Sony Defends ‘Aloha’ After White-Washing Criticism

Sony has refuted claims that Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy “Aloha” presents a “white-washed” version of the Hawaiian islands.

“While some have been quick to judge a movie they haven’t seen and a script they haven’t read, the film ‘Aloha’ respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people,” the studio said in a statement. “Filmmaker Cameron Crowe spent years researching this project and many months on location in Hawaii, cultivating relationships with leading local voices. He earned the trust of many Hawaiian community leaders, including Dennis ‘Bumpy’ Kanahele, who plays a key role in the film.”

“Aloha” stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Bill Murray, Danny McBride and Alec Baldwin. The Sony statement was issued in the wake of recent accusations by the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans, which asserted that “Aloha” misconstrues actual Hawaiian demographics by presenting a “white-washed” version of the state.

“Sixty percent of Hawaii’s population is Asian Pacific Islanders,” said Guy Aoki, president of the organization and a former resident of Hawaii. “Caucasians only make up 30% of the population, but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 99%. This comes in a long line of films (‘The Descendants’, ’50 First Dates,’ ‘Blue Crush,’ ‘Pearl Harbor’) that use Hawaii for their exotic backdrop but go out of its way to exclude the very people who live there. It’s an insult to the diverse culture and fabric of Hawaii.”

Crowe has said in an interview that he was seeking in “Aloha” to educate those on the mainland about the “rich history and culture of Hawaii.”

And at a media screening on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, Crowe acknowledged that the movie has been discussed in private and public, then added, “But it’s always been a love letter.”

Aoki said that Crowe had hired at least 30 white actors and noted that the biggest roles for Asian Pacific Islanders were “Indian pedestrian,” “upscale Japanese tourist” and “upscale restaurant guest.”

“They didn’t even have names,” Aoki added. “How can you educate your audience to the ‘rich history’ of Hawaii by using mostly white people and excluding the majority of the people who live there and who helped build that history — APIs?”

Aoki made no mention of Kanahele’s role. Sony recently released an “Aloha” featurette called “The Spirit of Hawaii,” which includes an interview with Kanahele.

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