Directed by Keo Woolford
Audience Award (Narrative), 2013 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Closing Night Film, 2013 Hawaii International Film Festival
Jonny Kealoha (Tui Asau) struggles to make ends meet as the host of a Polynesian luau show for tourists. Despite his obvious charisma, Jonny is going nowhere in life due to his incorrigible womanizing and drinking. And so it surprises everyone when Jonny is appointed the instructor of a high school boys hula class after the passing of his former Kumu Hula (master hula teacher). Neither his new students, each of whom have their own obstacles to overcome, nor dedicated girls instructor Napua (Mary Paalani) are impressed by Jonny’s lounge music credentials and his lack of cultural knowledge. Now facing the possibility of denying his beloved Kumu Hula’s dying wish, Jonny must reconnect with his Hawaiian cultural heritage in order to win his students over and prepare them for the prestigious Royal Hula Festival.
An independent feature film produced in Hawai’i and featuring a mostly local cast and crew, THE HAUMĀNA is a warm and uplifting film that provides a detailed look at the Hawaiian tradition of hula and wipes away many of the old Hollywood stereotypes to set the record straight. Tui Asau displays both charm and complexity in the lead role, and the supporting cast provides plenty of surprises, including a wonderfully hilarious performance by Kelly Hu, who is brilliantly cast against type. –Gene Huh