This film is now screening! Check its website to make sure you don’t miss any screenings near you. It will also be featured on the next Pride of the Ocean cruise, which will take place in October 2014 in beautiful Hawaii!

KUMU HINA: The True Meaning Of Aloha

A Community Outreach and Education Campaign for Gender Diversity and Inclusion 

Directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson


kumu hina


KUMU HINA is a powerful film – produced in association with Pacific Islanders in Communications and ITVS – about the struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture and values within the Westernized society of modern day Hawaii. It is told through the lens of an extraordinary Native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident mahu, or transgender woman, and an honored and respected kumu, or teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader.

The film had its world premiere on April 10, 2014 as the closing night film in the Hawaii International Film Festival, where it sold out the largest movie theatre in the state, the historic 1,500 seat Hawaii Theatre in downtown Honolulu, to a wildly enthusiastic audience. It is currently on the domestic and international film festival circuit, and will be broadcast on PBS in 2015.

The outreach and education campaign aims to build towards, and complement, PBS broadcast by sharing this inspiring story, as a model for gender diversity, across the U.S. and around the world.  In addition to dynamic screening events and community gatherings, the campaign will also produce a condensed educational version of the film, along with a discussion guide, for distribution to elementary, middle and high schools, colleges and universities, and civic and religious organizations in need of tools to help stimulate dialogue on themes of gender diversity, acceptance and inclusion.


Hawaiian Embrace of Mahu

In Hawaii, mahu is the word for a person who embodies both male and female characteristics, those  who Westerners might call transgender.  Ancient Hawaiians valued mahu as caretakers, healers, and teachers who passed on their sacred knowledge from one generation to the next through through hula, chant and other forms of wisdom. Despite the efforts of Christian missionaries and two hundred years of colonization and repression, Hawaii still maintains a strong tradition of respecting and including mahu in community life, providing a unique model of gender diversity for others to emulate.


Why This Campaign Is Needed

Although there have been other films about transgender and gender nonconforming 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. From “Paris Is Burning” to “The Brandon Teena Story” to “Valentine Road”, viewers have been introduced again and again to the ways in which trans and gender nonconforming people have been marginalized, excluded, targeted, beaten, and killed.

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 honored. 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.

Hina’s visibility, community and educational work is a powerful real-life example that transgender people can succeed and make valuable contributions in their community and society. It’s a story that deserves to be widely known.

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The Team Behind the Film and Campaign:

HINA WONG-KALU, campaign spokesperson and main film character. Hina is a kanaka maoli woman of Hawaiian and Chinese descent, born in the Nu’uanu district of Oahu Island and educated at Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaii. For the past 12 years she has been the Cultural Director at Halau Lakahi, 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. Hina also participates in many community affairs and civic activities. She was a founding member of the native health organization Kulia Na Mamo, and is currently the Chair of the O‘ahu Island Burial Council, which oversees the management of Native Hawaiian burial sites and ancestral remains.

DEAN HAMER, film and education director. Dean is a National Institutes of Health scientist emeritus, New York Times Book of the Year author, and Emmy Award winning filmmaker with a long history in communicating complex and controversial ideas to diverse publics. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages and used as educational tools by schools, colleges, libraries and professional associations worldwide, and his films have been supported by Sundance and PBS and won numerous film festival laurels and awards. He moved to Hawaii with his partner Joe Wilson in 2011 to work on the Kumu Hina project.

JOE WILSON, film and outreach director. Joe Wilson got involved in documentary filmmaking through his professional work and social activism on human rights issues. In 2004 he returned to his small hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania, to direct and produce the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary OUT IN THE SILENCE. Through a remarkable grassroots outreach campaign that included more than 1000 screenings across the country, many in small town and rural communities that had never before held any openly LGBT event, this film became part of a national movement to open dialogue, counter school bullying, and support fairness and equality for all.

CONNIE FLOREZ, co-producer. Connie has many years of experience as an advisor, researcher, writer and producer of films in and about Hawai’i. Her numerous awards include a Women in Film/GM Acceleration Grant for Emerging Women Filmmakers, CINE Winner-Golden Eagle Award, and the Accolade Competition. Her PBS credits include the narrative films THE FISHBOWL and CONSTRUCTIONS and the documentary STATE OF ALOHA. Connie,a native American and third generation Hawai’ian, is the founder of Hula Girl Productions and lives in Honolulu.