Kumu Hina

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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