Kumu Hina

"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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