Directed by Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson
Audience Award (documentary), 2014 Asian American International Film Festival
Best Documentary, 2014 Frameline Film Festival
Youth Jury Award, 2014 Rhode Island International Film Festival
Finding love as a māhū (a “middle,” or third gender person as they are identified in Hawaii) may just be as challenging as preserving one’s culture in the face of centuries of colonial rule. In this rousing documentary, a kumu (teacher) named Hina comes to peace with her gender identity as she passes on Hawaiian hula to her high school students and meets her husband along the way. One of her students, a remarkably self-aware young māhū, is inspired by her teacher’s own gender nonconformity and steals the show as she leads her school’s all-male hula troupe in the year-end performance.
Through inspiring moments of education and love, KUMU HINA touches on the meanings of indigeneity today in Hawaii and how gender identity and dance traditions are intertwined with anti-colonial politics. At the center is a courageous, passionate teacher who finds room – and the deepest empathy – for all the middles on the margins. –Wilda Wong