Hawaiian group to ignore film debut
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
The leader of the Hawaiian civic club created to uphold the honor of Princess Ka'iulani says the group will hold the same activities tomorrow as it does every year on the princess' birthday and will ignore the premiere of "The Barbarian Princess" at the Hawaii Theatre.
Others who have raised objections to the movie said they intend to follow the lead of the group Ahahui Kai'ulani and also stay away from either attending or protesting the film, which is being shown at 8 p.m. tomorrow as part of the 2009 Hawaii International Film Festival.
"This movie shouldn't take precedent through the day over the many things that honor Ka'iulani," said Coline Aiu, president of Ahahui Ka'iulani, which began in 1975 on the princess' 100th birthday. Among the founders are noted Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Pukui, Hawai'i's first female sheriff Bina Mossman and Kumu Hula Maiki Aiu, Coline Aiu's mother.
"The Barbarian Princess" has drawn criticism and protest by Native Hawaiian groups who say the movie's name is insulting to the princess. Critics who have seen the script also say the movie inaccurately portrays the princess and Hawaiian history.
"This movie has been made, it's already paid for, and (its producers) need people to go see it so that the numbers are going to stand up," Coline Aiu said. "To engage a mentality that doesn't respect who we are would be fruitless."
Asked if she's recommended that other Native Hawaiians either stay away from either attending or protesting the event, Aiu said she's leaving it to people to decide for themselves.
"They need to on their own decide what it is that is most important — confronting a group of people who have already done the movie, selected the name and decided to show it no matter what, or are they going to decide to honor the princess as we have always done," Aiu said.
Four events are planned for tomorrow by the group. The emotional highlight will be an 11:30 a.m. tribute to Ka'iulani and her family held at Mauna 'Ala, the Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanu. The princess, her parents and other members of her family are buried there.
Another highlight is the 9:30 a.m. lei-draping of Ka'iulani's statue at Princess Ka'iulani Park, at the corner of Kuhio and Ka'iulani avenues in Waikíkí. All are near the site of the princess' former home, 'Ainahau.
Hawaii International Film Festival executive director Chuck Boller said despite the controversy surrounding the film, the standard security for Hawai'i Theatre will be in place. As of yesterday afternoon, only about nine tickets remained available for the movie's only showing during the festival, he said.
Aiu's comments are being taken to heart by Native Hawaiian activist organizations, including those who last year protested when "The Barbarian Princess" was filmed on the grounds of 'Iolani Palace.
Among those groups is the Reinstated Hawaiian Government headed by its prime minister, Henry Noa.
Noa said his group's leadership was to discuss the matter last night, but he added that he is inclined to recommend that people stay away.
"My feeling is by protesting the movie now will probably give it more credence than what it should be given," Noa said. "You know how sometimes the protest actually provides more promotion."
Entertainer Palani Vaughn agreed. "I think the more attention we give these guys, the more curiosity people will have to see it," he said.
Lynette Cruz of the Hawaiian Independence Alliance said her group will join others in respecting what 'Ahahui Kai'ulani is doing."
"There are certain protocols here — it's their kuleana first," Cruz said. "And everyone else, to my knowledge, is taking their lead."