Maui Arts & Entertainment

KULEANA Reviews: “Authentic Storytelling,” “Touched My Na‘au”

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After a weekend of opening events surrounding the statewide theatrical release of the made on Maui movie KULEANA, reviews are starting to roll in.  More than serving as an avenue for local talent, the film has generated discussion about the lifestyle and culture of the islands from the perspective of those who live here.

Moronai Kanekoa from the film KULEANA at the Maui opening meet-and-greet event. 3.31.18. PC: by Wendy Osher

Last year, before its film festival rounds, filmmaker Brian Kohne responded to our question about the impact of creating a film that’s made in Hawaiʻi about Hawaiʻi.  “It’s so often that outsiders come and they tell our story.  All they are doing is observing our behaviors and our attitudes.  Even with the best of intentions,” he said, “an outside perspective can not become a surrogate for something authentic.”

That’s what many movie-goers picked up on as they commented on their experience seeing the film during opening weekend.

“To hear Hawaiian language at the theaters was awesome for me and my ʻohana,” said Keoni Wills who saw the film in Kapolei.

In a review on the Kuleana – Movie Facebook page he said:

“KULEANA is a big word in Hawaiian and I always thought of it as like a burden we take upon ourselves. My kids go to Hawaiian immersion (and) I tell them it’s their kuleana to carry on our Hawaiian language, but (through) this movie I learned and realize that kuleana isn’t a burden. It really isn’t. Instead it’s a privilege to be someone who can carry on our culture and our ‘olelo. He ki’iʻoniʻoni maikaʻi loa. Makemake au e nānā hou.”


Others like Dawn Yadao Aranas spoke of the element of reality and called the movie both “relatable” and “spiritual,” saying:

“So I thought this movie was awesome. Aside the fact that there are familiar, local actors (one of which i’m proud to say is my cousin), it was relatable. Touched my heart, put tears in my eyes, and more than just a smile on my face. It portrayed the tragedy and reality of the progression of Hawaiʻi. Along with the spiritual connection of the people, family, and the land.” (Review on Facebook Kuleana – Movie page)

In another review, Risa Beer said there is a demand for “authentic storytelling” from the Hawaiian Islands and encouraged others to send the message “that mainstream audiences are keen to support local productions.”

“A beautiful movie that Hawaiʻi deserves to call its own! Please go see it… You can make a powerful statement just by watching a wonderful movie, how about that!” (Review on Facebook Kuleana – Movie page)

Shalee Kuuiponohealani Kekawa said the film “resonated” with her and “touched me to my na’au.”


“Mahalo for sharing this film and giving the Kanaka Maoli another voice in what has happened and continues to happen in the Sovereign Nation of Hawai’i, illegally. Mahalo for creating this all Hawai’i cast and employing and giving opportunities to Kanaka actors and actresses who deserve to be able to share their talent.”  (Review on Facebook Kuleana – Movie page)

“I adore this movie and already went to watch it again,” said Lina Maria Flores in a comment on a recent Maui Now Facebook post covering the opening event.

“I saw it on opening day here in Hilo but it was actually my second time to watch it, as was fortunate to see it at last year’s Guam International Film Festival, where I am from. Thanks to Don Muna and all with GIFF!”  (Comment on Maui Now Facebook post)

“It was one of the best movies I have seen I quite sometime,” said movie goer Ken Moose Meers.

“I loved seeing it, and was happy to visit with some of the cast and crew on Maui Saturday. I hope that it gets released on the mainland, it’s time people understand the importance for respecting Hawaiʻi, (not) only as a state, but for its proud traditions and heritage.” (Review on Facebook Kuleana – Movie page)


“Mahalo for stirring my na’au,” said Sherri Cummings in a comment on our Big Island Now coverage via Facebook.

“I enjoyed it… But I was glad I went with my 14 year old son. He was confused with a couple of parts.. for instance, he couldn’t understand the connection with the ‘uhane and Kaho’olawe. It made me take a good look at myself and embrace what I haven’t done so well.. and that is… sharing of my own mana’o to him as to who our own personal kupuna are, and the kuleana they had to the greater society among them.” (Comment on Big Island Now Facebook post)

Below is a glimpse at what others are saying about KULEANA:

Irene Baker: (Comment on Big Island Now Facebook post)

“So after all your great reviews we decided to watch Kuleana, LOVED IT! Very impressed with the story line and Hawaiʻi’s connection to our ʻāina and ʻohana. Awesome acting of all cast members involved. I hope we can purchase a video one day!”

Jeff Ruddy: (Comment on Big Island Now Facebook post)

“Everyone clapped and a few of us, me included, teared up even. Just wanted to add that I knew of all the historical references even the old Massie Affair murder. The internal family issues and personalities well done.”

Jeff Shea: (Comment on Big Island Now Facebook post)

“Hopefully more movies are made in the islands and more locals are given a chance to act in them. It was awesome to see a film with local actors playing main characters.”

Theodora Akau Gaspar: (Review on Facebook Kuleana – Movie page)

“We just finished watching KULEANA and if you have a chance to go see it, go see it… You know, we were really critical, and the story of course is not real, but the premise of the story resonates with every family. So, it’s worth watching. We’re probably going to see it again… There were parts in the story that brought me to tears, and the very end of the movie, before the credits really resonated with me… I’m still emotional about it.  If you have a chance, go see KULEANA, it’s worth it and it will hit you. Very good movie. Very well made and worth watching.”

More information on the movie can be found at the official website:

*Pacific Media Group, Maui Now’s parent company is a shareholder in the film Kuleana


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