence. (The animation, again making important choices, illustrates this in definite terms of Christian missionaries without the narration having to say so.)

    This description of māhū’s place as transmitters of tradition is in some ways the real heart of the whole film, as it underlies Kumu Hina’s life mission and even young Ho’onani’s role in the school performance. Kumu, we learn, grew up in the middle but without the support her student has. She speaks about the gendered bullying she endured and how she found strength and solace in native Hawai’ian culture; how her life’s work is the responsibility of carrying on Hawai’ian identity and imparting it to the next generation. (The movie was her idea, which makes perfect sense.) She refers to her “transition” without going into any detail, though we see “the old me” perform a traditional song. The presentation of this fact of her life as significant but not lurid or needing explanation is deeply refreshing in a world where trans and genderqueer people are so often pushed to provide some kind of play-by-play of how their genders and bodies have changed and interacted over time.

    Kumu is not the only one who feels strongly about Hawai’ian heritage, however. We meet Ho’onani’s mother, who wants her to learn Hawai’ian language and culture because she herself never had the chance. We watch the school’s principal implore the students not to take the instruction they get at school for granted, because earlier generations never had it. Everyone cries. Ho’onani cries, Kumu cries, the principal cries. I cry too. The offending teenage boys gather around Kumu Hina and hug her en masse.

    Lest my slightly flippant description sound maudlin or in any way eyeroll-y, I promise you this is not how the scene goes down. This little film is absolutely bursting with sincerity. The wounds these older women feel are very real, and their students’ appreciation of that, when faced with it, is real too. Māhū, we were just told, were traditionally healers, and the entire enterprise of this school feels like a collective, cross-generational process of healing.

    In a more intimate version of that same dynamic, we watch Kumu Hina let Ho’onani be in the high school boys’ dance, not the girls, and cast her as the leader of the number. We see teacher advise student that others in the future may expect her to “stand in the girls’ line” and that she may have to just roll with it while she’s still young. But “When you get to be my age,” Kumu tells her, “You’re not gonna have to move for anybody else.”

    Concepts of gender and sex are treated throughout the film with a degree of easy fluidity I have rarely experienced. Even in spaces dedicated to discussion of cissexism and all its handmaidens, sometimes the laudable and important desire to unpack our assumptions and include everyone with our language leads to a granular hashing out of terms and categories that doesn’t afford the kind of comfort that is demonstrated and modeled here. (This is essential work that should by all means continue! It is just different from what is happening in the movie.) Please note that I don’t believe for a second that the adults involved have not thought long and hard about the subject. What I mean is that they are discussing it with their charges in such a way that it doesn’t feel, at least from this side of the screen, like it’s fraught or exhausting. Nor does it feel flippant or underserved. It feels like a world where gender is discussed calmly and kindly by authority figures and where there is room for everyone’s expression.

    In the first rehearsal we see, Kumu informs the guys, “You have a biological wahine standing here in front of you because she has more kū [male energy] than everybody else around here.” (Ho’onani is thrilled with this.) “Even though she lacks the main essential parts of kū. [Ho’onani laughs.] But in her mind, and in her heart, she has kū.” The idea that genitals are “the main essential parts” of any gender is one that is generally very unwelcome with me, but I am in no position to police Kumu Hina’s language and you could not pay me to try; I wrote down these words as one of several examples of how gender is addressed over the course of the film.

    Later, as the boys wait to go onstage, Kumu Hina will start to say that Ho’onani isn’t a boy, but—and the boys will say, “He is.” “He is.” “He is.” Those same dancers will still later declare that “she has more balls” than any of them. (TEENAGE BOYS SAID THIS ABOUT AN ELEVEN YEAR OLD GIRL WHO WAS PUT IN A LEADERSHIP POSITION OVER THEM, YOU GUYS! WHAT ALCHEMY IS THIS!!!) Her female classmates will say that she’s in the middle and that it’s not a big deal, including the information that she plays ukulele and sings—these are all just facts about her. Her mother accepts her gender expression but barely comments on it at all, focusing instead on love and family. These various statements do not necessarily match up with one another precisely in the way gender discussions I’m used to often try to pin down—note the pronoun changes at different moments—but that is never an issue. This is what I’m trying to get at with words like fluidity and comfort. Gender here is dynamic and individual, and given the room to be so.

    Moreover, it seems that while Kumu and Ho’onani are both in the middle, they are not in the middle in the same way; this is never really an issue. No one tries to sort them into subtypes or distinguish between their assigned-at-birth genders. There is an underlying feeling of space in terms of letting people be that permeates everything that happens here, but that space is never taken for granted. A Place in the Middle makes sure you can’t finish it without understanding that that place has had to be fought for and reclaimed, and that it cannot be found everywhere.

    In the end, the performance goes beautifully. Ho’onani, dressed differently from the guys but standing front and center, opens her mouth and chants in a voice of such strength and depth that it’s nothing short of inspiring, and the crowd screams in joyous welcome. Her mother tells her over and over that she is proud. I cry some more.

    At one point, Kumu Hina tells the group that she wants everyone to know that “if you are my student, you have a place to be.” “In the middle,” Ho’onani interjects. “In the middle! In the middle,” Kumu agrees. As Ho’onani’s mother said earlier, love means letting people be who they are, embracing them for who they are. A Place in the Middle tells us more than once about the true meaning of aloha: love, harmony. In this story, aloha means standing in the girls’ line or the boys’—or out in front, with two leis; different, but not alone.

    Kumu Hina: A Place in the Middle will play at the Berlinale Film Festival, and will be available to educators and communities who would like to show the film. For more information, visit aplaceinthemiddle.org



    Continue reading
  • 'Kumu Hina: A Place in the Middle' Premieres at the 65th Berlinale

    Jan. 17, 2015:

    Produced & Directed by O'ahu residents Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson in association with Pacific Islanders in Communications, the film tells the story of a young girl who aspires to lead her school's all-male hula troupe and a teacher who uses Hawaiian culture to empower her.

    A true life Whale Rider!” -Huffington Post

    January 20, 2015 – (Haleiwa, HI) – KUMU HINA: A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE is one of 65 films from 35 countries selected for the 65th Berlinale's Generation programme, a slate of state-of-the-art world cinema devoted to children and young people seen by more than 60,000 attendees annually.

    Firmly grounded in their respective cultural contexts, the selected films paint sensitive portraits of extraordinary characters often living in hermetically sealed worlds. “We experience young people who bear too much weight on their shoulders,” as section head Maryanne Redpath describes one of this year's recurring themes. “The high degree of self-determination with which these children and adolescents liberate themselves from their predicaments is striking.”

    A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE is the educational version of Hamer and Wilson's feature documentary KUMU HINA, which was the Closing Night Feature in the Hawai'i International Film Festival's 2014 Spring Showcase. The film has traveled the world for festival, campus, and community screenings, and will have its national PBS broadcast on Independent Lens on May 4, 2015.

    In A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE, eleven year-old Ho'onani dreams of leading the hula troupe at her Honolulu middle school. The only trouble is that the troupe is just for boys. She's fortunate that her devoted teacher, Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu, understands first-hand what it means to be 'in the middle' – embracing both male and female spirit. Together, as they prepare for a big year-end public performance, student and teacher reveal that what matters most is what's in one's heart.

    With nearly 500,000 visitors each year, the Berlinale is the largest publicly attended film festival in the world. A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE was one of over 5,000 submissions to the festival this year, and the only selection from Hawai‘i.

    An inspiring coming-of-age story on the power of culture to shape identity, personal agency, and community cohesion, from a young person's point-of-view.” -Cara Mertes, Ford Foundation's JustFilms

    I know that this film will bring understanding and enlightenment to all who view it.”

    -Leanne Ferrer, Pacific Islanders in Communications

    Festival info: Berlinale 2015

    Film web site: http://aplaceinthemiddle.org/

    Continue reading
  • "Hiding in Plain Sight: The Beijing Queer Film Festival" -- Filmmaker Magazine


    Hiding in Plain Sight: The Beijing Queer Film Festival

    by Dean Hamer - January 7, 2015:

    My usual questions as I get ready for a film festival are whether we’ll be able to sell out the show and how the audience and local press will react. Preparing for the Beijing Queer Film Festival last September, I had a different sort of concern: would I be able to show our film without being arrested?

    The festival had invited me, my partner Joe Wilson and our main character, Hina Wong-Kalu, to screen Kumu Hina, a documentary about Hina’s life as a highly regarded native Hawaiian teacher and cultural leader who just happens to be māhū, or transgender. Because China has a censorship law that prohibits any positive depiction of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender lives in movies or TV shows, mainstream venues were out of the question; the big international festivals in Shanghai and Beijing are devoid of gay-themed films, and DVDs of Brokeback Mountain are only available on the black market.

    Which is exactly why the very existence of the Beijing Queer Film Festival is both so necessary and so audacious. Founded in 2001 by openly gay filmmaker Cui Zi’en, the early years were difficult. Screenings were cancelled by the security police at the last minute, films were moved from theaters and universities to bars and private homes, publicity was largely by word of mouth and organizers were threatened.

    Then in 2013, for the first time, the festival went off without a hitch. Buoyed by the lack of governmental interference, the organizers for the 2014 edition decided to open up the festival by holding the screenings in a public cinema and marketing to the large Beijing LGBT community through social media.

    Their timing was unfortunate. Last year was tough on progressive causes in China, as President Xi Jinping led a series of crackdowns on independent voices, arresting critics and shuttering NGOs. The most troubling was the brutal shutdown of the Beijing Independent Film Festival in late August. Authorities forcibly dispersed would-be audience members, shut off the venue’s electricity, and detained the organizers, seizing documents and precious film archives from their offices.

    The Queer Film Festival organizers quickly recalibrated their approach, abandoning the idea of using a public cinema and cutting back on their social media activities. But the police were watching. Just weeks before the festival, two security officers paid a visit to festival co-director Jenny Man Wu — a young straight woman with a passion for queer cinema.

    “We’ve tapped your phone and read all your emails,” they told her, “and if you go ahead with the festival as planned, there will be trouble.” These are not good words to hear out of the mouth of a Chinese policeman.

    But LGBT Chinese are, by necessity, as resourceful as they are resilient. Shortly after arriving in Beijing, on the day before the opening of the festival, we received an email from an unfamiliar address telling us there was a new plan. We were instructed to go to the central Beijing railway station the next morning, purchase tickets for the 11:15 AM train to a town near the Great Wall, and proceed to car number 7. “Make sure to bring your laptops,” the note ended.

    And so the next morning we found ourselves in a commuter train car filled with a colorful mixture of Chinese queer film buffs, filmmakers, academics, artists and activists. The organizers handed out flash drives containing the opening film, Our Story, an artful retrospective of the festival’s history. We counted down in unison, “san, er, yi”, then started our media players together. The Beijing Queer Film Festival was underway.

    The rest of the festival went off without major incident. Most of the films were from China, which despite the pressure from the authorities has a growing gay indie movement, others from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and Europe. There were features, documentaries, a variety of shorts including several student films, and panels on topics ranging from “Light Documentary, Heavy Activism” to “Women on Top.” Most of the screenings and panel discussions took place at the Dutch Embassy, beyond the purview of the Chinese authorities.

    Kumu Hina, the closing night film, was screened in the basement of a nondescript building housing several NGOs. Despite its location in an obscure hutong, or old alley district, the room was packed and the reception ecstatic. There was even some press, which led to a feature article in “Modern Weekly” on Hina’s experience, as a person of mixed Hawaiian and Chinese descent, visiting the homeland of her father’s side of the family for the first time.

    In the USA, many LGBT film festivals are struggling as queer movies become readily available in mainstream theaters and on TV and the web. For Joe and me, what made the Beijing screening among the most moving and memorable experiences we’ve had on the festival circuit was the realization that it was more than an entertainment, it was a statement. Every single person in the room was risking something – perhaps even their own freedom – just to be there. It was a rare opportunity to see how a community under duress depends on the power of film and storytelling to help bring about change.

    Continue reading
  • "Hiding in Plain Sight: 'Kumu Hina' at the Beijing Queer Film Festival"

    by Dean Hamer for Filmmaker Magazine, Jan. 7, 2015:

    My usual questions as I get ready for a film festival are whether we’ll be able to sell out the show and how the audience and local press will react. Preparing for the Beijing Queer Film Festival last September, I had a different sort of concern:  would I be able to show our film without being arrested?

    The festival had invited me, my partner Joe Wilson and our main character, Hina Wong-Kalu, to screen Kumu Hina, a documentary about Hina’s life as a highly regarded native Hawaiian teacher and cultural leader who just happens to be māhū, or transgender. Because China has a censorship law that prohibits any positive depiction of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender lives in movies or TV shows, mainstream venues were out of the question; the big international festivals in Shanghai and  Beijing are devoid of gay-themed films, and DVDs of Brokeback Mountain are only available on the black market.

    Which is exactly why the very existence of the Beijing Queer Film Festival is both so necessary and so audacious. Founded in 2001 by openly gay filmmaker Cui Zi’en, the early years were difficult. Screenings were cancelled by the security police at the last minute, films were moved from theaters and universities to bars and private homes, publicity was largely by word of mouth and organizers were threatened.

    Then in 2013, for the first time, the festival went off without a hitch. Buoyed by the lack of governmental interference, the organizers for the 2014 edition decided to open up the festival by holding the screenings in a public cinema and marketing to the large Beijing LGBT community through social media.

    Their timing was unfortunate. Last year was tough on progressive causes in China, as President Xi Jinping led a series of crackdowns on independent voices, arresting critics and shuttering NGOs. The most troubling was the brutal shutdown of the Beijing Independent Film Festival in late August. Authorities forcibly dispersed would-be audience members, shut off the venue’s electricity, and detained the organizers, seizing documents and precious film archives from their offices.

    The Queer Film Festival organizers quickly recalibrated their approach, abandoning the idea of using a public cinema and cutting back on their social media activities. But the police were watching. Just weeks before the festival, two security officers paid a visit to festival co-director Jenny Man Wu — a young straight woman with a passion for queer cinema.

    “We’ve tapped your phone and read all your emails,” they told her, “and if you go ahead with the festival as planned, there will be trouble.” These are not good words to hear out of the mouth of a Chinese policeman.

    But LGBT Chinese are, by necessity, as resourceful as they are resilient. Shortly after arriving in Beijing, on the day before the opening of the festival, we received an email from an unfamiliar address telling us there was a new plan. We were instructed to go to the central Beijing railway station the next morning, purchase tickets for the 11:15 AM train to a town near the Great Wall, and proceed to car number 7. “Make sure to bring your laptops,” the note ended.

    And so the next morning we found ourselves in a commuter train car filled with a colorful mixture of Chinese queer film buffs, filmmakers, academics, artists and activists. The organizers handed out flash drives containing the opening film, Our Story, an artful retrospective of the festival’s history. We counted down in unison, “san, er, yi”, then started our media players together. The Beijing Queer Film Festival was underway.

    The rest of the festival went off without major incident. Most of the films were from China, which despite the pressure from the authorities has a growing gay indie movement, others from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and Europe.  There were features, documentaries, a variety of shorts including several student films, and panels on topics ranging from “Light Documentary, Heavy Activism” to “Women on Top.” Most of the screenings and panel discussions took place at the Dutch Embassy, beyond the purview of the Chinese authorities.

    Kumu Hina, the closing night film, was screened in the basement of a nondescript building housing several NGOs. Despite its location in an obscure hutong, or old alley district, the room was packed and the reception ecstatic. There was even some press, which led to a feature article in “Modern Weekly” on Hina’s experience, as a person of mixed Hawaiian and Chinese descent, visiting the homeland of her father’s side of the family for the first time.

    In the USA, many LGBT film festivals are struggling as queer movies become readily available in mainstream theaters and on TV and the web. For Joe and me, what made the Beijing screening among the most moving and memorable experiences we’ve had on the festival circuit was the realization that it was more than an entertainment, it was a statement. Every single person in the room was risking something – perhaps even their own freedom – just to be there. It was a rare opportunity to see how a community under duress depends on the power of film and storytelling to help bring about change.

    Continue reading
  • An Evening with Kumu Hina at the Ford Foundation

    By Cara Mertes, Roberta Uno, & Luna Yasui -- Ford Foundation:

    As grant makers at the Ford Foundation, we’re accustomed to collaborating. Our initiatives—Advancing LGBT Rights, JustFilms, and Supporting Diverse Arts Spaces—not only intersect; they also reinforce each other. When we work together, we’re reminded that three voices can truly sing louder than just one—an idea that was exemplified at a recent film screening and live performance.

    On December 10, the foundation hosted 2014’s final JustFilms Philanthropy New York screening and performance series, this time celebrating cultural icon Kumu Hina, a transgendered Native Hawaiian activist and teacher, and the subject of the evening’s film. After her beautiful chanted greeting (a Hawaiian oli), she was joined on stage by world-renowned Hawaiian musicians Keali'i Reichel and Shawn Pimental, whose music brought the refreshing trade winds of Hawaii to a cold New York evening. By the time Kumu Hina returned to perform a hula, the 300-strong audience had been transported to a world of grace, revelation, and aloha.

    The performances were the perfect prelude to the screening of Kumu Hina. Directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, the film tells the inspiring story of Hina Wong-Kalu, also known as Kumu Hina. In high school, she was a young man named Colin Wong, who harnessed Hawaiian chant and dance to embrace his sexuality as a mā, or transgender person. As an adult teacher, Kumu Hina supports a young girl student, Hoʻonani, as she fights to join the all-male hula troupe, pushing against the boundaries of conventional gender roles. Kumu Hina provides a holistic Native Hawaiian cultural context that affirms Hoʻonani as someone who is waena (between) and empowers her to move fluidly in her identity.

    Kumu Hina’s story centers on the power of culture to shape identity, personal agency, and community cohesion. It transcends the cliché of a young person coming of age through dance, because it is grounded in a Pacific Islander value system that offers a fluid way of understanding and valuing  identity—giving us all fresh ways to see each other with empathy. The film also points to Hawaii's leadership as the first state to have two official languages, English and ʻŌlelo Hawai'i; as an early proponent of gay marriage; and as a model for a polycultural America, where culture and values influence each other and move fluidly across boundaries rather than live side by side, or in a hierarchy, as separate entities. But ultimately what makes this film so memorable is that it allows audiences to experience the incredible journey of one person and her community, teaching people everywhere to see, appreciate, and truly embrace LGBT people.

    This special event demonstrated how arts and culture, including film, dance, and music, serve as a central means of self-expression and political activism for LGBT people of color. They also exemplify how partnerships—those three voices singing as one—can help amplify a powerful story and support our grantees as they reach for a wider audience.

    Continue reading
  • "KUMU HINA: A Powerful Portrait" -- by Basil Tsiokos of 'what (not) to doc'

    All Things Documentary by Basil Tsiokos:

    Coming to Los Angeles’ ArcLight Doc Series tonight, Monday, November 10: KUMU HINA

    Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson’s portrait of a powerful Hawaiian transgender teacher debuted at the Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu this Spring. It went on to screen at Frameline, QDoc, Maui, Dallas Asian, NYC’s Asian American, San Diego Asian, Rhode Island, Docutah, and LGBT fests in Beijing, Chicago, Jakarta, Austin, Hong Kong, Minneapolis, Auckland, and Wellington, among several others.

    Hamer and Wilson’s film follows the interconnected, parallel stories of Hina Wong-Kalu, who teaches traditional Hawaiian culture at a Honolulu school, and her student, Ho’onani, a sixth grade girl who is drawn to the boys’ hula troupe. Championing the Hawaiian conception of mahu – the coexistence of male and female spirit – Hina encourages Ho’onani’s pursuit, and her trust is borne out as the tomboy quickly emerges as a leader of the group. Outside of the school setting, Hina contends with relationship issues, as her younger Tongan husband exasperates her with his drinking and jealousy, while she also tries to balance her work to preserve traditional Hawaiian culture, investigating the disturbance of local burial sites. The filmmakers adroitly capture a strong yet vulnerable woman in a well-rounded manner too often missing from many profiles of transgender individuals that only focus on a singular aspect of their identity.

    Continue reading
  • Kumu Hina at TEDxMaui: "He Inoa Mana (A Powerful Name)"

    by TEDxMaui:

    Kumu Hina, an educator, social and political activist, and Hawaiian cultural practitioner, shares her experience as a transgendered woman exploring her half Hawaiian, half Chinese ancestry. In her talk, she shares about a recent trip to China which unexpectedly connected her to her family there, and the realizations this new connection is bringing to her about the origins of identity.

    Recorded at TEDxMaui 2014, held on September 28, 2014 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

    Continue reading
  • Kumu HIna Live Interview on Akakū Maui Media

    Hina & co-director Dean Hamer bare (almost) everything in this behind-the-scenes VIDEO interview with Shaggy Jenkins of Akakū Maui Community Media: https://vimeo.com/108416307

    Continue reading
  • KUMU HINA: A Life of Aloha -- Modern Weekly, Guangzhou, China

    Kumu Hina:我生命中的Aloha

    上一篇 作者:罗子欣 来源:周末画报 [825期 A24] 更新日期:2014-10-09 下一篇


    9月15日,纪录片《Kumu Hina》在广州小范围放映。主角Hina是夏威夷一位传承传统文化的教师和社会活动家;同时她也是Mahu(玛胡)—现代西方语义中的“变性 人”;Hina身上还有一半中国血统。多元的文化交织融合,正体现Hina一直发扬的夏威夷传统精神内核:爱与包容。

    提到夏威夷,你会联想到什么?或许是热带海滩、小麦色的皮肤,尤克里里琴和“Aloha”—这是在当地人们见面、道别的常用语,也有“我爱你”的意思。在 有一半中国血统的夏威夷人Hina(即Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu,黄贵光)看来,Aloha更是一种有夏威夷特色的生活理念:个体之间的平等,对于传统的尊重,以及对文化的包容。

    以平等的名义
    初见Hina,是在她纪录片的放映会上。她身穿着夏威夷风格的黄色碎花连衣裙、化上了柔美的妆容,展现出女性的姿态。Hina与在场的观众一起席地而坐,看着屏幕中自己的生活与回忆又一次展现。
    在电影里,她在一家有夏威夷背景文化的中学里带领孩子排练当地传统歌舞两个多月。她说,舞蹈传承的夏威夷精神类似于中国的儒学、孔子精神,精练而内涵丰 富。排练前,学校要求男生戴上黄色的花圈,女生则戴上白色花环。一位叫Ho’onani的女生则要求同时戴上两种颜色的花环。Ho’onani是一位举止 打扮都很“男生”的女孩子,但是她说自己并不介意别人的眼光。她自己写了一首歌,歌词有一句“Mai Hilahila”,意思是不为自己感到羞耻。
    在学校年终表演舞蹈Ai Ka Mumu中,男生和女生各自负责一个环节,男生的部分设定在火山爆发的场景之下体现出夏威夷岛国的传统,需要展现出极强的力量和爆发力,而 Ho’onani也希望参与其中。一次排练中所有人要举起双臂,而Hina则在他们手臂上施加压力,要求男生用力固定手臂不被压下去。这项任务中,却只有 Ho’onani完成了。Hina对着男生说:“现在表演是你们要展现Ku(男性力量)的时候,而你们面前站着的一个生理上的女生,她的Ku比你们所有人 都多。”
    通过这种言传身教,Hina在传承Aloha这种包容与尊重个体的不同的核心精神。但其实Hina自己在学生时期还是因为举止过于女性化而没有很好地被身 边人接纳,受到了不少嘲笑。但母亲给她的一半夏威夷人血统和文化成了这种不理解的天然盾牌。Hina回忆小时候与自己婆婆一起的生活,说她从来没有介意过 自己的性别。2014年9月,Hina借纪录片在广州放映的机会找回了自己在广东中山的亲人,当Hina告诉亲人自己是一个Mahu的时候,亲人都感到震 惊,但过后他们对Hina说:“你是我们的亲人,不管你是夏威夷人还是中国人,是男的或者女的,你都是我们的一分子,我们同样爱你。”
    家庭的包容培养了Hina性别平等的意识。“我是变性人吗?是的,用西方的标准来看的话。但我认可西方的标准吗?不。我会把自身建立于外来的规范之上去实 现自己的价值吗?不!” 2013年1月,夏威夷一份同性恋婚姻合法化的草案被提出,当时一些学者认为夏威夷传统文化和精神中并不存在同性恋这样的因素时,Hina作为一个植根于 夏威夷社区的市民,说出了自己和一众夏威夷市民的想法,支持同性恋婚姻合法化。直到2013年11月3日,夏威夷婚姻平等法案终于被正式通过。随后民众举 办了庆祝活动,并且邀请了Hina唱传统的夏威夷歌曲《Oli》作为开场。

    以传统的名义
    其实除了“玛胡”,夏威夷文化里还有Punalua(重婚,或一对兄弟与一对姐妹结婚)、Aikane(同性婚姻)等概念,这些都是个人生活方式的选择。可以说,男女平等也是整个夏威夷文化生态平衡中的重要一环。
    除此之外,夏威夷还有许多特色文化。22岁的夏威夷女孩Paloke说很多年轻人也还是很喜欢夏威夷传统的神话故事。“我们看到月亮,会想起Hina(夏 威夷月亮女神),我们看到河与大海,会想起Kane(淡水之神)和Kanaloa(深海之神)。这些都是夏威夷的一部分。”然而这样的传统的延续在时代发 展中总是会受到冲击。由于Hina对夏威夷文化的精通,她被州长任命为瓦胡岛殉葬事务委员会的主席。2012年纪录片拍摄之时,檀香山当地正希望兴建地下 铁路工程,但根据夏威夷州的法例,工程开始前必须通过完整的AIS探测和侦察。Hina在委员会中极力追求工程的合法性,希望全程由瓦胡岛殉葬事务委员会 监测,最大限度地保护祖先的骨灰。会议上一位瓦胡岛的居民说:“对于我们的人民来说,祖先的遗骸并不只是这些骨头,而是我们与家族、与我们过去之间的联 系。”Hina对于传统的执着不仅仅存在于夏威夷,还有自己身上的中国血统。
    小时候Hina的中国外婆经常会跟Hina讲许多逐渐消逝的中国传统的生活方式。比如Hina从小被教导要在长辈吃饭后才吃,还有新年的时候要倒茶和说吉 利的话,Hina至今仍懂得说“恭喜你”、“添福添寿”。这些传统也许不符合现代科学的标准,但里面承载的确实是家庭乃至社会文化的结晶。Hina的爸爸 和婆婆还会教她做年糕,并告诉她黏稠的年糕寓意着一家人紧紧地连在一起不分离,所以每个人至少吃一口。“这一切让我学会了用心、有耐性,投入感情和时间去 做一件事,是会让自己收获并成长的。”Hina的爸爸今年82岁了,Hina说当爸爸不能做年糕了,她将会负起家庭中这个责任。

    以包容的名义
    夏威夷的文化都植根于它成为美国领土以前当地的法律、土地和自然资源,但在1778年英国人库克船长登陆后,殖民的腥风血雨、外国人带来的传染病和众多外 来宗教的渗透不仅使夏威夷王国覆灭,成为了美国第51个州,也让夏威夷土著的数量锐减,文化消亡得几乎仅剩下表面的仪式。当地180万人里,2.4万人能 讲夏威夷语,但不足300人以之为母语。
    由于夏威夷语本来并没有书写系统,是后来

    传教士用拉丁字母按照发音发展出来的,因而夏威夷文化更多是靠口头、肢体语言来表达,现在的一些美国大学提供教育却是从书本上去学习夏威夷语,免不了得其 形而不得其精髓。Ni’ihau岛是夏威夷群岛里唯一与外界联系极少的岛屿,上面的100多名居民均是夏威夷土著。Hina自小与当地的几位居民一起在 O’ahu(瓦胡岛)生活,因此在他们身边学习到了传统的夏威夷语言。后来Hina在高中和大学也有继续系统学习相关课程。“但是在商业和资本利益的冲洗 下,很多夏威夷词语的使用变得肤浅表面,即使是夏威夷人也分不清什么才是正统的夏威夷文化。”
    在全球化之下,每一种文化的交融都一样。在Hina身上可以看到中国、夏威夷与西方文化之间没有必然的冲突与隔阂,彼此共存。Hina说自己并不是反对美国或者西方文化,但是她确实非常热爱和支持夏威夷的传统文化。
    电影结束之际,有观众问她能否给中国的LGBT群体说几句。她礼貌地反驳道,“与其到西方取经,倒不如在自己的文化里寻找答案?”或许,LGBT的问题古 已有之,还有许多在文明进程中由于不理解而出现的文化冲突,问题的答案往往就在我们自己的传统文化里。“简而言之,尊重自己丰富的文化传统,自信地面对外 来的文化统治者”。这就是真正的Aloha精神:爱、包容与尊重的别样传承。

    Continue reading
  • Kumu Hina Gives Hope for the Future -- City Newspaper, Rochester, NY

    by Dayna Papaleo - City Newspaper, Rochester, NY - 10/8/14:

    The perpetual news cycle means that every other day there seems to be a new sound bite in which some clueless lawmaker in an expensive suit weighs in on with whom Americans should be allowed to share their hearts and/or genitals. But movie theaters have long been refuges from all that outside noise, and at ImageOut: The Rochester Film & Video Festival, love inspires art, rather than uninformed opinion.

    From Friday, October 10, to Sunday, October 19, ImageOut celebrates its 22nd year with 39 programs of features, documentaries, and short films about the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender experience.

    As we learned in ImageOut 2010’s screening of “Two Spirits,” many indigenous cultures not only accept but embrace the idea of a third sex, one that falls somewhere in between the usual two.

    Through the stirring, powerful documentary "Kumu Hina," we come to know one such mahu, a transgender Hawaiian woman named Hina Wong-Kalu devoted to helping her fellow islanders preserve their shared history by teaching traditional music and dance.

    Directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson also chronicle Wong-Kalu’s spare time as the newlywed acclimates to everyday life with a young Tongan husband whose apparent liberality is at odds with a few misogynistic old-world notions.

    Watch for the scene stealing Ho’onani, a pint-sized tomboy mirror of her teacher whose preternatural wisdom gives hope for the future.

    Continue reading
  • KUMU HINA Wins Best Documentary Award at Festival Venezolano de Cine de la Diversidad

    Continue reading
  • "A Story of Deep Inner Grace and Uplifting Beauty in a Paradisiacal Land" -- ImageOut Film Festival

    ImageOut Rochester Review by Jennifer Morgan:

     

    The inspiring documentary, Kumu Hina, introduces us to Hina Wong-Kalu, a native Hawaiian transgender woman embracing her cultural heritage in contemporary Honolulu as a respected teacher (or “kumu”), an active cultural council member, and a newlywed.

    A beautifully animated prologue by Jared Greenleaf introduces us to the māhū tradition, and directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson (ImageOut 2009’s Out in the Silence) offer insight into Hawaiian history and culture while integrating several facets of Hina’s life with the native dance and music so dear to her.

    Among the students at the Hālau Lōkahi public charter school, where Hina teaches native Hawaiian studies, we meet Ho’onani, a young tomboy who longs to lead the boys’ hula troupe in her school’s end-of-year pageant.

    The compassion, support, and gentle respect that Hina brings to her students are evident throughout the film, exposing an especially rich aspect of her life and gifts as a teacher.

    On assignment as a traditional burial council member, Hina oversees the respectful handling and care of native burials that may be disturbed as work on a new rail system progresses. She carefully inspects the advancing excavation and liaises between the native council, foreman, and work crews.

    We share Hina’s joyful reunion with Hema, a young Tongan from Fiji still adjusting to his new life in Hawaii, and as their marriage unfolds we witness the ups and downs that come with any relationship as it enters a new phase.

    Striking a balance by living an authentic life in a paradisiacal land, Hina’s story is one of deep inner grace, uplifting beauty, and self-empowerment.

    Without ignoring the differences between traditional and contemporary attitudes, she molds a life full of dignity, humility, and true inner joy.

    Continue reading
  • Going Global with the True Meaning of Aloha -- China Screening Tour

    Greetings Friends,

    This week, we’re heading off to China for a series of KUMU HINA events organized by local activists seeking to advance the country’s emerging movement for understanding and acceptance of transgender and gender fluid people.

    We’ll be visiting Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Beijing, where Hina’s presence at the screenings, and her desire to make deeper connections with her Chinese heritage, is sure to heighten the experience for audiences in powerfully moving ways.

    As Hina put it: “My Chinese grandmother has been one of the greatest influences in my life. But I’ve never had a chance to visit her ancestral home. I hope our film tour will do honor to the family name, and help Chinese viewers understand and embrace a message from my other homeland, about the true meaning of aloha - love, honor, and respect for all.”

    If you can’t make it to China with us, there are lots of other screenings coming up.

    You can check out the full list of events and get all the details on the screenings tab.

    Here are a few of the highlights just in case you’re in the neighborhood:

    Sept. 12-Austin, TX;  Sept. 12-Fargo, ND;  Sept. 13-Beacon, NY;  Sept. 17-Honolulu, HI;  Sept. 19-Geneva, Switzerland;  Sept. 20-Palm Springs, CA;  Sept. 21-Chicago, IL;  Sept. 25-Hagatna, Guam;  Sept. 27-Eau Claire, WI;  Oct. 3-Caracas, Venezuela;  Oct. 4-Tampa, FL;  Oct. 6-Oaxaca, Mexico;  Oct. 9-Seattle, WA;  Oct. 9-Rochester, NY;  Oct. 18-Kyoto, Japan;  Oct. 18-Hamburg, Germany;  Oct. 21-Hannover, Germany;  Oct. 25-Lewisburg, WV;  Nov. 9-San Diego, CA;  Nov. 9-Juarez, Mexico;  Nov. 11-Los Angeles, CA;  Nov. 22-Philadelphia, PA;  Dec. 10-New York, NY

    If you don’t see anything near you on this list, KUMU HINA will soon be available on GATHR, an awesome new theatrical-on-demand service that enables people to bring the movie that they want to see to a theater in their community.

    In the meantime, we look forward to sharing these and other journeys with you as we work together toward some better world.

    Thanks for staying tuned,

    Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer
    Co-Producers/Directors


    Continue reading
  • Kumu Hina Wins Youth Jury Award at Rhode Island International Film Fest

    See All 2014 RIIFF Award Winners HERE

    Continue reading
  • KUMU HINA Wins Audience Choice Award at AAIFF 2014 New York

    The 37th Asian American International Film Festival Announces the 2014 Award Recipients – see full list HERE.

    Continue reading
  • "A Stunning Eye-Opener, A Filmic Encounter"

    Transformers: New Yorkʻs Asian American International Film Festival

    Filmmaker Magazine by Howard Feinstein - July 23, 2014

    Over the years, many New York-based media arts organizations and the film festivals they produce have folded, or scraped by in spite of outdated approaches and rigid programming. Asian CineVision and its offspring, the Asian American International Film Festival, on the other hand, have proven to be the little engines that could. The secret to their success: a keen awareness of shifts in the zeitgeist and talent pool, without losing sight of the Asian American community they serve (with a value added outreach to non Asian American communities). They are masters of reinvention.

    The 37th edition of the AAIFF (July 24-August 2) is comprised of 18 features and 33 shorts whose point of origin and makers might be Asian American or Asian (with an occasional non-Asian or non-Asian American directing an Asian subject).

    One stunning eye-opener does not fit the usual fest slots: Kumu Hina, an intimate, very personal doc — a filmic encounter, really — by non-Asian American co-directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson (Out in the Silence). The two spent a year following a transgender woman, a mahu, someone who lies between male and female. In the context of this festival, she could, as a Hawaiian, be considered either Asian American or Polynesian, or both, because she is indigenous and closely identifies with her native culture.

    Isn’t it ironic? A culturally specific subject plays a culturally pliant festival. The fact that the AAIFF begins on exactly the same day as Newfest this year (on a Thursday at that) makes it especially curious that Kumu Hina is screening at the Asian American rather than the LGBT fest. “Hina transcends the usual categories that western culture seems compelled to put people in,” says Hamer. “Some film festivals get that, like Frameline (where it won the Jury Prize for documentary). Others don’t, like Outfest and Newfest, which decided not to program the film, apparently because they had ‘too many trans docs’ this year — as if every film, too, had to be put in its own little box.”

    Unlike what up until recently has been the fate of many transgender individuals on the mainland, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, or Hina, lives in a supportive native Hawaiian culture that has traditionally held a respectful place for those whose sexual identities are outside the norm. (Jared Greenleaf’s powerful animation illustrates the pre-contact embrace of mahu.) She is a strong woman, the recent bride of a Tongan husband, and a successful teacher of arts, particularly dance, whose self-appointed mission is to promote native culture. She takes under her wing at Halau Lokali, a charter school geared toward all things native, Ho’onani, a young sixth-grade girl with strong ku, or energy, which puts the self-assured youngster in the middle, as they say in Hawaii, and enables her, with Hina’s blessing, to lead the boys-only hula class. (Hamer and Wilson’s next project is a short educational film on Ho’onani, told from her pov, with the goal of showing it in schools all across the country.)

    The world Hina lives in, and by this I mean class as well as gender, is something that tourists never see. Here’s your chance — and a colorful world it is.

    Continue reading
  • Trans Cinema is Here and Now

    It’s about time that a multifaceted and diverse representation of trans themes, stories, and characters that mirror, validate, educate, and empower trans folks are being expressed and seen through the medium of film/media... READ COMPLETE STORY ON INDIEWIRE


    Continue reading
  • Film on Spirit of Aloha Highlights Dallas Asian Film Fest

    Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson didn’t start out as filmmakers, but they certainly have made an impact in the field.

    They made their first documentary, the Emmy Award-winning Out in the Silence, after they got married in Vancouver and placed a wedding announcement in Wilson’s small-town newspaper of Oil City, Penn.

    “For a year, the paper was deluged with a contentious, often ugly, debate about the ‘appropriateness’ of publishing a ‘gay’ wedding announcement in the paper,” Wilson says.

    When they received a letter from the mother of a gay teen in Oil City whose gay son was being tormented at school, they filmed their PBS documentary about “the quest for fairness and equality for LGBT people in rural and small-town America,” Wilson says.

    Their new documentary, Kumu Hina — which plays Saturday at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas — follows Hina Wong-Kalu, a native mahu (roughly, “transgender”) who strives to preserve Hawaiian culture in an increasingly Westernized world. We see Hina relate to her students (whom she teaches traditions such as hula), her husband (a Tongan struggling in the big city) and as a leader of cultural preservation.

    We spoke with Wilson about this film, including the more enlightened approach to gender diversity in indigenous peoples and the need to connect with ancient cultures.

    — Arnold Wayne Jones

    To learn more about the filmmakers’ grassroots campaign, visit Kickstarter.com and search “Kumu Hina: A Hawaiian Model for Gender Diversity.”

    Dallas Voice: Hina is a strong woman and her students seem to respect her like a coach. Did any of them have any derisive things to say about mahu? How accepted is mahu among younger Hawaiians? Students in Hina’s school are very respectful. In Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander communities, mahu are a very visible and normal, part of everyday life — respected and included in family, school, church, business, community life, etc. It is only in the context of rigid Western thought, primarily religious, about gender that problems emerge. So, while negotiating daily life in modern Hawaii, mahu do encounter problems. But at Hina’s Hawaiian-values-based school, it’s not an issue. In fact, Hina is not the only teacher at the school who happens to be mahu.

    In general, the Hawaiian spirit of aloha is very real. People here — Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike — tend to be much more courteous, respectful, welcoming and inclusive than in most other places. It’s simply a cultural way of life. If and when there is resistance in the day-to-day, it tends to be subtle rather than confrontational, which is why it didn’t emerge as a strong element in the film.

    A right-wing religious and “family values” presence in Hawaii is on the increase, however, and with it is coming much more politicized and visible forms of bigotry and discrimination, as seen during last November’s special legislative session on marriage equality.

    Is Hina’s story fairly typical of mahu today, or do many of them encounter more prejudice? Hina’s story is not necessarily typical, and she has experienced the challenges that many mahu and transgender women face in Hawaii’s heavily Westernized dominant culture, similar to trans women anywhere in the U.S. But, as she says in the film, Hina found refuge in being Hawaiian — Kanaka Maoli — and decided to share her story, and a glimpse of traditional Hawaiian cultureʻs more enlightened view of gender and sexuality, as a way to inspire hope for positive change in communities far and wide.

    The young tomboy, Ho’onani, offers an interesting parallel story to Hina’s. Was that just luck? I’d love to follow her story 10 years from now.  As portrayed in the film, Ho’onani emerged as a primary character in Hina’s story quite unexpectedly. But that is the magic of verite documentary filmmaking — you let the cameras roll and hope that you’re smart, or lucky, enough to capture compelling scenes. When Ho’onani appeared, wanting to join and ultimately lead the boys’ hula troupe, we knew we were witnessing something very special and just tried to make sure we were there to follow her and Hina on the journey they were taking together as mentor and [pupil] in unchartered waters.

    While many who view the film are quick to put simplistic or convenient labels on Ho’onani, she is still on her journey, and we’ll see where it goes. The most important thing is that she, and other kids like her, have teachers, and other adults in their lives, like Hina who are willing and able to support them as they grow up and become who they want to be.

    Is mahu the same as what we call “trans,” or is there some kind of subtle difference in the language? I love how Ho’onani defines it as “a rare person.”  Mahu is a concept that refers more to those who embrace and embody both male and female spirit rather than those who simply transition from one gender to another. It is much more fluid and encompassing of a personʻs whole being rather than simply about biology and/or sex.

    Mahu reminded me of the trans people in India who are respected insofar as it is “bad luck” not to give them alms, or Native Americans’ “third sex” who are respected as mystical. It seems many ancient cultures recognize a “third sex,” but many modern ones don’t. Yes, it seems that most indigenous cultures had and have ways of recognizing and honoring the diversity of the gender spectrum. So, our focus should not be to treat the concepts as exotic curiosities or relics of the past, but to counter the religious and other ideologically-driven institutions that have been trying to drive acceptance of gender diversity out of existence for centuries.

    Hina and her husband Hema have a sometimes-contentious relationship, but I found Hema fascinating because he’s a simple, small-town farmer trying to be “modern” in his acceptance of a mahu as the woman he loves. Hema perhaps is a reflection of the younger generation of Polynesian men, struggling to make sense of all the conflicting things he’s been taught, including traditional Polynesian acceptance and his family’s conservative (Western) religious beliefs, grounded in a rigid interpretation of gender and sexuality. His journey in the film shows how he’s developing his own way of thinking about these things, aided greatly by a sense of openness and acceptance in Hawaii that he did not experience in his native Tonga. We hope his willingness to share his story in this film speaks to others in a similar spot in life and inspires them to be more independent in their thinking as well.

    The hula and music/dance performances were so fascinating and contextual. Is that kind of native Hawaiian culture threatened today? The presence of Hawaiian culture, language and practices is strong in the islands, but also constantly under threat in a modern world more focused on commercial development and tourism than authentic cultural preservation and empowerment. Hina has become a very important figure in today’s Hawaii because she works so hard to keep Hawaiian culture and traditions alive, including the traditional embrace of mahu and others so commonly marginalized in Western society.

    This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 11, 2014.

    Continue reading
  • KUMU HINA Wins Frameline!

    We are thrilled to announce that KUMU HINA has been awarded the Jury Prize for Achievement in Documentary at Frameline (Indiewire story).  It's a great honor to be selected as the best documentary at "the largest, longest-lasting and most recognizable LGBT film festival in the work" - and even more amazing to receive a 5 minute standing ovation from 1400 fans at the historic Castro Theatre.  Thank you Frameline!


    Continue reading
  • "Native Hawaiian Refugee" - Bay Area Reporter Review

    by Erin Blackwell - June 19, 2014:

    No story of imperial conquest is pretty, but the corporate-Christian overthrow of the legitimate royal family of Hawai’i is among the most tragic, recent, and relevant to our lives. Ever eaten a slice of Dole pineapple or a cube of C & H sugar? There are so many terrible stories of Euro-American colonization it’s hard to keep up, but usurping this natural and cultural paradise as the 50th state is a heartbreaking model of greedy governmental treachery. The Frameline film Kumu Hina, screening Sun., June 22, at 3:30 p.m., fills in some gaps.

    Kumu means teacher, and Hinaleimoana (“woman encircling ocean”) was the name chosen by Colin Wong as his female identity when he came out as a mahu. That’s a word impossible to translate because it’s charged with native cultural significance we mainlanders have no equivalent for, although Divine Hermaphrodite comes close. “People in the middle” is the expression used in the film, which traces a year in the life of Hina, cultural warrior doing daily battle for the promulgation of traditional hula, chant, and her non-biological right to dress as a woman and marry a man. In her words:

    "A mahu is an individual that straddles somewhere in the middle of the male and female binary. It does not define their sexual preference or gender expression, because gender roles, gender expressions and sexual relationships have all been severely influenced by changing times. It is dynamic. It is like life.” She must mean the way I feel in the morning, deciding which flannel shirt to wear before I encounter the world and cringe inwardly when someone mistakes me for a man. A man is the last thing I want to be. But then, so is a woman .

    Perhaps you intuitively understand mahu. Perhaps you’ve seen it at the opera. Kumu Hina is all about opera Hawai’ian style, the traditional hula and chant reenacting the myths and history of the Hawai’ian people. The film’s backbone is Hina’s labor of love imparting these ancient performing arts to kids and teens. There’s something tragic about Hina. There’s a gravitas you don’t get in Glee. She doesn’t teach show tunes or pop songs; her students dance and chant earth-rattling tributes to the volcano goddess Pele. They find their inner volcanoes by embodying rigorous traditional forms.

    May the souls of the missionaries who suppressed the Hawai’ian religion burn forever in Hell. And that goes double for Dole. And throw in the British royal line.

    Ho’onani, a tomboy in the sixth grade, is teacher’s pet. She not only gets to dance with the boys, she leads the chorus and is praised for her ku, or “male energy.” She looks a bit smug. I’m not sure all this indulgent praise isn’t going to her head, but she might need the experience of Hina’s unconditional love to call on in the years ahead. People can be so cruel to the ones in the middle. This sad truth is the film’s dark heart.

    "It sucks to be a mahu sometimes,” Hina says during a fight with her new husband outside a parked Budget rental car beneath a beer billboard proclaiming “Enjoy the Moment” beside breeze-blown palm trees. They’re having what’s called a lover’s quarrel; the problem is Hema Kalu, 25, “can be an incredibly jealous Polynesian man sometimes.” He doesn’t consider himself gay. He thinks “a normal married woman doesn’t get calls from guys.” Seems like Hina loves a challenge.

    "My husband is a full-on bushman," says Hina after we watch Hema and his pals roughly hog-tie a farm animal. "That’s part of the appeal." He’s also much younger, has a lovely falsetto, plays a mean ukulele, drinks kava and beer, and smokes more than is good for him. That’s hard to watch. This is not the Hawai’i of the tourist brochures. These are indigenous working-class people close to the land, struggling to make it in the city of Honolulu. Hema lands a job as security guard at Iolani Palace, but phones Hina for help when he misses the bus to work. That makes Hina a full-time teacher.

    And teaching gives her strength. “In high school, I was teased and tormented for being too girlish,” she says. “I found refuge in being Hawai’ian. Being kanaka maoli [native]. My purpose in this lifetime is to pass on the true meaning of Aloha: Love, Honor, and Respect. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.”

    Continue reading
  • ʻKumu Hinaʻ Directors Interviewed on Radio New Zealand

    "Of Both Male and Female Spirit"

    The inspiring story of Hina Wong-Kalu, a transgender native Hawaiian teacher, as explored in the documentary Kumu Hina - with producers & directors Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, interviewed by Bryan Crump.

    Listen to the interview HERE.

    Continue reading
  • Kumu Hina: A Story of Triumph for All of Hawaii

    by Trisha Kehaulani Watson:

    My husband was Hina’s high school classmate and close friend. I have known Hina, considered her a dear friend, and loved her like family for years. The movie is actually the story of three people: Hina, a strong māhū Hawaiian; her husband Hema; and Ho’onani, one of Hina’s young students at Hālau Lokahi, a charter school in downtown Honolulu. Each undergo their own transition, and we are all witnesses to how their lives are transformed.

    The movie Kumu Hina, produced and directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, captures these three critical stories as they unfold. Despite this multifaceted perspective, the core storyline belongs to Hina, a cultural champion in the Hawaiian community who has emerged from her struggled with her identity and become a powerful community leader. Her personal life journey involved far more than a transition from male to female - it is truly a story of becoming a powerful, confident Hawaiian māhū.

    The film follows her as she travels to bring her Tongan husband home to Hawai’i from Fiji, where he has been staying as he awaited a visa to enter Hina’s home country. Despite the obvious love between the two, nothing about their relationship is easy. Perhaps it’s fair to say no relationship is easy, but the film illustrates that the challenges between Hina and Hema have little to do with her being māhū, and are more rooted in the cultural differences between the them.

    The second story is Hema’s, who often seems overwhelmed by everything happening around him. It’s not difficult to imagine a sweet, genuine romance that takes place before the events of this film, but it’s clear that filming caught some of their more challenging moments. Hema is at times outright cruel and viciously disrespectful; it’s difficult to watch. It’s even more difficult to watch for those of us who know and love Hina.

    The final and most poignant story belongs to Ho’onani, a young “tomboy” who confidently asserts her right to be part of the boys’ hālau (hula group), largely through Kumu Hina’s nurturing. This was my favorite storyline. It reflected a sort of closure for Hina, who was once a young student herself, picked on and harassed for her feminine ways in high school, yet grew to become a strong, inspiring teacher, fully capable of helping her own students. One can see that Ho’onani’s life has been significantly improved because of the obstacles that māhū like Hina have overcome, even if Ho’onani doesn’t fully comprehend the gravity of these triumphs yet.

    There is one stairwell conversation between Kumu Hina and Ho’onani that is sure to make you ugly cry, and it’s my favorite scene of the movie. If that doesn’t get you, the scene of Hinaʻs students singing “Hawai’i Pono’ī” after being reminded that their forefathers could not, will have tears streaming down your face.

    I wish the film had been longer, and elaborated more on different aspects of the characters’ lives. Furthermore, I wish it captured more of Hina’s stature in the Hawaiian community. She is a master of practice and language. She is a community leader and champion. She is stunning and glorious. These aspects of her persona should have taken center stage more often.

    Hina transformed the role of māhū in Hawai’i. By asserting herself and using the powerful framework of Hawaiian culture, she continues to enforce the strength and importance of people whose identities cannot be defined by Westernized, cookie-cutter standards.

    Ultimately, this film tells a story of love, transition and acceptance. In order to support those whom we love, we must be willing to bear witness to their struggles and triumphs, and understand their perspectives. Yet, beyond that, in order to be members of a community we must love and respect the beauty and power of every individual. We are all parts who make up a greater whole. I encourage everybody to watch this film, as it is a window into compassion and acceptance. It proves that those of us who may think we know the challenges faced by the māhū community still know very little. And we all have the power to change that.

    As part of the 25th annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, Kumu Hina will be screened on June 15 at 6:30 pm in the Doris Duke Theater at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

    Continue reading
< Older entries

ASSEMBLE