Kumu Hina

  • Native Hawaiian leader traces her roots in southern China

    By Stephanie Lum - Hawai'i News NowPublished: Feb. 3, 2024

    HONOLULU - Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu is widely known in Hawaii as a Native Hawaiian cultural leader. She is also deeply proud to be half-Chinese.

    “I used to be ashamed of it, but the more I understood Chinese culture in my family, the more I understand how lucky to be of that heritage,” said Wong-Kalu.

    The sister of famed chef Alan Wong was raised by her late Popo Edith Gum Gew Look.

    “It gets emotional for me to talk about it because she was, she was key in my growing up,” recalled Wong-Kalu as tears welled up in her eyes. “She would wake me up, and she would say, wake up, go make breakfast, hurry up, go!”

    “My father, his name is Henry Dai Yo Wong, and he’s going to be 92.”

    Family is what drew her to Southern China. In 2014, Wong-Kalu went to find her distant relatives in Zhongshan.

    “When I traveled to the ancestral homeland of my great grandparents, I saw such a beautiful country. I took with me a photo, and it showed my great grandparents and all of their children and grandchildren.”

    Wong-Kalu showed the photo to a man on the street who began to recognize certain members of her family. He motioned for her to follow him down an alleyway to a home.

    When she went inside, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She realized the same photo in her hands was also hanging on the mantel of her ancestral home.

    She found her long-lost relatives at last.

    “That photo was in my ancestral home in Zhongshan, in the village of Gumsat. My family’s village, the last village standing,” said Wong-Kalu. “I fell to the ground, and I put my head down, and I cried because it was my family’s picture.”

    “Researching your roots can be a daunting task. It’s not easy, but when there’s a will, there’s a way, and if you have affection and love for your ancestors, those who have gone before us, they might be able to help you find the way,” said Wong-Kalu. “And I believe when I went in 2014, my Popo was there with me, ushering me along.”

    “I am proud to be Chinese,” said Wong-Kalu. “I’m proud to be of my father’s heritage even though to another Chinese, I might not be Chinese enough. Remember where you come from; remember who you are.”

    Our series picks back up on Monday. Join Stephanie Lum as she goes in search of her great-grandfather’s village in Zhongshan.

    Copyright 2024 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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  • 'Aikane' Short Animation by Dan Sousa, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, & Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu: Queer Indigenous Feeling

    by Vassilis Kroustallis - Zippy Frames - 15 October 2023:

    The creative quartet of Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, Dan Sousa, and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu create films that consistently tell an indigenous experience in precise animated terms. In their previous effort, 'Kapaemahu', the Hawaiian indigenous past was revealed in the commercialized present (more about the film). In the new short animation, the queer-themed 'Aikāne' (the term meaning intimate friend of the same sex) a queer romance is developed between two men in the very distant past, full of colonial implications.

    A valiant island warrior, wounded in battle against foreign invaders, falls into a mysterious underwater world.  When the octopus who rescued him transforms into a handsome young man, they become aikāne, intimate friends bound by love and trust, and an epic adventure begins - Film Synopsis

    The film has now become Oscar-qualified, after it won the Animated Shorts Jury Award, at the 2023 New Hampshire Film Festival. Other notable festival selections: Frameline, Chicago International Children's Film Festival, Hawai'i International Film Festival, Adelaide Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival, Outfest LA, DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival - Best Narrative winner).

    We talked to the 'Aikāne' team:  Dean Hamer (director and writer), Joe Wilson (director), Daniel Sousa (director and animator), and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (producer). They all had to say some interesting things. 

    ZF:  Why the need to go back in time to tell this story? Is it the need to say something that might otherwise be forgotten or the need to move a little away from our current post-pandemic world and take some stock from another era?

    DH:  The present is not a good time to set a queer love story.  As students and teachers across the country are being told to not say gay, books are banned from libraries, parents are being criminalized for providing their kids with gender-affirming health care, and people like me and my husband and co-director Joe Wilson are being labeled groomers and pedophiles, it seems like we are in a period of moving backward rather than forwards. 

    Fortunately, this has not always been the case, and the past offers a rich panoply of societies and cultures where same-sex love was not only spoken but praised.  The homoerotic writings of ancient Greece, the cut-sleeve stories of imperial China, the Indian temple paintings of womanly embraces, and the love poems of medieval Ireland are but a few examples.  Because we live in Hawaii and have been working on films about Pacific Islander lives and voices for many years, that’s where we first turned for inspiration – but it wasn’t the only place. We drew from our histories and experiences too. 

    ZF:  'Aikāne' means intimate friend of the same sex, not just a same-sex partner. What is the differentiation here and why is this title in the film?

    JW:  Translations of words and cultural concepts from one language to another are never ideal. And while same-gender-loving folks have existed across place and time, it seems like only a few societies have named us in a way that denotes dignity and respect, one of them being Hawaiʻi, where we’ve become immersed in community efforts to help restore these kinds of hidden histories. In Hawaiian culture, Aikāne were not just same-sex lovers, they were friends, trusted confidants, equal partners, and sometimes even co-rulers of the land.

    We considered many other possible titles, but the closer we got to the release date, all of us involved in the project, especially Hina, knew that Aikāne made the most sense because it reflected the deep relationship between the protagonists. There was just no need to conjure up an English equivalent because there really is none.

    ZF:  The two characters are designed differently; the first has more 'manly' characteristics, and the second with more 'feminine' ones. Was this intentional?

    JW:  In a way, this speaks to traditional gender stereotypes and viewers’ preconceived ideas as much as it does to our intentions. Like most cisgender men, we were raised to live by rigid rules of what it means to be a man, to be stereotypically masculine. But, as guys who are attracted to and fall in love with other guys, those rules don’t necessarily apply to us, which is liberating. It allows us the freedom to be whatever we want or have the courage, to be, and to defy societal expectations. We wanted to play with that in the film.

    That’s also why shapeshifting is an element – the idea of a character being, or becoming, something or someone else to survive in an environment where you feel like you don’t belong. Most queer folks know exactly what this is like, subconsciously, to constantly have to shapeshift to be safe or accepted at home, at school, in the workplace, or out in their community.  The twist in the film is that these shape-shifting, same-gender-loving characters get a happy ending, something that is still too rare for queer people, both on and off-screen. We hope Aikāne can be a small part of changing that narrative.

    ZF:  What were the challenges of the animation process (2D/3D)? Here we have a lot of underwater scenes and a lot of battle scenes at the same time

    DS:  The challenges were also the most enjoyable parts of the process I always try to push areas of filmmaking that I may not be familiar with, or aesthetics that are counter to what I have explored in the past. And this film definitely fits the bill! Designing colorful, light-drenched environments, swatch-buckling action set-pieces, and underwater luminous spaces were all new areas of exploration that I had never tried. 

    Placing the 2D characters within 3D environments was fairly straightforward and not terribly challenging. But making sure the marriage was convincing and didn't distract from the storytelling required a lot of nuance.

    ZF:  How did you envisage the visual world of 'Aikāne'? It is very varied and full of light. I suppose you have Hawaii references, but how did you mix those in the film?

    DS:  We wanted the characters and environments to feel genuine, but not specific to a particular group of people or historical events. The story needed to live on its own, outside of time and space. So we pulled mostly from Hawaiian references, but also Celtic, and invented the rest. Additionally, the film required a lot of research on underwater photography (and swimming), period costumes, ships, landscapes, and color palettes. Juggling all the influences and finding the perfect combination that felt natural and uncompromising was certainly challenging, but I think we found a good balance.

    ZF: How was the script drafted? Did you have a single story serving as reference, a collection of fables or did you come up with something completely original?

    DH:  Joe and I are fortunate to live close to the ocean and swim or surf nearly every day of the year.  I especially love to take long dives under the surface; it is like entering a new world, silent and slow-moving, far from the noise and chaos above.

    The inspiration for 'Aikāne' came in a flash during one of those underwater sessions.  I wanted to share the sense of connection and dependence that happens when two people enter that silent underwater universe, and I wanted to do it through a romance.  It was only later that I began to think about how elements from the many different legends and myths of same-sex love that I had read might be incorporated into the narrative arc.  

    ZF:  Aikāne is an epic adventure in 14 minutes. Did you have to change a lot during the process to make all elements of your story fit? Any particular scene that was added at the last moment?

    DH:  This was my first try at fiction.  Having spent my entire life writing non-fiction papers, essays, books, and documentaries, I thought it would be easy.  I was so wrong! The first draft was about 20 pages long and included dozens of characters including a healer, a king, a jealous woman, and angry villagers.  As we talked with our animator Daniel Sousa and story consultant Will Csaklos about what each character contributed to the dramatic arc, this was slowly stripped down to just the two protagonists, and the number of scenes was reduced by half. 

    What we ended with was a classic love story with a beginning, middle, and end.  I know thatʻs considered a bit old-fashioned and corny, but in the world of queer fi,lms itly a novelty.

    ZF:  ʻAikāneʻ and 'Kapaemahu' are two different films, but they both tell of the need to have empathy and learn. Can you pinpoint the differences between the two films?

    HWK:  In the Western view, the difference between these films is that Kapaemahu focuses on gender fluidity whereas Aikāne deals with sexual orientation.  But in our Hawaiian culture, people are judged not by the pronoun they use or the people they love but by their kuleana, or responsibility.  The kuleana of māhū, people like me of dual male and female spirit is to act as caretakers, healers, and teachers of ancient traditions. For aikāne, it is to support, nurture, and aloha one another.  Seen through this Polynesian lens, Kapaemahu and Aikāne represent two facets of a culture where all people are valued and respected.

    ZF: What is the festival experience from showing 'Aikāne', and most importantly, the audience reaction? The film has been shown internationally, as well as in Hawaii, so you can have a measure of the different audience reactions.

    JW: The festival experience has been varied, which has made it interesting and surprising. Some festivals have put it in programs for mature audiences only, while others have screened in children’s programs. It has been popular in queer, native, ethnographic, and even horror and fantasy festivals, but not so much in traditional animation festivals, which may say more about the industry’s lingering discomfort with LGBTQ storylines than it does about the film. We’re glad that Zippy Frames is helping to break that reluctance with its Queer Animation section.

    As for audience reactions, it has been exactly what we hoped for, with younger and older viewers alike sharing emotional responses to watching a film whose characters are powerful and heroic not despite who they love but because of it. Our favorite comment, overheard in a theater hallway, was “Did you see the Disney film about the merman?”  

    ZF:  Aikāne' and 'Kapaemahu' both describe the indigenous Hawaiʻi experience. Do you plan to continue in that vein in the future?

    DH:  Given how much we love Hawaiʻi, and what fun it is to collaborate with Daniel, it would be difficult not to, and I am delighted to announce that Iʻll be playing a role in an exciting new film about the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi called The Queens Flowers, directed by Ciara Lacy and produced by Concepcion Saucedo.  

    Ultimately, though, we are as interested in impact as we are in the art of filmmaking, which in the case of Kapaemahu led to a public television documentary, a children's book, a major museum exhibition, and a contextualizing signage addition to the physical monument in Waikiki.  Aikāne will find its permanent place as part of a new, foundation-funded public memory project on The Queer Histories of Hawaiʻi that we hope will open even more opportunities to combine creative storytelling with action for change.

    Film Review (Vassilis Kroustallis):
    In a world in which stories of coming out have become more abundant on the big and small screen, ' Aikāne' does something different. It starts from the established point of a queer love (which dares speaks its name) and moves beyond the erotic aspect to encompass a partnership ready to stand the test of danger -and extraneous social interference. Even if fictional, 'Aikāne' is deeply entrenched in its indigenous Hawaiian culture; its visual palette is strong and tender at the same time, just like its two main characters. By adopting the epic hero's journey (here in partnership), the film succeeds in showing that queer love and partnership can be a reality, not a pipe dream -despite all dangers and inhuman odds. Both characters are complimentarily defined, and the scene transition follows closely (and interestingly) the mishaps from the small to the most dangerous. The film is empathetic and mysterious at the same time, as if advising that a two-way intimate partnership needs to keep its secrets. An engaging film ready to be explored, which makes us ponder how the obvious queer love still needs to be stated as such.


    Aikane (2023)
    Directed by Daniel Sousa, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson | Producer Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu | Design and Animation Daniel Sousa. Sound and Music Dan Golden | Executive Producers Judith Light, Daniel Karslake

    More details on Aikane

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    Portsmouth, New Hampshire (October 15, 2023) – That’s a wrap! New Hampshire’s largest film festival has announced the recipients of the New Hampshire Film Festival’s (NHFF) prestigious awards after four packed days of screenings, panels, and parties. The city of Portsmouth was abuzz as the 21st annual New Hampshire Film Festival attracted an estimated ten thousand film enthusiasts, filmmakers, writers, and students, who gathered to celebrate and discuss cinema and view more than 100 independent films that were selected from thousands of submissions.

    This is the second year the NHFF is an Academy Awards qualifying festival for short films, making live action and animated shorts jury award recipients eligible to submit for Oscar consideration. NHFF Executive Director Nicole Gregg says, “We are so energized that once again, the New Hampshire Film Festival distinguished itself as an important opportunity for filmmakers who come from near and far, and for audiences, who not only get to see the films, but are encouraged to interact with directors, writers, producers, actors, and cinematographers.”

    The awards, affectionately called “Granny Awards” for the solid granite trophy – a nod to the Granite State, can help filmmakers build visibility and potentially secure a distribution deal.

    The bulk of the awards honoring excellence in filmmaking and screenwriting were presented on Sunday night, including the Live Action Shorts Jury Award and Animation Shorts Jury Award:

    • Shorts Jury Award, Animation (Academy-Qualifying): Aikāne (directed by Daniel Sousa, Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson, produced by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu)
    • Best Screenplay: Imogene’s Tornado (written by Andrew Braunbhar)
    • Best Student Film: Homing (directed by Ricardo Varona)
    • Best Short Comedy: Catherine & Michael (directed by Kathy Fusco)
    • Best Short Drama: Mandarins (directed by Chelsie Pennello)
    • Audience Choice, Documentary: In the Whale (directed by David Abel)
    • Audience Choice, Narrative: Hangdog (directed by Matt Cascella)
    • Grand Jury Award, Documentary: Hummingbirds (directed by Silvia Del Carmen Castaños & Estefanía “Beba” Contreras)
    • Grand Jury Award, Narrative: Mountains (directed by Monica Sorelle)
    • Shorts Jury Award, Documentary: Denial (directed by Paul Moakley and Daniel Lombroso)
    • Shorts Jury Award, Live Action (Academy-Qualifying): The Fuse (directed by Kevin Haefelin)
    • Best Documentary Feature: Maestra (directed by Maggie Contreras)
    • Best Narrative Feature: Our Son (directed by Bill Oliver)

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  • AAPI Heritage Month: Māhū & Kumu Hina - Your Angry Neighborhood Feminist Podcast

    In this episode, host Madigan Haggerty leads listeners on a fascinating exploration of the stories in the documentary via her realtime reactions to the characters and scenes as the film unfolds. Listen HERE.

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  • "We Are Here: 30 Inspiring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Have Shaped the United States" - Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

    We are Here is a stunning anthology licensed in partnership with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center that celebrates 30 of the most inspiring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in U.S. history. Based on the book, APAC has created 30 Learning Lab collections that introduce visitors to Asian American and Pacific Islander artists, activists, scientists, writers, and more. Each Lab includes access to objects, works of art, videos, archival materials, and websites that expand each person's biography in We Are Here

    Meet Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu

    This Learning Lab collection about Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu is in a series of 30 collections based on the book, We Are Here: 30 Inspiring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who Have Shaped the United States. Each collection includes images of objects in the Smithsonian collections and links to community-created resources, including videos, archives, and more. Each collection takes a deeper dive into important histories and stories related to each individual featured in the book to provide additional context about the cultures and societies they are connected with. To help summarize and reflect on what you learn about each individual in these collections, we have provided Harvard Project Zero thinking routines and reflection questions that can be used in the classroom, in library activities, and at home.

    We Are Here is an anthology of stories about artists, activists, athletes, scientists, journalists, and more. These stories are bought to you by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC), one of 21 units (museums, archives, libraries, etc.) at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. We invite you to use this topical Learning Lab collection to learn more about individuals who have shaped the United States in critical ways through art-making, writing, or activism and who have been shaped by their global connections.

    To learn more about We Are Here, which was developed by Smithsonian Books, Running Press Books, and APAC, please visit the Hachette Book Group website.

    Please visit the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s website to learn more about our work and other offerings for educators and students.

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  • Gender Fluidity Is a Part of Hawaiian Culture. How a Children's Book is Reclaiming That - Today on NBC

    "Ho'onani: Hula Warrior," a children's book based on a 2014 documentary, can help make conversations about gender identity easier to navigate.

    by Randi Richardson for Today on NBC - June 30, 2022:

    Hawaii is known for its hula dancing, luaus, leis and other widely commercialized aspects of the culture. But a lesser-known tradition is giving a voice to people who may feel like they don’t belong.

    Pacific Island culture has long normalized gender fluidity with a variety of terms used across the region for sexual expression and a third gender, according to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In Hawaiian culture, there are wahine (female), kāne (male) and māhū, for people who do not subscribe to any gender.

    It’s a complex subject that author Heather Gale embraced in her children’s book, “Ho’onani: Hula Warrior,” which tells the story of real people and is based on the 2014 documentary “A Place in the Middle.”

    While the book serves up a rousing tale of a child overcoming obstacles — in this case, Ho’onani challenges traditional gender roles to perform as a hula warrior — it also deftly weaves in elements of culture and gender in simple language that kids can understand. Gale said people have thanked her for providing such an accessible story about a complicated topic.

    “Quite a few have reached out to say they wish they’d had this book before, when they were this age, to be able to understand it better,” she told TODAY in a phone interview from Toronto. “I’ve also had a parent reach out and say that it has been such a help to be able to start the subject and the process of talking about it, because you can read the book together, and then it gives the child and you — it’s quiet time — a chance to broach a possible subject that’s sensitive.”

    Gender fluidity in Native Hawaiian culture

    Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, who identifies as māhū and is featured in “A Place in the Middle” (she also served as the documentary’s writer), said that Hawaiian culture has never strayed from viewing gender fluidity as an integral part of its history. The only difference now is that Hawaii is no longer an independent nation; Europeans colonized it in the 1700s and the United States annexed it in 1898.

    “In Hawaii, Tahiti, and across the Pacific, māhū and other gender fluid identities have traditionally been respected and valued, integral to every family,” she told TODAY by email. “This was a shock to the first foreigners to arrive here, but for us it was a normal part of life.”

    Wong-Kalu said that colonization nearly erased māhū from Hawaii’s history even though their presence on the islands dates back to the 1100s, when community members admired them for their balance, freedom and wisdom, and they were seen as revered keepers of traditional practices such as hula dancing and chanting.

    “In this time of great sickness and strife around the world, I want people to know that māhū are especially well known for their skill in caretaking and healing,” Wong-Kalu said. According to legend, she said, it was four māhū who first brought the healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaii. “They were so loved and admired for their gentle ways and miraculous cures that the people built a monument to honor them.”

    That monument is named Kapaemahu, or “the row of māhū” in English, and is located in the middle of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.

    Wong-Kalu said that while Hawaiian culture is far ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to accepting LGBTQ people, it still has a long way to go.

    “Beginning with the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s, there has been a tremendous effort, and much success, in reclaiming many aspects of our culture and traditions — our language, hula, songs and chants, navigation and voyaging and much more,” she said, adding that LGBTQ people involved often go uncredited for their work.

    For example, she said, the accompanying plaque to the Kapaemahu monument “does not even mention the word māhū or acknowledge that these traits of gender duality were intrinsic to the healers’ talents and skills.”

    Wong-Kalu said she hopes Hawaii’s history and contemporary commitment to reclaiming it offer hope during turbulent times for the LGBTQ community. As of March, state lawmakers across the country have proposed a record 238 bills in 2022 that would limit LGBTQ rights, and there have been almost 670 of these bills filed since 2018, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans.

    Turning the documentary into a children’s book

    When Gale stumbled upon the documentary in 2016, she knew she had to turn it into a children’s book.

    “Ho’onani just caught me off my balance because of her inner strength that I really saw come through, and she’s just such a strong, young person, and she was so unusual for that,” Gale said. “Her parents were so supportive of her, as well as her teacher and her peers, and it was just incredible. ... With family support, she could be who she wanted to be.”

    Gale said that while she was unfamiliar with Hawaiian history and the māhū community in particular, she leaned on her Maori heritage since the two cultures share Polynesian roots.

    “Ho’onani is who she is because of her family, friends and teachers, while Hawaii’s culture and history are also a large part of her,” she said. “This is true for everyone and helps us all recognize parts of ourselves in a complex story.”

    Gale said that she researched as much as she could to respectfully establish the right tone. “I preferred that the gender aspect was subtle yet strong, much how I imagined Mahu once were in their communities,” she said.

    Another big challenge was “distilling the story’s first 40 words until they showed Ho’onani as a person and her biggest obstacle,” Gale said.

    Wong-Kalu and Gale said the main point of our existence is to experience life and joy while learning along the way with others.

    “I saw it in Ho’onani: What brings her happiness is playing a ukulele,” Gale said. “And even though it’s considered a genderized activity — males only play the ukulele — it brings her joy. So she does it.”

    Gale said the message of her book can be that simple: Do whatever creates joy.

    “Take a step back and (see) some joy in being together,” she said.

    Read the story on Today.com

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  • 7 Polynesian Films To Watch for AAPI Month (And Where To Watch Them) - Collider

    There's more to Polynesia than Lilo and Moana.

    by Elizabeth Reese - Collider - May 20, 2022:

    The root of Polynesian culture is storytelling. Before language was recorded in written form, histories and cultural traditions were oral records, passed on through word of mouth or cultural dance and performance, like hula. So it's no surprise that Polynesian filmmakers have the same eye for storytelling through the medium of filmmaking.

    While the average film-goers first exposure to Polynesian culture may be through films like Lilo & Stitch and Moana, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander filmmakers have been telling their own stories for centuries. With Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Month in full swing, Polynesian filmmakers are here to remind us that the original storytellers haven't gone anywhere.

    Boy (2010)

    Taika Waititi's second feature film, Boy, is a coming-of-age story about an eleven-year-old growing up in Tairawhiti region of North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Obsessed with Michael JacksonBoy follows the life of the title character as he maneuvers through life and comes to terms with the reality his father Alamein brings when he steps back into his life.

    More than just a film about a boy in a small town, Boy is unique in its showcase of Polynesian, specifically Māori, culture. Written and directed by Waititi, who is of Māori descent (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui iwi) and is no stranger to using his own history as inspiration for his filmsBoy was partially shot in his hometown. The character of Alamein, who is also played by Waititi, was loosely based on his own father. The driving message of whānau (family), what defines it, and how we value it within ourselves, is constantly being examined throughout the film. And of course, the famous Thriller Haka performed during the end credits is a celebration of a blend of Māori and pop culture. You can stream Boy for free on Vudu.

    Kumu Hina (2014)

    The idea of a third or non-binary gender is something that is sacred and revered in many Polynesian cultures. In Hawai'i, māhū is the third gender, meaning “the in-between.” Kumu Hina, by producers/directors Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson, is a documentary centered around Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, known as Kumu Hina (Kumu being the 'Ōlelo Hawai'i word for teacher), a Kanaka Maoli māhū who is devoted to the preservation and teaching of Hawaiian culture through hula.

    Kumu Hina is a celebration, not only of Kumu Hina's life but of the impact she has on others. The documentary follows another student in her hālau who finds themselves in the middle of the gender spectrum. Kumu Hina mentors her student, Ho'onani, and serves as a guide for them as they begin this journey. As we continue to have conversations about non-binary representation in media today, it is helpful to remember that māhū like Kumu Hina have always been here. Kumu Hina is available to stream for free on Tubi.

    Once Were Warriors (1994)

    Temuera Morrison is known to most of the world today as Boba Fettbut before he donned the bounty hunter's armor, he was known as Jake Heke. Once Were Warriors follows the story of the Heke family, a Māori family living in South Auckland, and their struggles. Directed by Lee Tamahori, Once Were Warriors is critically acclaimed for its brilliant performances but is not an easy watch. The themes of domestic abuse, alcoholism, and sexual assault may be incredibly triggering for some viewers.

    Once Were Warriors was an innovative film, being one of the first films to showcase not only Māori talent, but Māori stories at the forefront. The themes of racism, colonialism, and pride of culture run strong throughout the film and Rena Owen's performance as Beth Heke is a standout. You are able to rent Once Were Warriors (and the sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?) on Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, or AppleTV.

    Vai (2019)

    One of the more unique films in recent history, Vai is a portmanteau film; with nine different female Pacific Islander directors piecing together the story. Filmed in seven different Pacific countries (Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Kuki Airani, Samoa, Niue, and Aotearoa New Zealand), Vai tells the story of the title character as she grows and changes throughout her life.

    The central theme of Vai is the very meaning of the word, water. Water itself is incredibly important to Polynesian and Pacific Nations, as they were the first wayfinders and travelers of the oceans. For many Polynesian cultures, water is seen as a life force and the very source of life itself. A film centered around not only this sacred element but also womanhood makes for a moving piece of film. Vai is able to stream for free on Tubi and Vudu.

    O Le Tulafale (2011)

    Also known as The Orator, O Le Tulafale is the first Samoan feature film entirely in Samoa with a Samoan cast and Samoan-driven story. With a population of just under 200,000 people, the country and culture of Samoa is easily overlooked. The film follows Saili, a dwarf farmer, who is a societal outcast determined to reclaim his family's status.

    O Le Tulafale was a breakthrough in Samoan cinema, being selected as Aotearoa New Zealand's entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards, the first time the country submitted a film in the category. Although the film did not make the shortlist, it still opened the door for more Samoan filmmakers and stories to follow. You can stream O Le Tulafale for free on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

    Patu! (1983)

    In 1981, the South African Springbok rugby team arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand for a match against the famous national team, the All Blacks. The ensuing mass demonstrations that greeted them would become the subject of the documentary Patu! Named after te reo Māori word meaning "to strike," Patu! was directed and produced by Merata Mita, the first Indigenous woman to solely direct and write a full feature in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    Mita's vision tackles racism in Aotearoa New Zealand head-on as she explored how the Māori protesters were targeted over Pakeha, or non-Māori New Zealanders. Patu! is an exhilarating example of female Indigenous filmmaking and has been added to the UNESCO memory of the world register. Patu! is available to stream through NZonScreen.

    Ala Moana Boys (2021)

    Currently making the rounds on the film festival circuit, Ala Moana Boys tells the heartbreaking true story about Joseph Kahahawai, a Native Hawaiian man who was falsely accused of a crime he did not commit. In 1932, Thalia Massie claimed Kahahawai attacked and sexually assaulted her one night near Waikiki on O'ahu. Although he was freed on account of a hung jury, Massie's husband, aided by his mother, took matters into their own hands and kidnapped Joseph before murdering him. Joseph's funeral was the most attended on the islands for any Native Hawaiian that was not royalty.

    Although the film is short, just over twenty minutes long, Ala Moana Boys, packs an emotional punch. Audiences are left to ponder inequities in a judicial system that has not changed much in the ninety years since Joseph's death. Although it is not yet available to stream, keep an eye on the film's social media for more information.

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  • 15 LGBTQ+ Documentaries That Everybody Needs to Watch - Cosmopolitan Magazine

    Consider these watch-list essentials. by Jasmine Ting - OCT 6, 2021

    Now more than ever, queer culture is being embraced by the mainstream. Shows like Pose and Euphoria help shed light on the LGBTQ+ community and tell queer stories. But while diverse narratives like these are important for representation, to get a better grasp of the conversations going on about gender and sexuality you'll have to dig a little deeper.

    If you want to really want to take a deeper dive into the stories of the LGBTQ+ community, you need to learn about real stories of real peopleAnd one of the best ways to educate yourself is through documentaries. We've compiled a list of the best LGBTQ+ documentaries that are essential additions to everyone's watch-lists.

    Kumu Hina

    Hina Wong-Kalu is a Native Hawaiian teacher and cultural icon. She lives "in the middle" as someone who is part of Hawaii's traditional third gender māhū and also a trans woman. This documentary follows Hina as she mentors a student who is also māhū and wants to join the all-male hula group in her school. It also shows Hina's romantic relationship with a young man from Tonga.

    Paris Is Burning

    This iconic documentary is referenced in much of popular drag culture today. Paris Is Burning focuses on drag queens in 1980s New York City, their legendary houses, and the dazzling fashion balls they take part in. It also tackles tougher themes such as poverty, racism, and the social shunning these performers face.

    The Sons of Tennessee Williams

    This doc goes all the way back to where drag balls were born: 1950s New Orleans. It looks at the evolution of the Mardi Gras krewe scene, and how it eventually helped push the gay liberation movement forward.

    The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

    Activist Victoria Cruz re-examines the 1992 death of LGBTQ+ icon—and Victoria's friend—Marsha P. Johnson, whose body was found floating in the Hudson River. Though back then authorities ruled the tragedy a suicide, many people in the community believe that Martha was murdered.

    I Am Divine

    This film is a comprehensive and captivating look into the life of Harris Glenn Milstead from his early life as a young boy in Baltimore to his rise as the legendary drag superstar Divine, which changed pop culture forever.

    The Celluloid Closet

    The Celluloid Closet explores the space that LGBTQ+ entertainers have occupied in Hollywood and the entertainment industry historically, and how it has shaped people's views of the community.

    Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine

    Matthew Shepard was the victim of one of the most notorious hate crimes in American history. The 21-year-old died after a targeted homophobic attack in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. In this documentary, his friends and family remember Matt and honor his memory with love.

    Circus of Books

    A couple tells the story of how they've come to own Circus of Books, a porn bookstore that over the decades has become an important space for the queer community in Los Angeles.


    This film looks into the depiction of transgender people in Hollywood, and how it has affected the trans community and American culture. It features actresses Laverne Cox, Mj Rodriguez, and Angelica Ross.

    Call Her Ganda

    Jennifer Laude, a Filipino trans woman and sex worker, was found brutally murdered in a motel across from the nightclub where she found her clients. The primary suspect was a U.S. Marine on leave who was charged with homicide instead of murder. This documentary is an investigative look into the case, featuring three women who want justice for Laude.

    A Secret Love

    Pro baseball player Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel fell in love in 1947, but they kept their relationship a secret from family and friends because of the severe consequences of revealing their sexuality in America in the '40s. Sixty-five years later, they are still together and are able to share their love story—and all its ups and downs—with the world.

    How to Survive a Plague

    How to Survive a Plague tells the story of the efforts and the people who turned the tide during the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s. Though they weren't scientists, these men and women were able to bring attention to the disease and helped minimize tragic deaths caused by the AIDS epidemic.

    All In My Family

    Filmmaker Hao Wu, who is gay, decided to start a family by having children via surrogacy. In this short film, he documents how his loving but traditional Chinese family comes to accept the path he is taking.

    Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts

    This documentary is an intimate look into the life of RuPaul's Drag Race star Trixie Mattel and the man behind all the makeup, Brian Firkus. It shows the reality behind all the wigs and glitter, the challenges he faced and continues to face professionally in the industry, and the toll it has taken on him and his personal relationships.

    God Loves Uganda

    God Loves Uganda explores how the American evangelical movement is influencing people in Uganda to take up conservative Christian values, with religious leaders trying to fight "sexual immorality," convincing their followers to follow biblical law, and fueling the demand in some for a proposed death penalty for homosexuality.

    See the streaming options for all the films on the list here.

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  • 7 Essential Pacific Films to Add to Your Queue, from "Once Were Warriors" to "Kumu Hina" - Sundance Institute

    By Kristian Fanene Schmidt - Sundance Institute - May 21, 2021:

    In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it brings me great pleasure to highlight some of my favourite offerings when it comes to films from and/or about the Pacific. Before I do that, though, I think it’s important to give context around what constitutes a “Pacific Islander.”

    Technically, the Pacific Islands consist of three regions: Micronesia (“small islands”), Melanesia (“islands of Black people”), and Polynesia (“many islands”). This was what I was taught growing up in Aotearoa, although the definition really depends on who you speak to and where they come from! Whatever definition you come across, we know that at the end of the day, race is a social construct. I created this video to describe how problematic these terms are in nature, which is often the case when they’re imposed by white men who “discovered” our lands and waters that were already inhabited for centuries.

    Pacific Islanders are not a monolith. The same way the all-encompassing pan-Asian “Asian” identity lumps over 40 distinct cultures together, the “PI” part fails to capture the nuance of over 20 diverse nations. In using these labels, you often have voices from particular countries dominate discourse, while others get erased based on factors like population size, political power, and anti-Blackness.

    In composing this list, I wanted to be very intentional in moving away from the usual Hollywood tropes, stereotypes, and one-dimensional narratives that sell in favor of amplifying lesser-known voices and issues to American audiences. OK! So now that we’ve covered that off, let’s get into it!

    KUMU HINA (2014)

    Kumu Hina follows the life of Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a Native Hawaiian activist and teacher. As a queer Samoan, I would be remiss not to include a narrative that speaks to the diversity in gender expression and sexuality in the Pacific that has long been demonized and outlawed because of the church and colonization. Hina is māhū, and while some māhū may identify as trans or nonbinary, I’m going to resist labelling her as such because not all do. (The trouble with using Western terms to describe Indigenous peoples is that they do not necessarily relate to them nor are they neat translations.) Navigating a world she seldom finds acceptance in, Hina is steeped firmly in her role as a cultural and spiritual leader, fighting for her people while holding true to who she is. We’re now starting to see a rise of queer Pacific content, as evidenced by another documentary made by the same creators, Leitis in Waiting, which is just as insightful. Hopefully there’ll be more to come.

    NAMING NUMBER 2 (2008)

    It’s rare for a Pacific playwright to have their works adapted into a feature film, let alone one that was written and directed by them! Naming Number 2 (known as No. 2 back home) by Fijian New Zealander Toa Fraser is a loving celebration of life centering a Fijian family living in the Auckland suburb of Mount Roskill. The story alone is beautifully told and boasts some wonderful talent, such as the late Ruby Dee — who Fraser sought out being a big fan of Do The Right Thing and her work in it — but I find the journey of the play to the big screen equally as impressive.

    After selling off the rights to his theatrical debut, Bare, Fraser learned an important lesson, so when it came down to making 1999’s No. 2 into a movie, he made sure he was in a position to call the shots. Despite getting pushback for never having directed any projects, Fraser stuck to his guns, largely out of a responsibility to the Pacific community, and thankfully he did. Naming Number 2 went on to win the Audience Award: World Dramatic at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and Fraser’s been crazy busy in the U.S. ever since. I also recommend pre-colonial Māori action/adventure The Dead Lands, which feels like such a 180 in comparison but speaks to Fraser’s versatility.


    While Island Soldier wasn’t directed by a Pacific Islander, it is an important documentary that gives viewers a reliable insight into the exploitative and destructive nature of U.S. militarism in the Pacific, specifically Kosrae in Micronesia. It’s becoming more and more common for this type of content to be what tips the scales in changing policy, so I encourage people to take the time and educate themselves by watching stories like this one and Anote’s Ark on climate change in Kiribati, as well as Ciara Lacy’s Out of State on addiction and incarceration in Hawai‘i, all of which share colonization and capitalism as the root of our problems. These are just some of our realities that don’t get the attention — and certainly not the reparation — they deserve.

    VAI (2019)

    Released in 2019, Vai is a beautiful collection of eight shorts spanning the Pacific, tied together by a common thread of mana wahine. What I love most about this film is that in addition to being directed by nine Pacific women, we get to see dark-skinned grandmas, mothers, daughters and sisters in such fullness and beauty, thanks to Solomon Islands filmmaker Matasila Freshwater and Fijian filmmakers the Whippy Sisters, respectively. Due to colorism that permeates every nation, Melanesians often get erased and excluded from Pacific discourse, so I’m looking forward to seeing more content like this and the Vanuatu love story TannaVai is actually a follow-up to another great movie showcasing eight Māori women directors, Waru. Be sure to watch them together, and keep an eye out for a third installment with a focus on our Aboriginal whānau coming soon.


    Arguably Aotearoa’s most well-known film, Once Were Warriors is based on Alan Duff’s novel of the same name, Lee Tamahori’s 1994 feature centers on the Heke family, a Māori whanau struggling with poverty, alcoholism, and domestic violence. Upon its release, it blew up in the media, who praised brilliant performances from Temuera Morrison, Rena Owen, and Cliff Curtis; critics at the time also noted its hauntingly realistic, visceral portrayals of both physical and sexual abuse. While it is definitely hard to watch in several moments, at the core of this tale is a need to return to Indigenous knowledge and practices for solutions and healing. Note that this is based on a confronting truth in Māori communities, but it’s only one truth: There are several others. To help avoid falling into the trap of ignorant preconceptions and prejudice, you can round things out by treating yourself to other gems like The Dark HorseWhale RiderPatu!, and Poi E.

    WAIKIKI (2020)

    You can spot Hawai‘i in countless television shows and movies, but Waikiki is the first feature film written and directed by a Native Hawaiian, Sundance Institute Native Lab alum Christopher Kahunahana. It’s something I definitely felt as I stayed captivated by its raw energy, stripped of all the routine glamour and tourist-trap illusions the world has come to associate with Hawai‘i. That’s Hollywood, but it’s not what the Indigenous are living! Danielle Zalopany is perfectly cast in her role as dancer Kea. As she fights for her survival and sanity, we get a real sense of the plight of kanaka māoli, but also where the true beauty and power of Hawai‘i lies — in the people, in the land, and in their connection to one another.

    O LE TULAFALE (2011)

    Tusi Tamasese’s 2011 feature O Le Tulafale (or The Orator) is Samoa’s first feature film that was written and directed by a Samoan, shot entirely in Samoa, in the Samoan language, with an all-Samoan cast. Whew! Saili (Fa'afiaula Sanote) is a taro farmer who faces constant ridicule and rejection in his village for being a little person. When his family and land comes under threat, Saili is the only one left to defend them. While the setting is very Samoan, the themes of adversity, love, and courage are universal. From the story to the cinematography to the performances, there’s a wholeness to it that makes me proud of it. I can confidently say it does justice to our people and our culture in representing fa‘a Samoa (the Samoan way) authentically and thoughtfully, warts and all.

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  • Kapaemahu Wins at India’s Bengaluru International Short Film Fest - AnimationXpress

    by Sharmindrila Paul - AnimationXpress - August 19, 2020:

    The BISFF (Bengaluru International Short Film Festival) winners have been announced!

    The Oscar accredited film festival is a reputed one and has lately announced the winners for its animated short films category. Based on legend from Hawaii, animated short Kapaemahu about transgender spirits, is the winner in the category followed by Avarya and Radha: The Eternal Melody as first and second runners up respectively. 

    Co-created by director-producers Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, Kapaemahu reveals the healing power of four mysterious stones on Waikiki Beach – and the legendary transgender spirits within them. 

    Overwhelmed by the win, Wong-Kalu on behalf of the entire team, told AnimationXpress, “We were initially surprised by the win for Kapaemahu because India seems so far from Hawai’i.  But upon deeper reflection, we realised that Polynesian and Indian culture share much in common, including a more holistic understanding of gender diversity, and a colonial history that brought unwelcome political and societal changes. We also share the need for healing in this time of pandemic, and Kapaemahu teaches us how all healers should be respected for the good they do. In this context, the award from BISFF is incredibly meaningful for our team and makes us feel hopeful about the things that unite us across the distances. Here’s to the power of film, art and storytelling shining their light and bringing people together around the world.”

    Full article HERE.

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  • Kumu Hina Named One of Hawaiiʻs “Women of the Century” - USA Today

    Surfing Champion, Hula Masters, Educators and Advocates on Hawaii Women of the Century list

    by Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY - August 14, 2020:

    Is this a mana wahine

    In Hawaiian, mana wahine translates to “powerful woman,” and as a panel of experts worked to select Hawaii’s Women of the Century, they kept coming back to this phrase.

    Did this woman motivate and inspire others to be courageous? How has she given back to Hawaii and its people? Is she committed to keeping Hawaiian traditions and stories alive? Those are the characteristics of a mana wahine, and it was crucial that every woman on the list fit them. 

    This year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, when American women won the right to vote, the USA TODAY Network is naming 10 women from every state, plus the District of Columbia, as “Women of the Century.” These women have made significant contributions to their communities, states and country with documented achievements in areas like arts and literature, business, civil rights, education, entertainment, law, media, nonprofits and philanthropy, politics, science and medicine, and sports. The women had to have been alive during the last 100 years -- 1920 to 2020.

    Hawaii has a long history of powerful women, the most notable being Queen Liliʻuokalani, Hawaii’s only queen regent and the last sovereign monarch, who ruled from 1891 until the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893. She is revered across the state, with numerous hula events held in her memory, and various centers and events named in her honor. 

    Queen Liliʻuokalani, however, did not possess one important piece of criteria for the Women of the Century project: She hasn’t been alive since 1920, the year the 19th Amendment passed (she died in 1917).

    But her legacy lives on in many of the women on our final list, matriarchs of their families who fought to ensure that the Hawaiian language and traditions would not only survive in the modern era, but thrive. Most of the women on this list are Hawaii’s Hulu kupuna, highly prized elders who possess an inspirational spirit and wisdom that’s cherished on the islands. Some of the younger women on the list, like 27-year-old surfer Carissa Moore, aren’t yet old enough to be elders – but they’re on that trajectory. 

    Choosing just 10 women proved to be challenging given the number of amazing women who have called the state home. Some women almost made the list, like former U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, the first Asian-American woman in the Senate and the first woman Hawaiian voters sent to the Senate. Puanani Burgess, a Buddhist priest, poet and cultural translator, who now embraces her role as “community Aunty,” also was a contender. Michelle Wie, the youngest player to ever qualify for an LPGA Tour event, inspired generations of aspiring golfers. 

    All are worthy choices but in the end, did not make our top 10. The final list is comprised of women who represent Hawaii with honor, pride and aloha, or love. To outsiders, aloha seems like a simple, friendly greeting; but to those who know Hawaii, it is a word rife with deep cultural and spiritual meaning. To represent Hawaii with aloha is one of the highest honors bestowed on a Hawaiian resident. 


    Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, also known as Kumu Hina, is a Kanaka Maoli, or Native Hawaiian, teacher, Kumu Hula (hula master), filmmaker, cultural practitioner, community leader and a modern transgender woman. She was the founding member of Kūlia Nā Mamo, a community transgender health organization established in 2003 to help improve the quality of life for māhū wahine, a traditional third gender person who exists between male and female. 

    Kalu spent 13 years as the Director of Culture at Hālau Lōkahi Public Charter School in Honolulu, and was one of the first transgender candidates for statewide political office in the U.S. Previously, she served as the chair of the O’ahu Island Burial Council, which oversees the management of Native Hawaiian burial sites.

    She now serves as community advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, where she helps Native Hawaiian inmates prepare to be productive members of society. Kalu co-directed and produced the film, "Lady Eva," and a feature documentary, "Leitis in Waiting," about the struggle of the Indigenous transgender community in Tonga. Both won awards at several film festivals and have been broadcast on stations across the world.

    Her latest film, Kapaemahu, an animated short she co-directed with her longtime collaborators Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, premiered at Tribeca, and has qualified for an Academy Award nomination.

    See full list HERE.

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    November 29, 2019:

    In Introduction to Transgender Studies, published in February 2019 by academic LGBTQ publisher Harrington Park Press, author Ardel Haefele-Thomas explores the historical and political contexts of transgender lives. They also share intimate personal stories and essays by trans people from around the world, and celebrate transgender people’s contributions to the worlds of art, literature, and culture.

    The inclusion of “Films and Television of Interest” lists at the end of each chapter was an attempt to make sure that the book, which is the first ever introductory textbook for undergraduate-level transgender studies, is able to have an impact beyond “Transgender 101” courses in LGBTQ or gender studies departments.

    “I have often found that students experience a good deal of anxiety, trepidation, and confusion when studying issues pertaining to sex and gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation,” stated Haefele-Thomas. “I wrote this book to create a safe space for the full spectrum of undergraduate students, ranging from those who have never thought about gender issues to students who identify as transgender, trans, nonbinary, agender, and/or gender expansive. In short, the language and the artwork in this book are meant to be welcoming.”

    In this article, Haefele-Thomas recommends 13 films about transgender people and featuring transgender subjects and themes. If you feel less familiar with the transgender experience than you’d like to be, this list is a good place to start.

    1: Southern Comfort
    This teaches beautifully. And, it is one of the most perfect documentaries. The filmmaker is incredibly respectful of the community she is filming. And although the subject matter is heavy – a trans man dying of ovarian cancer because clinics refuse to care for him because he’s trans – the film itself is so full of love, simplicity (not in a bad way), and beauty.

    2: Georgie Girl
    Another documentary – this one about Georgina Beyer, the first trans member of Parliament in the world. As an out Maori trans woman, this documentary is wonderful to use for discussions of the continuing effects of colonization, and for discussions on intersecting identities.

    3: A Place in the Middle
    A PBS short film that explores a middle school student who is Mahu (third-gender people highly regarded within indigenous Hawaiian culture). This is a perfect film for in-class and for discussion.

    4: Leitis in Waiting
    A wonderfully complex documentary that looks at trans people in Tonga. This film shows the effects of incoming evangelical missionaries who are calling for the eradication of the Leitis (trans women). A beautifully researched and filmed documentary.

    5: Two Spirit People
    This film is quite old now, but it still beautifully explains third-gender identity (sometimes fourth- and fifth-gender identity) in Indigenous cultures of the Americas.

    6: Mulan: Rise of a Warrior
    The original title was Hua Mulan – such a beautiful film from China that is a meditation on war and on the legend of General Mulan. It is really interesting to compare this to the Disney version, where the “gender reveal” is what is sensationalized. This Chinese film, though, is complex and rich as it looks at the fluidity of gender.

    7: Still Black: A Portrait of Black Trans Men
    Outstanding documentary that looks at intersecting identities and the stereotypes around Black masculinity.

    8: Rocky Horror Picture Show
    So, once this book was finally “put to bed,” the first thing I wanted to watch was the scene with Tim Curry coming down the lift in those fishnet hose, tapping his heel. Is the language outdated? YES! But this film continues to empower gender outlaws in their small towns, where they cannot be out – but they can go to the midnight show and feel at home for a couple of hours. I still have students tell me this film changed their lives. It sure changed this trans and queer Okie’s life when I saw it in OKC in 1982!

    9: Queen Christina
    So, Hollywood tried (with the Hays Code), but they could not erase all of the gender slippage in this one! Greta Garbo. Dressed as a man. An amazing film.

    10: Dream Girls & Shinjuku Boys
    I am cheating and putting these two together. But they need to go together to see a fully rounded look at gender diversity in Japan. Both are stunning.

    11: The Believers
    This is a documentary about a trans choir in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are an incredibly diverse group of trans people who have come to a progressive Christian church, where they and their choir are welcomed. An outstanding documentary.

    12: Major!
    The iconic Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is featured in this fabulous documentary. The film honors our amazing trans elder – and all of her fight and strength and beauty come shining through in this film.

    13: Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria
    Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman’s documentary about the 1966 San Francisco Riot that pre-dates Stonewall by three years is an outstanding look at the trans community in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco in the late 1960’s. The film beautifully studies the nuances of political difference and disagreement between Vanguard, a radical queer youth group, and many of the trans women in the Tenderloin who were trying to get through each day in the face of racism, transphobia, and police harassment. This film is also really inspirational in an academic context, because it exemplifies the ways that a seemingly small find, hidden in an archive, can lead to a major documentary film and the recovery of a nearly lost history.

    Ardel Haefele-Thomas is chair of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies at City College of San Francisco. Haefele-Thomas’s academic work focuses on the intersection of gender identity and gender expression, sexual orientation, race, and class based in part on frameworks and structures of postcolonial and queer theory. They are the author of Introduction To Transgender Studies and coauthor of the forthcoming book Transgender: A Reference Text, with Aaron Devor.

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  • "Whose independence? Why some Native Hawaiians don’t celebrate on July 4" - The Christian Science Monitor


    What does American liberty mean? It depends on whom you ask. While Independence Day is a joyful celebration for many Americans, for some Native Hawaiians, it is a painful reminder of the loss of sovereignty.

    This July Fourth, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu won’t be celebrating American freedom from Britain. She’ll be commemorating the loss of her ancestors’ independence at the hands of Americans.

    As Americans gather in backyards and public parks around the United States, Ms. Wong-Kalu will be performing at the ʻIolani Palace, the cultural heart of Honolulu. There, she will be portraying Hawaii’s Queen Liliʻuokalani, who was imprisoned in the palace during the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom by American businessmen and plantation owners. Within five years, the U.S. government annexed the islands, setting the stage for Hawaii to become the 50th U.S. state in 1959.

    But Ms. Wong-Kalu doesn’t feel much like an American. She is first and foremost a Kanaka Maoli, or Native Hawaiian. 

    “I feel a sense of duty and obligation to Hawaii because Hawaii is my homeland,” she says. “It is the heart of my existence. This is the part of my life that is my dominant identity.”

    Connecting with that identity has not always been easy for Native Hawaiians. And for some, America’s Independence Day is a reminder of that separation from their heritage.

    Today, Ms. Wong-Kalu works to inspire young Native Hawaiians to learn about their cultural roots as a kumu, or teacher. 

    Kumu Hina, as she is known throughout Hawaii, splits her time between correctional facilities and local schools, where she promotes the Hawaiian values of aloha: love, honor, and respect.

    Read Full Story HERE.

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  • "Ho'onani Hula Warrior" - Kirkus Book Review


    Ho'onani Hula Warrior, published by Penguin Random House 

    In this picture book based on a true story, a nonbinary youth finds her place as a hula warrior.

    Hoʻonani Kamai doesn’t identify with either wahine (girl) or kāne (boy); “she prefer[s] just Hoʻonani.” (Feminine pronouns refer to Hoʻonani throughout.) One day, her teacher Kumu Hina announces auditions for a traditional hula chant the high school kāne will perform. With Kumu Hina’s encouragement, Hoʻonani auditions despite the shock of the kāne. After passing the test, she practices “until Hawai‘i’s history [becomes] a part of her.” Practice pays off, as her chant’s strength and power gain her true acceptance as their leader. Kumu Hina warns that people may get upset that a wahine is leading, but Hoʻonani faces the performance with courage. Through every challenge and doubt, Hoʻonani “[holds] her place. Strong, sure, and steady.” Her strength and bravery lead her to find her place as a hula warrior. Based on the documentary A Place in the Middle, this story brings to light the Hawaiian tradition of valuing those who are māhū, or nonbinary. Teacher and activist Kumu Hina creates a place of safety and acceptance, encouraging her students to treat others with respect. Hoʻonani’s courage to be true to herself and her place in the middle is empowering. Hawaiian words are intermixed, and Song’s illustrations are full of emotion and determination.

    Hoʻonani deserves a place on any shelf.

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  • "Kumu Hina and living in the middle" - The Retriever

    by Angelica Mansfield - The Retriever - December 5, 2018:

    Our world is consistently being defined by gender. Whether it is in relationships, the workplace or even in religion, there tend to be distinctions between and emphasis on binary genders. However, in Hawaiian culture, people accept that there is a place, called “mahu,” in between genders.

    The film “Kumu Hina: A Place In The Middle” tells the story of two mahu. “Mahu” refers to people who have embraced both female and male characteristics and are sometimes transitioning to the gender they identify with. First, there is Hina, a teacher at a Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, Hawaii.

    Hina tells the audience how much she has struggled with personal and social acceptance of herself. She recounts how she was teased in high school and how, even as an adult, some simply do not understand what it means to be Mahu.

    Unfortunately, her own husband is one that does not understand. He expects Hina to take on the role as housewife and, according to the audience, verges on abuse. Hina resigns to staying in this relationship because there are very few people who want to be with a mahu, and she is still in love with her husband.

    It was difficult for the audience to watch both Hina’s own husband torture her and her frustration with the lack of passion in her students. Luckily, this made it easy for viewers to root for her and experience her joy when she was surrounded by people who loved her.

    Her story truly represents the struggle of those who do not identify with their assigned gender. However, Hina works extremely hard to teach the youth at her school the true Hawaiian values of aloha. She constantly stresses the importance of love, honor and respect.

    This sets the stage for another mahu, Ho’Onani. Ho’O attends the school where Hina teaches and becomes her mentee of sorts. Although it is unclear what gender this child identifies as, Ho’O is able to find a community at school that is not present at home.

    This corresponds with many experiences of transgender youth today. Many kids find it difficult to find support among their family but are completely supported by their peers. The mother of Ho’O made the audience shift in their seats as she completely disregarded the feelings of her own child.

    The mother essentially said that her “daughter” must accept that they will always be a girl. This resonates with members of the LGBT+ community. Often, a family can hold antiquated prejudices and project them onto their children, making it hard for the kids to feel accepted and loved in their family.

    Luckily, the school Ho’O attended provided a space in which they were able to be themselves. Ho’O becomes the leader of the boys’ hula group and guides them towards an amazing performance at the end of the year.

    This movie, although not filled with dazzling pictures or crystal clear videography, provided the audience with something real. It is a story that many can relate to, despite being set in a place that is essentially its own country. Not only that, but it also provides an appreciation for Hawaiian culture. This movie is one that should be recognized and watched to understand, if not to appreciate, those that live on the margins.

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  • "Influential Kumu Honored as 2018 Native Hawaiian Community Educator of the Year" - Hawaii News Now

    by Dylan Ancheta - Hawaii News Now

    HONOLULU (Oct. 8, 2018) - A pioneer and strong advocate for the Native Hawaiian community was recognized this week with the honor of being named Native Hawaiian Community Educator of the Year by Kamehameha Schools.

    Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, well known as “Kumu Hina,” has served the Native Hawaiian community in various forms as a student, teacher, political voice, rights advocate and role model for more than two decades.

    “Today, we honor a leader who is a champion for educating Native Hawaiians of all ages and improving their overall well-being,” Kamehameha Schools Senior Policy Analyst Ka’ano’i Walk said.

    “Long before ‘Hawaiian culture-based education’ was a buzz phrase, she blazed a trail for local educators by teaching through a Native Hawaiian lens. A proud graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Kumu Hina is an ‘ōiwi leader with a strong cultural identity that has propelled her into a life of educational leadership and community advocacy.”

    She earned her BA in Hawaiian studies and education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa before going onto teach ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i at Leeward Community College.

    Add to her extensive resume, Wong-Kalu worked with Ke Ola Mamo Native Hawaiian Health Care System where she focused on improving the health of Native Hawaiians. Much of her time is also spent teaching inmates Hawaiian culture-based skills at local correctional facilities.

    “Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to present me with this great honor,” Wong-Kalu said after being presented with the recognition at the 2018 Na Mea Hawai‘i Arts & Culture Award at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s Native Hawaiian Convention at the Prince Waikiki.

    Wong-Kalu also is the chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council, which addresses issues of unearthed iwi kupuna, most recently speaking out regarding the discovery of remains at Kawaiha’o Church.

    Said to be her most influential work however is her time spent with Hālau Lōkahi Public Charter School as the cultural director from 2001 to 2014. There, she incorporated a rigorous Hawaiian culture-based education program which empowered a whole new generation of scholars.

    “I did proclaim 2018 as the Year of the Hawaiian. There’s much more work to be done, but it’s important to stop and celebrate…the Hawaiian language and culture that are thriving,” Gov. David Ige said at the ceremony.

    Kumu Hina was honored at a convention in Waikiki, pictured here with Kamehameha Schools CEO Jack Wong and Senior Policy Analyst Ka’ano’i Walk

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  • Kumu Hina Wins the Lucía Award for Best Documentary at the Festival Internacional de Cine de Gibara in Cuba

    Read the full story HERE.

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  • "Echo, Oregon Councilman Criticized for Gay Slur, Child Porn Resigns" ~ KVEW-TV news

    by Galen Ettlin, January 18, 2018:

    ECHO, Ore. - A month after a KAPP-KVEW investigation revealed councilman Lou Nakapalau's child porn conviction from 2000, the councilman is resigning.

    Echo city manager Diane Berry confirmed Thursday morning the city received Nakaplau's letter of resignation this month. 

    The agenda for Thursday afternoon's council meeting also included discussing the vacant position. However, the city manager said due to several people calling in sick, the meeting is now canceled.

    Berry said at the next meeting on Feb. 15, council members will discuss filling Nakapalau's position soon or leave it vacant until the next election.

    Nakapalau was plunged into the national spotlight in October when he used an anti-gay slur on social media to an LGBTQ filmmaker.

    An investigation later revealed the councilman and community volunteer had nine felony conviction counts of child pornography in Clark County, Washington from 2000.

    A group of about a half dozen community members, including outspoken Echo business owner Pam Reese, have called for Nakapalau's resignation since October.

    "I wish the city had done this in the first place, but we can move on from here and go forward," Reese said Thursday. "I think we have a ways to go in regard to transparency and inclusivity. However, we have a good group of folks that have come together to make this a more inclusive town."

    The city said it was up to a community petition to recall the councilman.

    However, Berry said a petition was not filed and that Nakapalau resigned of his own volition.

    According to Berry, the letter reads as follows: 

    Mayor Jeanie Hampton, 
    This is my letter of resignation from the Echo City Council effective January 2, 2018.
    Louis K. Nakapalau

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    Will you be flying Virgin America Airlines at all this fall? Catch three films in our CAAMFest spotlight, presented by the SkyFest independent film showcase on Virgin America airlines!

    “We’re thrilled to partner with SkyFest again to bring some of the biggest titles from CAAMFest 2016 to the skies,” said Masashi Niwano, the Center for Asian American Media’s Festival & Exhibitions Director. “These films showcase the diversity and depth of contemporary Asian American cinema.”

    Kumu Hina | Directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson

    Amidst the growing influence of Westernization, a transgender hula teacher strives to keep Native Hawaiian culture prosperous. On a subject rarely spoken of in Hawaii, this documentary pushes the struggles of being “in the middle” to the surface.

    Mad Tiger | Directed by Jonathan Yi

    MAD TIGER chronicles the relationship between two bandmates, Peelander-Yellow and Peelander-Red, of the Japanese performance-art band Peelander-Z. When Red quits, their friendship is tested and both are catapulted into finding greater meaning in their lives through their art and relationship with each other.

    Seoul Searching | Directed by Benson Lee

    SEOUL SEARCHING chronicles the shenanigans and personal journeys of a group of Korean teens — from around the globe — who are enrolled in a government-sponsored summer program. Set in the 1980s, it’s nostalgia at its best with a dazzling all-star ’80s soundtrack and painfully accurate costumes. Beyond the puffy pink prom dresses and oversized blazers, what shines is the journeys these characters go through: from an adopted daughter reconnecting with her biological mother to a professor haunted by past mistakes.

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  • "Run for Office, or you get Child Porn Convict Lou Nakapalau" ~ East Oregonian Editorial

    Our view: Run for Office, or you get Child Porn Convict Lou Nakapalau

    December 19, 2017

    Last year, no one in Echo filed to run for an open seat on the city council.

    That left open an avenue for Lou Nakapalau to win the seat with only eight write-in votes in the November 2016 election.

    It was later discovered that the councilman had been convicted of multiple counts of child pornography possession in 2000.

    Nakapalau has used his time on the council to bring nationwide embarrassment to the small city. He used his Facebook account to tell a gay filmmaker in Hawaii: “When you croak of AIDS (Anally Injected Death Serum) I’ll spit on your grave.”

    Media coverage of that comment, and Nakapalau’s unwillingness to apologize for it or even comment on it, brought an understandable backlash from some Echo residents against their city government. That backlash then spurred a backlash of its own, which created division and distrust in the community — from its political life to its downtown commerce to its public schools.

    It’s a mess. And it doesn’t appear that mess will get cleaned up soon. Nakapalau has shown no signs of resigning his seat, and city council has no ability to throw him out under Oregon law. It’s up to residents to start a recall petition.

    Gaining a seat on a city council or school board without filing for the ballot isn’t uncommon in Eastern Oregon, especially in smaller cities or for lower-profile positions.

    In Hermiston, former city council candidate Mark Gomolski won a seat on the Hermiston School Board with just 14 write-in votes. Perhaps he was the best person for the job (and he has certainly done nothing to embarrass the city or school district) but we think it’s undemocratic that such a small percentage of Hermiston voters chose who got that important seat.

    As we’ve said before, civic leadership can require a lot of work for very little thanks. It’s not a responsibility that people should take on lightly.

    But the moral of the story is clear: If no one runs for important local positions with a desire to improve their city, school district, or cemetery district — you may get someone of questionable values and skills. You will definitely get someone who did not campaign for the seat, and may not be familiar with the issues and how residents feel about them. You will get someone who does not have the support of the majority of the electorate.

    The best option, of course, is for many people to run for these positions, so voters can make an informed choice in a competitive race. That’s how a healthy, functioning democracy operates.

    But at the very least, someone must run publicly for each seat. A name must be on the ballot, because that gives the electorate enough time to mount a write-in campaign if that name is not to their liking.

    The risks are too great otherwise. An unqualified and unfit person can get a few votes and suddenly be misrepresenting your community and making decisions that negatively affect its future.

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  • Echo, Oregon Councilman Leaves Meeting When Asked About Child Porn Conviction (VIDEO) ~ KAPP TV

    By Galen Ettlin - December 15, 2017:

    ECHO, Ore. - A KAPP-KVEW investigation reveals a sitting city councilman and volunteer with local kids programs was convicted of possessing child pornography.

    Following an incident in October when Echo councilman Louis Kauhane Nakapalau used a homophobic slur online, several concerned Echo residents alerted KAPP-KVEW of the councilman’s possible criminal history.

    Court documents later obtained by KAPP-KVEW show Nakapalau, 66, was arrested on Oct. 21, 1999.

    An arrest report filed in Clark County, Washington said a witness alerted authorities of pornographic videos on Nakapalau’s computer that showed underage females engaged in sexual conduct with adults.

    Investigators then received a search warrant.

    “I observed ten video images, depicting females engaged in masturbation and oral sex,” the investigator wrote in a probable cause report. “Each picture shows females that have not developed breast, or pubic hair, appearing to be under 13 years of age.”

    On Feb. 24, 2000, Judge Roger Bennett of the Superior Court of Washington in Clark County found Nakapalau guilty of nine counts of possessing child pornography, sentencing him to 540 days in jail – 60 days per charge. However, the ruling ordered sentences to be served consecutively, so Nakapalau served a total of 60 days.

    In the sentencing document, Nakapalau was ordered to pay $1,310 in court fees, plus $1,200 for a psycho-sexual evaluation.

    Nakapalau received 12 months of community supervision, and was required to notify the community corrections officer of any change in his address or employment.

    A handwritten note on the court documents also dictated Nakapalau not possess a personal computer except for use of employment.

    Further down in the sentencing document, the sex offender registration requirement was crossed off. KAPP-KVEW spoke with former judge Bennett in Vancouver, who did not recall the 17-year-old case or why the section was scratched through.

    Multiple other law enforcement sources in Washington speculated the specific conviction or circumstances of the case in 2000 may not have required Nakapalau to register as a sex offender.

    KAPP-KVEW requested Nakapalau’s jail booking photo, which is protected under Washington state law for non-sex offenders. As of the publication of this article, a public records request for the photo and full police report is pending.

    Articles and photos published to the East Oregonian and City of Echo websites show Nakapalau in recent years giving a speech to high school students, sitting with the Girl Scouts and volunteering at a Halloween event with children this year.

    On Thursday afternoon, KAPP-KVEW reporters attended an Echo City Council meeting to ask Nakapalau about the documentation.

    Before the meeting started, our reporter asked to speak with Nakapalau for a few minutes, without stating the reason. Nakapalau walked away and said, “No sir, no comment.”

    KAPP-KVEW presented the court documents and asked for a response regarding the conviction for felony possession of child pornography. He refused to look at the printed probable cause sheet and guilty judgment, quickly leaving the council chamber repeating the words, “No comment.”

    “Would you like to say anything about it or your volunteer work with kids in the community?” our reporter asked.

    Nakapalau said no, then got in his car and drove a block away to his home.

    This is the full video of the interaction that lasted less than two minutes:

    After the meeting, Echo mayor Jeanne Hampton told KAPP-KVEW she could not comment directly on the conviction, saying this was the first time she had seen the court documents. She did, however, confirm the city recently looked into concerns of citizens who discovered the conviction. She said because there was no history found in Oregon, Echo officers did not look further.

    However, an incident report obtained Friday from the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon shows Nakapalau was reported for “Harassment Offensive Physical Contact” on April 18, 2005 against a victim who was underage at the time.

    Over the course of KAPP-KVEW’s investigation, discrepancies in Nakapalau’s date of birth slowed down the confirmation process tying him to the 1999 child porn conviction. Documents in Washington showed his birth year as 1951, while Morrow County documents for a traffic ticket showed the year as 1953.

    The newly uncovered Morrow County incident report for harassment, however, matches Nakapalau’s full name and date of birth as shown on the Clark County child porn conviction.

    Mayor Hampton said any further action would not be from the city, but rather would have to be from Echo residents who want a recall. After a complaint is filed, the decision would be put to a citywide vote needing at least 50 percent approval.

    Nakapalau has served as a council member for about one year, elected to the at-large position by write-in vote during the November 2016 election. Umatilla County Election records show he received eight votes.

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  • "Gay-bashing Oregon City Councilor Convicted of Possessing Child Porn" ~ East Oregonian


    The Echo City Council adopted a code of ethics and social media policy Thursday.

    By Jade McDowell, December 14, 2017:

    The Echo City Council adopted a code of ethics and social media policy on Thursday night, but Councilor Lou Nakapalau was not there to cast his vote after being confronted before the meeting by a member of the media about documents showing he had previously been convicted of possessing child pornography.

    Pam Reese, an Echo business owner, said Nakapalau showed up early to the VFW hall where the meeting was being held, but walked out without a word after a reporter from KVEW-TV in the Tri-Cities asked him about the documents.

    Reese has been a vocal opponent of Nakapalau since October, after the Echo councilor told Joe Wilson, a gay filmmaker from Hawaii, that he would spit on Wilson’s grave after he died of AIDS and called Wilson an anti-gay slur on Facebook.

    According to court documents obtained from Clark County, Washington, by the East Oregonian on Thursday morning, Nakapalau was found guilty in 2000 of nine felony counts of possessing “a depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.” Sentencing records state he was sentenced to 60 days custody in the county jail (52 served on work release) and was not allowed to possess a personal computer during his post-incarceration supervision. Another document states that in 2007 it was ordered that “the defendant’s civil rights lost by operation of law upon conviction be hereby restored.”

    Nakapalau was sworn in to the Echo city council in January after earning eight write-in votes for an empty seat. He spoke at Stanfield Secondary School’s assembly the week of Veteran’s Day as an Army veteran from the Vietnam War.

    Nakapalau did not return a phone message left Thursday night and has not responded to previous attempts by the East Oregonian to reach him after his comments to Wilson. After those comments came to light, he attended a city council meeting on Oct. 19 in which Councilor Robert Harris asked that the council make a public apology for Nakapalau’s words and work on adopting a social media policy.

    Nakapalau did not comment during the meeting. The city issued a public apology afterward referencing “comments made by a councilor in a Facebook dialog” and stating that the city did not endorse discrimination or disparaging remarks against someone based on their sexual orientation, race, etc.

    An ethics policy and a social media policy were both unanimously adopted by the Echo city council on Thursday night. The social media policy tells councilors and staff that they are “solely responsible for what you post online.”

    “Posting inappropriate remarks about co-workers, council members or members of the public, which may be viewed as discriminatory, harassing, bullying, malicious, obscene, threatening violence, intimidating, comments meant to intentionally harm someone’s reputation, retaliation to what you preserve (sic) to be another’s negative post, and similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct as a representative of the City of Echo will not be tolerated and may be subject to disciplinary action up to or including dismissal if you are a city Employee,” the policy reads.

    It also asks people to be mature, fair and accurate in their posts.

    Both city administrator Diane Berry and city attorney Bill Kuhn stressed that it was only city employees, not public officials, that could be removed from their position with the city if they violate the policy.

    “The only recourse for removing a council member is through the recall process,” Berry said. “Oregon does not have an impeachment process for local officials.”

    The ethics policy covers Oregon law about conflicts of interest and other issues, and asks that councilors realize their actions affect the city, possibly for years or generations to come. It also asks them to be aware of how their conversations and appearance outside of council meetings reflects on the city.

    “Do not speak for the council to citizens or the press unless you have been given that duty or responsibility specifically by the council as a whole through a council motion,” the policy states. “The council is a body and you as a council member have no power or jurisdiction outside the body unless specifically given by the council.”

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  • "When Online Worlds Collide" ~ East Oregonian Editorial

    Editorial - October 23, 2017

    The internet troll, once an anonymous denizen of message boards and chat rooms who held little sway in the real world, has come into the light with the prevalence and power of social media.

    We used to be able to dismiss his presence as the ugly fringe of cyberspace, a reaction-seeking miscreant spewing inciting, hateful speech from a basement somewhere far away. We used to be able to rationalize that his words represent no real human being, and certainly none we respect or admire or who have any actual power in our lives. And we could altogether ignore him quite easily, as our daily lives weren't so intertwined with the internet.

    But now that we've all (or nearly all) moved into his domain, the troll is everywhere we turn. And we've come to the chilling realization that he is among us in real life, too.

    We saw it earlier this month as Echo city councilman Lou Nakapalau weaponized his Facebook account in a war of words with a documentary filmmaker. Nakapalau accosted director Joe Wilson, who is gay, on the page for his film "Kumu Hina," using slurs and saying if Wilson died of AIDS he would spit on his grave. The men have never met in person. Nakapalau has since removed the comments from the page.

    Nakapalau has not responded to several attempts to ask about the encounter, and as the city council met Thursday about how to address the remarks he sat silent and expressionless in the chambers. He didn't say a word as the council voted to apologize for his offensive words, and none of his fellow council members addressed him.

    That's shameful, and a real shame.

    The city issued a broad apology to any who were offended by the comments and noted that the personal accounts of individual councilors are not endorsed by the city. It also said the city does not and will not enact policies that are biased against classes or groups of people. And in the final line it says the council is made up of volunteers who have the right to free speech.

    It's the kind of statement that doesn't make anything better, but is issued to make sure things don't get worse. It's a safe and generic stance that declines to mention the offending party — Nakapalau — by name, though it does take the time to mention the East Oregonian, who first reported the insults, and Facebook, the platform on which the comments were made. As if either are more responsible for the behavior than the man himself.

    Nakapalau has the right to speak his mind. He's a volunteer councilman solely on the merit of earning eight write-in votes last November. And because he was elected, his words — even the ones he fired off to antagonize and belittle a stranger from another state, but never meant to be seen by friends and neighbors — carry weight. The citizens of Echo deserve to hear what he has to say for himself. The people of Umatilla County and beyond deserve to know how the city responds to this kind of hate.

    Echo is not the sleepy town it once was. New wineries, downtown dining and Main Street restoration have created a beautiful place for a visit, and events like last weekend's Oktoberfest and the springtime Red 2 Red mountain bike race have brought in new life and the potential for even more tourism.

    While some have demanded an apology from Nakapalau, we don't believe forcing such a statement has value. If he regrets the statement and the effect it had on another person, we want to know that. If he just regrets the trouble it has caused himself, he should say it.

    If he doesn't have the decency or courage to even own his words, we'd suggest he step down.

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  • "Oregon Councilman Attacks Hawaii Filmmaker" ~ KITV 4 Island News

    By Paul Drewes ~ October 25, 2017

    An Oregon Councilman fires anti-gay slurs at a Hawaii film maker.

    Then came an apology, but not by the man who took aim at the LGBT community.

    The documentary film Kumu Hina shows the challenges and struggles of Hina Wong-Kalu, known as Kumu Hina, who is a Native Hawaiian transgender woman.

    "Those who are in touch with our culture and history know to be mahu or transgender is part and parcel of our daily life," said Wong-Kalu.

    Earlier this month on the film's promotional website, Oregon Councilman Lou Nakapalau expressed his displeasure over the upcoming movie. He stated he was "sick of the LGBTQ crowd shoving their hokeyed up agenda down my throat."

    "This is a facebook page for a film that you wouldn't be seeing unless you were following it," said movie director Joe Wilson.

    Wilson, who is gay, responded to the comment. Which prompted Nakapalau to add "when you croak of AIDS.... I'll spit on your grave."

    Nakapalau's online comment was later deleted, and he declined to comment for this story to our mainland news partner. But as word of what happened spread, the social media story started making its way around the country.

    "You really need to keep those things just to yourself," said Robert Harris, a fellow Echo Councilman who apologized on behalf of the city.

    Nakapalau has not said or posted any apology, publicly or even privately to the Hawaii filmmaker.

    "Surprisingly enough, Lou Nakapalau is a Hawaiian... long removed from Hawaii," said Wong-Kalu.

    Now some in the small Oregon town feel the councilman should no longer be in office.

    "I'd like to see Mr. Nakapalau resign," said Echo business owner Pamela Reese.

    Even though Wilson was personally attacked, what concerned him the most was that someone in a position of power would lash out at any single individual or group.

    Kumu Hina has seen an abundance of support since her story came out, but she also knows there remain some negativity directed at the LGBT community,.

    "We have a long way to go in terms of understanding and acceptance," added Wong-Kalu.

    Not only on the mainland, but also in Hawaii.

    "There will always be people with negative feelings. There is certainly still homophobia. There is racism and people who don't like a different group of people," said Joe Bock, the Vice Chair of the LGBT Legacy Foundation.

    But Bock countered, as demonstrated by the largest Honolulu Pride events over the past week, there is also overwhelming support by the people of Hawaii, along with island businesses and organizations for the LGBT community.

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  • "Town rallies support for LGBTQ community following councilman's anti-gay comments" ~ KAPP-KVEW News

    By Galen Ettlin - October 24, 2017:

    ECHO, Ore. - A small town in eastern Oregon is in the national spotlight for comments made by one its city council members.

    It all started in early October, screenshots showing Echo councilman Lou Nakapalou commenting on a fan page for Kumu Hina, a film about a transgender woman in Hawaii.

    “Sick of LBGTQ crowd shoving their whole keyed up agenda down my throat,” Nakapalou’s first comment said.

    LGBTQ filmmaker Joe Wilson responded, in what he calls a humorous, mocking way.

    “Louie Louie Louie Louie – the confederate flag on your own page says it all. #Sad”

    Nakapalau doubled down, saying he has relatives who are LGBTQ whom he loves, but that he did not want “your lifestyle down my throat.”

    Wilson responded again:

    “No one is trying to shove anything down your throat, though your protests indicate that that is what you would likely most enjoy. Rather, it is necessary that people of any and all walks of life be protected from being harmed by the bigotry of those of your ilk.”

    To this, Nakapalau typed: “When you croak of AIDS (Anally Injected Death Serum) I’ll spit on your grave queerbait Beahajajaha.”

    In a video call Sunday night from Taiwan, Wilson spoke with KAPP-KVEW about the incident.

    “This is a Facebook Page for a film that you wouldn't be seeing unless you were following it,” Wilson said. “When I saw that it was a city council person who felt free enough to express this kind of hate and ugliness publicly-- it's quite alarming.”

    As of Tuesday evening, Nakapalaou had not issued a public statement. Several unconfirmed screenshots sent to KAPP-KVEW show him commenting on a KVEW broadcast segment Monday saying: “The [East Oregonian] and KVEW blew it way out of proportion. So you now have a choice, believe the news or believe me.”

    In another post only visible to friends of Nakapalou, a screenshot image shows him saying Tuesday:

    “I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for my extremely rude and insensitive comment(s) I made to Joe Wilson. There was no excuse for this and I’m not offering any. This was on a Face Book post, on a group we both belonged to and was made as a private citizen and not under color of my office. I can only reiterate that I do not in any way shape or form hate the LGBTQ community.”

    This apology comes half-a-week after a Thursday council meeting in Echo, during which another councilman, Robert Harris, issued an apology on behalf of the city, also posting to Facebook, in part:

    “I as a human deeply apologize for the harmful and disrespectful comments made.”

    Harris said after learning of the comments last week, he consulted with council before presenting at the meeting.

    Harris said he is now going through current city bylaws to consider presenting a new social media policy for elected officials.

    “You really need to keep those things-- your personal thoughts and views --just to yourself,” Harris said in a recorded interview, referring to groups of elected officials as a whole. “Otherwise, you lose trust.”

    Upset residents and LGBTQ advocates like PFLAG Pendleton Oregon Chapter have praised Harris’s apologies and efforts to create more future accountability.

    However, some feel more should be done to address Nakapalou’s comments directly.

    “I would like to see Mr. Nakapalau resign,” Echo teacher and Buttercreek Coffeehouse and Mercantile co-owner Pamela Reese said. “To me silence is complicity, and there is a lot of silence right now.”

    The story first published by the East Oregonian has now reached national publications, such asRaw Story and Gay Star News, putting the town of about 700 at the center of fiery debate.

    “It's not going to get swept under the rug,” Harris said, referring to his efforts to create new policy. “Things are going to be put in place. And how that stuff gets dealt with will be determined.”

    All the way in Taiwan, Wilson continues to feel the ripple effect, regularly posting updates of the news to social media.

    “While this was an ugly incident initially, it has turned into a moment of opportunity,” he said. “And what we really need to see is the city council, the mayor, the city manager of Echo -- stand up and say something, too.”

    KAPP-KVEW has reached out directly to Lou Nakapalou via Facebook for comment, as well as knocking on his door, without answer. Our reporter was told by a staff member at Echo City Hall a message left for Nakapalou was passed along.

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  • Oregon City Council Member Tells Gay Man: ‘I’ll Spit on Your Grave When You Die of AIDS' - INTO Magazine

    Lou Nakapalau has deleted many of his remarks, but that may not be enough for town residents. Many are calling for his removal from the city council.

    by Nico Lang ~ October 24, 2017:

    An Oregon town has apologized after a member of its city council told a gay man to go die of AIDS.

    Lou Nakapalau, who sits on the council of Echo City, reportedly harassed filmmaker Joe Wilson on Facebook in response to an article Wilson posted on workplace protections for transgender people. Nakapalau claimed that he was “sick of the LGBTQ crowd shoving their keyed up agenda down my throat.”

    The ensuing conversation included a number of anti-gay epithets lobbed at Wilson, which were later deleted. Nakapalau subsequently began to threaten the documentarian—whose latest film, Kumu Hina, profiles a transgender woman in Hawaii.
    “When you croak of AIDS (Anally Injected Death Serum),” the politician said, “I’ll spit on your grave!”

    Nakapalau has yet to speak publicly on his comments, but the Echo City council voted during its most recent meeting to issue an apology to Wilson. The board claimed that Nakapalau’s remarks do not reflect the local government’s views of LGBTQ people.

    “The Echo City Council would like to extend its sincerest apology to those who were offended [...],” the council said in a statement. “Comments of individual council members on their personal social media accounts do not have any endorsement or approval of the council as a whole nor do they represent city policy.”

    Echo City council member Robert Harris claimed that the apology was the “absolute least” the town can do to make amends to the LGBTQ community. Nakapalau was present for the decision and voted in favor of issuing the statement.

    The mea culpa may not be enough for some.

    Townsfolk turned up at the Echo City Council meeting to advocate that Nakapalau be removed from his position. Local resident Jenny Sullivan told the city’s leadership that she is “absolutely disgusted” by Nakapalau’s remarks.

    “[A]ny self-respecting council would throw him off,” she said.

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  • "Oregon Council Member Ignites Online Feud With Hate Against Kumu Hina Filmmaker" - Instinct Magazine

    By David Lopez - October 23, 2017:

    Echo City, Oregon councilmember, Lou Nakapalau, recently got into an online feud with openly gay filmmaker Joe Wilson. On the Facebook page for Wilson’s film Kumu Hina, Nakapalau voice his distaste after an article that talked about transgender workers no longer being protected by federal anti-discrimination laws. Kumu Hina, is a documentary about a transwoman from Hawaii.

    During the back and forth fight, Nakapalau expressed that he is “sick of the LGBTQ crowd shoving their ho keyed up agenda down my throat.”

    But the argument reached crescendo when Nakapalau declared “When you croak of AIDS (Anally Injected Death Serum) I’ll spit on your grave!”

    The councilmember has refused to apologize for his remarks, but after editing away some profanity and other expletives, the comments were removed from Facebook.

    According to the East Oregonian, the Echo City council has issued a public apology about the events. Here is their full statement:

    "The Echo City Council would like to extend its sincerest apology to those who were offended by comments made by a council member in a Facebook dialog reported by the East Oregonian. Comments of individual council members on their personal social media accounts do not have any endorsement or approval of the council as a whole nor do they represent city policy. The City would never endorse or approve any statement that disparages any person because of his or her race, ethnicity, religion, age, sex, or sexual orientation.

    Further the City of Echo has never taken any action or set any policy that was in any sense prejudicial or biased toward a class or group of people.

    The city council is made up of elected volunteers who donate their time without any form of compensation and who have rights like other citizens such as freedom of speech."

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  • "City council member tells Kumu Hina filmmaker he'll spit on his grave after he dies of AIDS" - Gay Star News

    By Anya Crittenton - October 23, 2017:
    The city of Echo, Oregon issued an apology after a city council member’s disturbing Facebook comments on 7 October.
    City councilor Lou Nakapalau made the comments on a Facebook page for the film Kumu Hina. The film in question is about a transgender Hawaiian woman.
    Nakapalau got into an argument with filmmaker Joe Wilson about transgender rights. The debate culminated in Nakapalau telling Wilson he was going to spit on his grave after Wilson dies of AIDS.
    Some of the comments have since been deleted, while others were edited for profanity.
    City councilor Robert Harris proposed the apology last week at a meeting. At first, there was silence and no move to the second the motion. As the audience began to cry out, fellow councilor Janie Enright seconded. The rest of the council voted unanimously to approve the motion, while Nakapalau remained quiet.
    ‘You are safe here’
    In the city’s statement, they ‘extend its sincerest apology to those who were offended by comments made by a council member in a Facebook dialog’.
    It continues: ‘Comments of individual council members on their personal social media accounts do not have any endorsement or approval of the council as a whole nor do they represent city policy.’
    Along with the apology, Harris also suggested the council come up with ethics guidelines regarding social media use of council members.
    However, despite calls from some city members for Nakapalau’s resignation, Harris affirms that’s not what he was trying to do.
    Furthermore, while Harris issued an apology on his own Facebook page, Nakapalau has yet to do so.

    Still, some of the city’s residents are taking matters into their own hands.
    Pam Reese and other business owners posted signs on their front doors reading: ‘We stand with you. You are safe here.’

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  • "City of Echo, OR Issues Apology for Councilor’s Facebook Comments" ~ East Oregonian

    Jade McDowell ~ October 22, 2017

    The city of Echo has issued an apology for statements made by city councilor Lou Nakapalau on Facebook calling a gay man an anti-gay slur and telling him that when he dies of AIDS he will spit on his grave.

    “The Echo City Council would like to extend its sincerest apology to those who were offended by comments made by a council member in a Facebook dialog reported by the East Oregonian,” the statement reads. “Comments of individual council members on their personal social media accounts do not have any endorsement or approval of the council as a whole nor do they represent city policy.”

    The statement goes on to say that the city does not endorse any statement that disparages someone because of their identity and has never taken an action or adopted a policy that was “in any sense prejudicial or biased toward a class or group of people.”

    City councilor Robert Harris proposed issuing the apology during Thursday’s council meeting — the first since Nakapalau made the comments on Oct. 7.

    “I think that’s the absolute least we can do,” Harris said.

    His motion was met with several seconds of silence from the rest of the council, prompting an outcry from audience members as it looked like the motion might die from a lack of a second. Harris looked at councilor Jerry Gaunt, who told Harris he didn’t have to second it, but councilor Janie Enright said she had seconded the motion while people were talking. The council, including Nakapalau, then voted unanimously to approve the motion.

    Nakapalau did not offer any comment during the council meeting and has not returned requests for comment. The Facebook comments in question happened on the Facebook page for “Kumu Hina,” a documentary about a transgender Hawaiian woman. Nakapalau argued with filmmaker Joe Wilson about transgender rights, culminating in his comment about spitting on Wilson’s grave. The comment has since been deleted and Facebook shows Nakapalau edited another part of the conversation to remove profanity.

    Thursday’s meeting started with public comment from Vickie Read of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Read, who is from Pendleton, said if the city does not publicly condemn Nakapalau’s words that could imply other city leaders support the ideas he expressed.

    Read said she regrets her own ignorance in years past, when her son, who was 17 at the time, told her he was gay and she responded by saying he didn’t fit the stereotypes she had grown up with and so it wasn’t possible for him to actually be gay.

    “He said, ‘Mom, why would I choose to be something people hate?’” she said. “I realized he was right.”

    She said she felt like the world had also grown more tolerant in the years since, but reading about Nakapalau’s comments gave her the realization that “we have not moved on.”

    Jenny Sullivan of Hermiston also spoke up, saying she couldn’t imagine a gay person wanting to move to the area after reading the comments.

    “I’m absolutely disgusted and think any self-respecting council would throw him off,” she said.

    After the council addressed agenda items, Harris said he had not been able to find any sort of policy about Echo councilors’ speech or social media use, and proposed that the council come up with an ethics statement and social media policy to provide guidance for any future incidents, and also that the council issue an apology.

    City administrator Diane Berry said she had brought examples of such policies before the council in the past and they had not expressed interest in adopting them, but she could bring them forward again. She cautioned, however, that cities are much more limited on what they could do to an elected official versus a city employee. City attorney Bill Kuhn said the council was “not in a position” to remove a fellow councilor from office, but the council could ask for an apology from Nakapalau or post something on their own Facebook pages.

    Harris said he wasn’t trying to remove Nakapalau from the council but did think they needed to send a unified message.

    “Something that goes to the public that says we’re dealing with it the best we can,” he said. “I’m saying we stand up and apologize and say we’re doing something to fix it.”

    Pam Reese, a Main Street business owner who was present at the meeting, said in an email Friday that a public apology is the “least the council could do to send a message that Echo is an inclusive community.”

    “It was mystifying to watch a group of elected officials struggle to understand how to do the right thing about the hate speech of one of its members,” Reese said.

    She said that while she supported an apology, she thought it would be more appropriate to take a stronger stand by calling for Nakapalau’s resignation. She and a few other business owners have placed signs on their door stating that they welcome all races, religions, countries of origin, sexual orientations and genders in response to the controversy.

    “We stand with you. You are safe here,” the sign states.

    In 2014 Echo School’s student government president was Zach Christensen, an openly gay senior. Christensen, who lives in Stanfield, said while he was going to school in Echo he did receive pushback from some adults on a proposal to start a Gay-Straight Alliance chapter. But the chapter was approved, and he said friends, classmates, family and members of his church from the area were mostly supportive, despite Echo being a small, largely conservative town.

    He said he feels Nakapalau is entitled to express his opinions. But he also said Nakapalau should realize that the consequence may be a backlash from people who disagree with his views.

    “There (are) LGBT youth in Echo and they probably heard that by now and it does affect them, so I think it would be good for them to hear an apology,” Christensen said, “but I think it would make more sense for him to make the apology.”

    Harris has made a post apologizing for Nakapalau’s comments on his own Facebook page, and told the East Oregonian Friday he couldn’t speak to what other city councilors were thinking but he hopes any hesitation that happened Thursday stemmed from “a lack of knowing what to do.”

    “It’s not the mistakes we make that define us, it’s how we move forward from our mistakes,” he said.

    A sign on the door of the Buttercreek Coffeehouse and Mercantile in Echo states people of all sexual orientations are welcome.

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  • "Facebook Comments by Oregon City Councilor Highlight Fears of Coming Out" ~ East Oregonian

    Facebook Comments by Oregon City Councilor Highlight Fears of Coming Out

    By Jade McDowell – October 10, 2017

    When filmmaker Joe Wilson, a gay man who makes documentaries about members of the LGBTQ community, began arguing with a man on Facebook about transgender discrimination, it was hardly his first time dealing with angry comments about gay and transgender people.

    As the confrontation escalated, however, and Wilson clicked on the man’s profile, he was alarmed to see that the man he was arguing with — Lou Nakapalau — was an Echo, Oregon city councilor.

    “When you croak of AIDS (Anally Injected Death Serum) I’ll spit on your grave queerbait,” Nakapalau wrote, adding the anti-gay slur.

    As the LGBTQ community and their allies prepare to celebrate National Coming Out Day on Wednesday, Wilson said the fact that a city official would feel so comfortable saying things on a public Facebook page shows how much work remains to help people feel safe coming out as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer).

    “It’s taking a big step in life, if you know people have that kind of horrific and visceral reaction that can have very dangerous consequences,” he said.

    It can set a tone for other people in a community to feel that they can echo their leaders, he said, or can make LGBTQ community members worry their leaders will set discriminatory policies or be prejudiced against them.

    “If somebody is an elected official, it means they have a soapbox, a platform, to say things,” he said.

    Nakapalau did not return a Facebook message, email or voicemail asking for comment, and Echo city administrator Diane Berry declined to comment. Nakapalau, a Vietnam war veteran, was sworn in as a new city councilor in January after receiving the most write-in votes for an uncontested seat in the town of about 700.

    The exchange between Wilson, who lives in Hawaii, and Nakapalau happened on the “Kumu Hina” Facebook page, named after a documentary Wilson released in 2014 about a transgender Hawaiian woman. Wilson had posted an article about the Trump administration’s statement that transgender workers are not protected by federal anti-discrimination laws. Nakapalau commented that transgender people already have rights and he’s “Sick of the LBGTQ crowd shoving their ho keyed up agenda down my throat.”

    Wilson responded by calling Nakapalau “sad” and said that the Confederate flag on his profile “says it all.” As the men continued to argue, Nakapalau called Wilson a profanity and said he has “relatives that are LBGTQ whom l love and I’ll defend them to my last breath” but didn’t want to be forced to support something he didn’t believe in, while Wilson accused Nakapalau of bigotry and said “no one is trying to shove anything down your throat, though your protests indicate that that is what you would likely most enjoy.” That’s when Nakapalau said he would spit on Wilson’s grave.

    Wilson said his quip was trying to use “humor and mocking” to show the comments weren’t welcome. He said comments like Nakapalau’s, and silence from others in response, has a chilling effect on members of the LGBTQ community coming out. Wilson said the incident was especially jarring because in 2010 he visited nearby Hermiston and Pendleton to screen his film “Out In the Silence,” about the experience of being openly gay in a small, rural town.

    Haley Talamontes knows what it’s like being gay in a small town. She said her experience living in Hermiston has included wonderful people, but also closed-minded people. A few years ago when she volunteered at a booth at the Umatilla County Fair for Umatilla Morrow Alternatives, a since-disbanded group that advocated for equality for minorities, she said a few people called her homophobic names in front of her children or told her she was “not right in the head.”

    She said when she came out as a lesbian she finally felt truly free. But it didn’t come without consequences.

    “You lose friends, you lose family,” she said. “My mom doesn’t talk to me.”

    In November President Donald Trump told CBS he was “fine” with gay marriage, and years before becoming president indicated his support of the LGBTQ community numerous times, including a 2000 interview in which he said he would support adding sexual orientation to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But some in his administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, have been vocal opponents of gay marriage, and since Trump became president his administration has announced a ban on transgender soldiers in the military and argued in court that federal law does not protect gay or transgender workers from discrimination by employers.

    Talamontes said the Trump administration’s attitudes toward LGBTQ issues has caused some people to treat their sexual orientation more carefully, similar to undocumented immigrants who are now more careful about revealing their status.

    That’s why she caused a scene at the doctor’s office the other day when the nurse insisted her 12-year-old daughter had to answer a question about her sexual orientation as part of a well child check-up. Talamontes said her daughter isn’t gay, but Talamontes worries for young people who are and may have parents who would kick them out of the house or abuse them if they found out.

    She also worries that if she were the patient, answering the question truthfully could cause her problems later if she moved to a state with fewer anti-discrimination protections and any nurse or insurance agent could pull up that information.

    Talamontes said she just wants to be loved and respected and not treated like she has some sort of “grotesque disease” that someone may catch from standing too close.

    For members of the LGBTQ community or their friends and family who are looking for support, Pendleton has a chapter of PFLAG, short for Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. They can be contacted at 541-966-8414, pflag.pendleton.or@gmail.com or the PFLAG Pendleton Oregon Chapter Facebook page.

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  • New Film from "Kumu Hina" Team to Premiere in Washington, DC and Los Angeles

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  • "A Multimedia Community Educational Campaign for Gender Diversity & Inclusion" - The Communication Initiative Network

    The Kumu Hina Project

    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." - "Kumu Hina" filmmakers

    The Kumu Hina Project is a multimedia community educational campaign for gender diversity and inclusion rooted in Hawaiian culture. "Kumu Hina" is a documentary film about the struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture and values within the Westernised society of modern day Hawaii, United States (US). It is told through the lens of a Native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident mahu, or transgender woman, and an honoured and respected kumu, or teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader. Revolving around the film and curricular tools to spark discussion and learning within the school context, the initiative offers a model of the advantages diversity brings to the entire community and the importance of understanding and preserving indigenous culture. Exploring topics ranging from bullying to colonialism, from the importance of parental acceptance and support to the difficulties of holding onto Pacific Islander values, "Kumu Hina" is designed to appeal to everyone who seeks a more just and peaceful world.

    Communication Strategies:

    The 1 hour and 17-minute-long film traces the evolution of a real person, Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu (Hina), 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. The documentary opens with the stereotypical scene of Hawaii: palm trees and surfing. Then, it turns to Halau Lokahi Charter School, a Hawaiian culture-learning environment. Students at Halau Lokahi learn to hula and preserve their native heritage. "Kumu Hina" stands for kumu, or dance instructor. One of Hina's sixth-grade students, Ho'Onani Kamai, is considered to be in the middle, neither male nor female, like Hina. As Hina contemplates who should lead the school's all-male hula troupe, Ho'onani (who is proud to be seen as a mixture of boy and girl) presents herself as a surprising candidate. As teacher and student, both of whom are very comfortable in their skin despite being considered different, prepare for a climactic end-of-year dance 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, offers a deeper understanding of the true meaning of "aloha": love, honour, and respect for all. Hina's husband, Haemaccelo Kalu, is worried about how others perceive him and that people would think he was homosexual since he married a mahu. Throughout the film, Hina also struggles with her identity in their marriage; she feels as if she has to play a role as a wife even though she does not want to embrace that gender identify.

    The film has been screened around the world. The major distribution channel has been public television in the US (on Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS), but it has also played at over 100 film festivals around the country and world. There have also been screenings connected to advocacy events. For instance, in December 2016, transgender activists, government representatives, community representatives, diplomats, and United Nations (UN) experts gathered in Islamabad at the UN Information Centre to discuss the educational, economic, and health issues facing the transgender community in Pakistan. Jointly organised by the High Commission of Canada and the UN Information Centre, the panel discussions were followed by the screening of "Kumu Hina". (Though officially accepted and even recognised in the that country's 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.) To read a message from the film's creators about how they have carried out outreach, distribution, and engagement for "Kumu Hina", click here.

    Organisers have developed tools to use with both the full documentary "Kumu Hina" and a shorter children's film called "A Place in the Middle", for students from kindergarten through graduate school. The Kumu Hina educator's guide [PDF]can guide teachers in showing, and engaging in dialogue about, the film in classes on a variety of topics, including Gender, Women's Studies, Ethnic and Cultural Studies, Sexuality, Health, and Film Studies. The film can be used to discuss: the power that comes from understanding one's own culture and respecting the cultures of others; the Hawaiian concepts of mahu, gender fluidity, and inclusion; the benefits of diversity to individuals, schools, and the broader community; the true meaning of aloha and its core concepts of love, honour and respect; how contact with Westerners altered Native Hawaiian culture, contemporary attempts at revival and preservation, and the benefits of preserving indigenous knowledge and perspectives; ways to empower gender creative youth and prompt schools and other institutions to be inclusive of students across the gender spectrum; and how to help families, communities, policymakers, and other leaders understand that all people deserve acceptance, inclusion and equal treatment. Visit the Kumu Hina website for more details about how educators can use the film, as well as to sign the "Aloha Pledge".

    "A Place in the Middle" (see below) is a shorter (24-minute-long) children's version of Kumu Hina, telling Ho'onani's story through her own voice and colourful animation. "Ask your local school or your workplace to show this film as part of their curriculum or employee training program, or perhaps as a special event associated with the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20), International Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31), Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May), or Indigenous People's Day (aka [also known as] Columbus Day). The film and accompanying educational materials are available through the "A Place in the Middle" website.

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  • Hawaii Film About Transgender Woman Is At Center Of Federal Debate - Honolulu Civil Beat

    by Chad Blair - April 13, 2017:

    A documentary film about a transgender woman in Hawaii that has received awards and won wide praise is being cited by a Republican congressman as a waste of government money and a reason to eliminate federal funding for public broadcasting.

    Maryland Republican Andy Harris made his remarks at a House subcommittee hearing where the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was speaking with lawmakers.

    President Donald Trump’s proposed budget calls for eliminating funding for CPB, which uses federal support to help fund National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service. The administration also wants to cut all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    IndieWire reported late last month that the CPB head heard “mostly support” from congressional members in attendance. But that was not the case with Harris, who in addition to dissing “Kumu Hina” also identified the documentaries “he New Black” and “Baby Mama High” as inappropriate for government funding.

    All three documentaries were supported by PBS’ “Independent Lens” series.

    “When you produce shows like ‘Kumu Hina,’ almost a third-of-a-million-dollar investment, or ‘Baby Mama High’ (which cost) $50,000 … I have to respond to people in my district … and in fact they would resent if I was publicly funding that,” Harris said.

    Harris suggested that the CPB had a political agenda in supporting the films.

    Stories About Women Of Color

    “Kumu Hina,” released in 2014, chronicles a year in the life of Honolulu resident Hina Wong-Kalu, a Native Hawaiian mahu, or transgender person. As a kumu (“teacher” and “community leader”), Wong-Kalu uses traditional culture to inspire her students.

    “Baby Mama High,” released in 2013, is about the large number of American Latina teens who become pregnant, while “The New Black,” released in 2013, explores the battle for marriage equality in African-American communities.

    “I can’t explain to the people in my district why CPB invested $302,000 in ‘Kumu Hina,'” Harris said. “You give me the explanation, how I go to my constituents and say that was a good investment of their tax dollars. I’m in a highly Republican, conservative district.”

    Last week, the directors of all three films — including Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, who produced and directed “Kumu Hina” — issued a statement in response to Harris. They said the congressman unfairly attacked and mischaracterized their work.

    “Each of these films focused on different stories about women of color in America,” they wrote. “We encourage viewers who appreciate seeing these and other stories of diverse, independent voices on public TV to contact their representatives. You may wish to tell Rep. Harris that you support the CPB by contacting him directly.

    Hamer and Wilson, who live on Oahu’s North Shore, rejected Harris’ notion of a subversive agenda for the films.

    In addition to national broadcast on “Independent Lens,” Wilson said, the Hawaii film “remains available for classroom use in public schools, colleges and universities across the country, being used primarily to help students training to become teachers deepen their understanding of diversity and inclusion.”

    Said Hamer: “I think the only agenda behind ‘Kumu Hina’ is to let people know the true meaning of aloha, and to educate students about the real history of Hawaii.”

    Hamer said that PBS plays an important role in Hawaii because the islands are isolated from the rest of the United States.

    He noted that Wong-Kalu, commonly known as Hina, is now teaching cultural empowerment at the Oahu Community Correctional Center and the Halawa Correctional Facility. Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in the jail and prison populations.

    Wilson said this about Harris’s criticism:

    The thing that we don’t want to be missed in this little kerfuffle is the way in which these inflammatory attacks, even when seemingly isolated or ineffective, are in their aggregate aimed at undermining public confidence in, and thereby support for, our public media, a unique outlet that helps to ensure that the full diversity of our communities are included in national conversations on the most important issues of the day, regardless of commercial appeal.

    He added, “Such attacks also divert attention from the educational value added by CPB’s relatively small investments in the production of content that would likely otherwise not see the light of day.”

    According to its website, CBP has “been the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting and the largest single source of funding for public radio, television, and related online and mobile services” since 1968.

    CPB estimates that about $1.35 per American is spent per year to provide “essential operational support for the nearly 1,500 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations, which reach virtually every household in the country.”

    Trump’s Budget ‘Not Going To Happen’

    The organization’s total funding request for fiscal year 2018 is $445 million, with most of it going to public television and radio stations and programming.

    Many of those groups have other funding support — for example, funding from CPB makes up less than 1 percent of NPR’s annual operating budget.

    The 2017 budget request for the National Endowment for the Arts was about $150 million, as was the request from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    To put that into perspective, consider that estimates to build Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border range from $8 billion to $40 billion.

    Trump’s proposed budget, which must be negotiated with Congress by September, was widely panned by members of both parties.

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, said last month, “The president’s budget proposal is simply that – a proposal. It’s not going to happen.”

    Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote a recent op-ed for The New York Times titled, “Save PBS. It makes us safer.”

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  • "Kumu Hina Documentary Takes Center Stage in National Debate Over PBS Funding" - Hawaii News Now

    http://KHNL.images.worldnow.com/interface/js/WNVid... href="http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com" title="Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL">Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNLHawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

    By Ben Gutierrez, Reporter - Hawaii News Now - April 13, 2017

    HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

    A locally-produced and critically acclaimed PBS documentary on a Hawaiian transgender woman is now at the center of the debate over whether federal funding should be cut for public broadcasting.

    President Donald Trump's proposed budget would zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports PBS. The CPB budget request totals $446 million for fiscal year 2018.

    Maryland Congressman Andy Harris, a Republican, cited the locally-produced documentary, "Kumu Hina," as one of the reasons why federal funding should be eliminated.

    "I have to respond to people in my district who say, you know, given what 'Kumu Hina' is about, my district doesn't care of CPB produced that," Harris said at a March 28 House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington. "In fact, they would resent if I was publicly funding that."

    "Kumu Hina" is about Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a locally prominent Native Hawaiian transgender woman who is a teacher and activist. The documentary was first shown on PBS Hawaii, and then nationally. Harris questions why public funding should be used for such a film.

    "You know what? Just can't fund it any more," he said. "I can't explain to people in my district why CPB invested $302,000 in 'Kumu Hina.'"

    "I find it quite interesting -- and somewhat amusing -- that a little face out in the Pacific Ocean was cited as as reason for a budget cut," Wong-Kalu said in response to the uproar. She said her friends and supporters are upset that the documentary has become a focal point in the debate.

    "PBS is about empowering and enabling the nominalized, marginalized voices within the diversity of our community," she said.

    "The response to 'Kumu Hina' here locally has been overwhelmingly positive," said Liberty Peralta, Vice President of Communications at PBS Hawaii. "We value being inclusive and sharing multiple points of view, and 'Kumu Hina' is just one of those stories that does that."

    Kumu Hina herself is hoping PBS funding will survive the budget ax.

    "That is very, very unfortunate. It's regrettable," she said. "I hope that it will actually not come to pass."

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    On March 28, 2017 during the Congressional Subcommittee Hearing on President Trump's plan to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Rep. Andy Harris (R, Maryland) singled out three PBS broadcast documentary films that he thought should not have been supported by public dollars: The New Black (directed by Yoruba Richen), Kumu Hina (directed by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer), and Baby Mama High (directed by Heather Ross).

    Each of these films focused on different stories about women of color in America. We encourage viewers who appreciate seeing these and other stories of diverse, independent voices on public TV to contact their representatives. You may wish to tell Rep. Harris that you support the CPB by contacting him directly: https://harris.house.gov/contact-me.

    The New Black, which aired through the national PBS series Independent Lens, tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with gay rights in light of the the equal marriage movement and the fight over civil rights. The film documents activists, families and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage. The New Black takes viewers into the pews, onto the streets, and inside family kitchens as it follows the historic effort to pass Maryland’s marriage equality bill and charts the evolution of this divisive issue within the black community.

    Rep. Harris attacked and mischaracterized the film unfairly based on its written description alone without ever viewing it. He said the film was biased because in its description of the film, the local PBS station Maryland Public Television used the phrase “marriage equality.” Congressman Davis actually said “I don’t have to see [The New Black] to know it’s biased. I just have to read the description.”

    In fact the film has been lauded precisely for how it treats characters on all sides of this issue, with The New York Times review stating that “the film never allows political urgency to overwhelm its individual voices” and the New York Post writing that Richen commendably doesn’t caricature the opposition. The conservative preachers and other opponents get some time to state their case in a thoughtful way.”

    Kumu Hina is film about the struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture and values within the Westernized society of modern day Hawaiʻi. It is told through the lens of an extraordinary Native Hawaiian who is both an honored and respected kumu, or teacher and community leader, and a proud and confident māhū, the traditional term for individuals who embrace both male and female spirit. The film follows Hina as she mentors a young girl who dreams of leading her school's all-male hula troupe, and as she searches for love and a fulfilling relationship in her own life.

    Kumu Hina was watched and appreciated by a wide cross-section of the American public through its broadcast on Independent Lens, for which it won the 2014-15 Audience Award. It helped curious viewers learn more about the history, culture and traditions of America's Pacific Islander communities, which are among the most under-represented and poorly understood minority groups in the country. The film's stories provide a real-life example of what Hina calls “the true meaning of aloha” - unconditional acceptance and respect for all – and help deepen understanding of gender diversity and inclusion by providing a Hawaiian cultural perspective.

    Although Rep. Harris attacked Kumu Hina by telling CPB to “please remove the agenda from education,” the film and engagement campaign have actually provided much needed resources for American teachers. A Classroom Discussion Guide and clips from the educational version of the film, which are available for free on PBS LearningMedia, have been downloaded and used thousands of times by the over one million users of this trusted source of digital content. In fact,the National Education Association honored Hina, the title character in the film, with the Elison S. Onizuka Human and Civil Rights Award for “significantly impacting the achievement of equal opportunity for Asians and Pacific Islanders.” The only “agendas” of this educational work is to empower girls and all young people to achieve their maximum potential and to extend cultural understanding, a pillar of our democracy and essential to CPB’s mission.

    Baby Mama High did have an agenda, but not a political one: it was part of the CPB’sAmerican Graduate initiative, tasked with using media to create dialogue around increasing U.S. high school graduation rates. The short documentary uses the story of one teenage mother, Yessenia, to illuminate rarely-discussed, but common, obstacles that parenting students must overcome to finish school. Says Representative Harris: “I haven’t seen it. I should probably see it. But then I’m not sure I want to watch something that says that someone shouldn’t get married, that it’s actually better to stay a single mother with two children instead of getting married.” Had Harris seen the film, he would have understood that its heroine was struggling with an older boyfriend’s pressure to drop out, coming to a head in an attempt at an ambush wedding on one of Yessenia’s crucial last days of school. Verite-style profile documentaries like this one can build empathy and fill in the story behind statistics—but only when they’re actually watched.

    Rep. Harris’ speech is a tired ploy straight from the late 1980s and early 1990s “culture wars,” when groundbreaking PBS documentaries like Marlon Riggs’ Tongues Untied, which also featured subjects who embodied ethnic and sexual diversity, were singled out for discrimination by culturally conservative Senators seeking to impose their values on public programming as justification for defunding of the CPB and PBS. Then, as now, the criticisms were lodged publicly by representatives who had not actually viewed the programs in question nor had they experienced or researched the response in communities across America that appreciated the films. These films strengthen our democracy and help to bridge cultural and political divides. Had they taken the time to view they would have discovered high quality programming that fulfills the mission of public media “to provide programs and services that inform, educate, enlighten, and enrich the public and help inform civil discourse essential to American society.”

    Besides bolstering civil society, studies show that PBS’ independent documentary programming features greater racial, gender and regional diversity among subjects and creators than any of the commercial channels. That’s because it is part of public media’s mission; rather than answering to shareholders or a bottom line.

    We believe the right side to be on is that which supports democracy, diversity and free expression in public media.

    Please join us in helping to keep public media alive and fulfilling its vital mission of educating, engaging and fostering dialogue across diverse communities.


    Yoruba Richen, director of The New Black

    Heather Ross, director of Baby Mama High

    Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, directors of Kumu Hina

    The Indie Caucus Steering Committee:

    Claire Aguilar (IDA), Katy Chevigny, Giovanna Chesler, S. Leo Chiang, Heather Courtney, Angelica Das, Johanna Hamilton, Tim Horsburgh, Byron Hurt, Ciara Lacy, Brad Lichtenstein, Paco de Onís, Dawn Porter, Gordon Quinn, Julia Reichert, Yoruba Richen, Pamela Yates.

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  • Diverse Documentaries Under Attack as Congressman Questions Public Broadcasting ‘Agenda’ -- IndieWire

    by Michael Schneider - IndieWire

    The Corporation for Public Broadcasting may have a documentary problem.

    At a House subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, CPB president/CEO Patricia Harrison heard mostly support from Congressional members on attendance. With House critics of funding for public broadcasting mostly absent, the focus was on how public radio and TV stations support education, veteran, health and safety issues across the country – particularly rural areas.

    One Congressperson even asked Harrison how the CPB would allocate its funds if its annual appropriation was doubled from its current level ($445 million annually). The hearing came just weeks after Donald Trump’s proposed budget suggested a complete elimination of CPB funding.

    The hearing was mostly devoid of fireworks, except when Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) took issue with a handful of recent documentary titles, such as “Baby Mama High,” which aired on “Independent Lens.”

    Although the title gives the impression that it might be a salacious reality show, “Baby Mama High” was a short film that examined the startling stat that 52% of American Latina teens become pregnant. The doc followed the story of one young Escondido, Calif., mother whose boyfriend wants her to quit school.

    Harris also took a swipe at the 2014 doc “Kumu Hina,” which follows the story of a transgender native Hawaiian woman who teaches hula and is an activist for Native Hawaiian issues.

    “When you produce shows like ‘Kumu Hina,’ almost a third of a million dollar investment, or “Baby Mama High” [which cost] $50,000, which you know $50,000 pays for the healthcare of ten individuals on the Affordable Care Act,” Harris said, “I have to respond to people in my district… and in fact they would resent if I was publicly funding that. Similarly with ‘Baby Mama High.’ I read the summary here. I haven’t seen it. I should probably see it. But then again, I’m not sure I want to watch something that says someone shouldn’t get married.

    “I can’t explain to the people in my district why CPB invested $302,000 in ‘Kumu Hina,'” he added. “You give me the explanation, how I go to my constituents and say that was a good investment of their tax dollars. I’m in a highly Republican, conservative district.”

    Responded Harrison: “In terms of public media, the documentaries we do, the work of Ken Burns or Dr. Henry Gates, I would say in the aggregate it brings people together.”

    Harrison pointed to another “Independent Lens” documentary, “Half the Sky,” which raised awareness about sex trafficking and forced prostitution around the globe. “Maybe we don’t get it right 100 percent of the time. But I’m willing to bet we get it right 90%,” she said. ” We deserve the appropriation because we can prove we make a difference in the lives of Americans, not just the 1% but a majority of Americans who can’t afford their cable bill or market solutions.”

    Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) took issue with Harris’ comments, arguing that her constituents might like “Kumu Hina” and “Baby Mama High.”

    “My constituents may not like a lot of the programming that your constituents like,” she said. “The point is, in America I thought we had a free press, and I thought the First Amendment ruled, and I thought it was OK to disagree or agree. That’s the beauty of PBS and NPR. This zeroing out of PBS flies in the face of our democratic principles.”

    Harris wasn’t done, however, attacking one more PBS “Independent Lens” documentary: 2014’s “The New Black,” which explored the fight for marriage equality in the African-American community. Harris took particular issue with the term “marriage equality.” (It should also be noted that all three docs singled out by Harris focused on different stories about women of color in America.)

    “I know a lot of people who don’t like the term ‘marriage equality’ because they don’t believe anything is equal to marriage,” he said. “But this public broadcasting station chose a politically charged term and then compared those who are for it with someone who is ‘against marriage equality.’ Words have meaning. This is biased. I don’t have to see it to know it’s biased, I just read the description. This is not education, this is agenda. I beg you. If you come for government funding, you must remove as many vestiges of political agenda as you can.”

    Harris said he was particularly concerned because, when running for reelection, “I don’t want an ad run against me that says I voted for funding a film that inspires ‘a tomboyish young girl to claim her place as leader of an all-male hula troupe.’ I can see the ad. That’s from ‘Kumu Hina.’ I beg you, please remove the agenda from education. This has to be neutral content. If you come for public funding and claim free press, it’s government-funded press and my citizens will resent some of the agenda. You’re absolutely right, 98% 99% of the time you get it right. But 1% poisons the well.”

    Responded Harrison: “We are tasked with two things: A firewall of independence for content providers and ensure balance and objectivity. These are sometimes clashing objectives. I think overall, we’ve done pretty well.”

    Founded in 1967 by the Public Broadcasting Act, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a nonprofit organization, funded by the government, to fund programming and also hand out grants to public television and radio stations to help cover some operational costs. Per its mandate, around 71% of CPB funds from Congress must go to local stations.

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  • 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.

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  • ‘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.

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  • 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

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  • "Growing Up Trans" - PBS Frontline

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

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    (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.

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

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


    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.

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  • 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:

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

    Click on these photos to see the full list:

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  • 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.

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  • Now on NETFLIX

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    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.

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  • "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.

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

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

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  • "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.

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  • "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.”

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  • "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.

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  • "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.”

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  • "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.

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



    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


    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

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


    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.

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  • 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.

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  • Transgender Woman Denied Walk at Kahuku Graduation - KITV News 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.

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  • 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.”

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  • "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.

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  • 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

    Outstanding Comedy Series

    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

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  • 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.

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

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  • 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

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

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  • 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.

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  • KUMU HINA Nominated for GLAAD Media Award

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

    Download FREE Curriculum & Action Guides HERE.

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

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  • "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.”

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • "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

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  • "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.

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  • 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


    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.


    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.


    "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 ......


    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.


    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 ......


    "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.


    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.

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  • "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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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/

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • "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.

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  • "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.”

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • "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:

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  • "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.

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  • "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.


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  • "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.

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  • "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.

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  • "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.

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  • "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.

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  • "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.”

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  • "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.




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  • "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

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  • 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.

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  • "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.

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


    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.




    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.



    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



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  • CHILDRENʻS JURY AWARD 2015: Childrenʻs Film Festival Seattle

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  • 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:

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  • 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.

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  • "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.

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  • "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

    March 15, 2015 3:30 pm
    Buy Tickets

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  • "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.”



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  • 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.

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  • "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.
    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

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  • '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/

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  • "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.

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  • "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.

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  • "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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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  • 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。

    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。

    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。

    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。

    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。”
    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。

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  • 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.

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  • KUMU HINA Wins Best Documentary Award at Festival Venezolano de Cine de la Diversidad

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  • "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.

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  • 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

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  • Kumu Hina Wins Youth Jury Award at Rhode Island International Film Fest

    See All 2014 RIIFF Award Winners HERE

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  • 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.

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  • "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.

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • "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.”

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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