Narrator: Amy Hill.
Like life in Hawaii, Stephen Okazaki’s “Troubled Paradise” moves along at a leisurely pace, with plenty of opportunities to gaze at the natural beauty that surrounds those who live on the Big Island. However, the hourlong film’s purpose is primarily educational, and as such it should appeal to those interested in the problems of dispossessed indigenous peoples.
The film is divided into two parts, “Love of the Land” and “Pele’s Children.” Although seemingly schizophrenic, program’s halves share the theme of government indifference to and even attack on native peoples.
The Hawaiians are presented as lovers of peace and nature, willing to get along and go along. Okazaki’s focus is on the hardship of their lives, and how the Hawaiians’ connection to their land is being broken by poverty, rampant development and disregard for their culture and traditions.
The first half of the film details the efforts of a Japanese-U.S. development consortium to build a huge resort hotel on the native Hawaiians’ favorite beach, on a site that endangers ancient remains and burial sites.
“Pele’s Children,” the second half, is about the conflict over attempts to harness the geothermal power of the island’s volcanoes for energy to wean Hawaii from its oil dependence.
Also brought into play is the fate of one of the few remaining rainforests in the United States and how those native Hawaiians who fought in the U.S. armed services have been abandoned by their government.
Despite tackling many subjects in such a short time, Okazaki makes his points loud and clear. He effectively contrasts Hawaii’s natural beauty with the ugly treatment its indigenous people have received.
As an educational look at a little-known people, Oscar-winner Okazaki’s film succeeds.