Presenting the thesis that homophobia in Hawaii is an import of Western culture, at odds with the islands’ indigenous traditions, docu “Ke Kulana He Mahu” is most interesting when it sticks to that theme, less so when digressing into tenuously related topics. Short feature will play well on the gay fest circuit, with public TV play also signaled.
Thesis is that the “imposed norms” of Christian/capitalist colonization and nuclear family focus gradually led the original Hawaiians, or Kanaka Maoli, to forget their roots — roots that included a more fluid concept of extended family caregiving and sexuality across a wide spectrum. Mahu, transgender or hermaphrodite persons, were accepted as special members of the community. Academic insights ballasting this idea — which naturally has been erased from most official histories — are intriguing. Pic loses focus when delving into the local drag-performance scene or HIV issues, which are not very different from those anywhere else; likewise, relating of Hawaii’s tragic back chapters is OK but has been covered more extensively in prior docus. Tech package is smoothly handled, with good color lensing capturing the state’s physical beauty.