Na Wāhine Kanaka Maoli in Hawaiʻi Cinema

  • March 12, 2023 | 2:00 PM - 3:01 PM | Sunday
  • Oldham Theatre


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Na wāhine kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiian women) play a critical role in the continued evolution of Hawaii’s cinematic language. Within a burgeoning generation of young Hawaiʻi-based filmmakers actively engaged in collective world-building through narrative fiction, the wahine kanaka lens offers a glimpse into the future of Hawaiʻi storytelling. The programme features short films by four Native Hawaiian women who bridge nonfiction and fiction through the lens of poetry, photography, and dance. Each of the four films explores a contemporary approach to ‘āina (land) from a Hawaiian perspective—one that breaks out of linear structures and opens up space for a deeper kaona (meaning) underpinning our pilina (relationships). These four filmmakers—Ciara Lacy, Erin Lau, Tiare Ribeaux, and Angelique Kalani Axelrode—are on the cusp of flourishing filmmaking careers and represent a rising wave of creatives breathing new life into Hawaiʻi cinema while retaining the spirit of the moʻolelo (stories) passed down from kupuna (ancestors). Four is a foundational number in Hawaiian culture, and its iterations are infinite. This programme of four is an initial snapshot of the many multitudes of Kanaka Maoli wahine filmmakers who collectively shape a uniquely Hawaiian worldview.

– Taylour Chang, Guest Curator

About Taylour Chang
Taylour Chang is a filmmaker of Native Hawaiian, Chinese, and Japanese descent and currently serves as Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement at Bishop Museum. She previously served as Manager and Director of the Doris Duke Theatre, an art house cinema located in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, and Curator of Film and Performance at the Honolulu Museum of Art from 2013-2022.

About the Films

This Is the Way We Rise (2022)
Director: Ciara Lacy
Runtime: 12 minutes
Country: Hawai’i
Language: English, Ōlelo Hawai’i
Rating: PG13


Filmmaker Ciara Lacy documents Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, a celebrated Kanaka Maoli wahine poet, activist, and academic, in her continued work towards justice for Native Hawaiians. This is the Way We Rise is an exploration into the creative process of a three-time national poetry champion, as her calling to protect sacred sites atop Maunakea reinvigorates her art.

About the Director

Ciara Lacy is a Native Hawaiian filmmaker who uses strong characters and investigative journalism to challenge the creative and political status quo. Her work has screened at festivals around the world and on Netflix, PBS, ABC, and Al Jazeera. Ciara was the inaugural Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellow and part of the inaugural class of NATIVe Fellows at the European Film Market. Her feature documentary OUT OF STATE followed native Hawaiian men discovering their native culture as prisoners in the desert of Arizona, 3,000 miles from their island home. This is the Way We Rise was an official selection of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.


Inheritance (2022)
Director: Erin Lau
Runtime: 18 minutes
Country: Hawai’i
Language: English
Rating: PG13


At dawn, struggling nature photographer Kelsey Akioka hikes out onto the Kalapana lava fields. Under the shade of a pop-up tent, he sells photos at a makeshift marketplace to apathetic tourists. As Kelsey returns home to his son and elderly father, he begins to question his life choices and confronts the pain his family has carried for generations.

About the Director

Native Hawaiian filmmaker Erin Lau has dedicated her life to creating stories for her community, with her works having screened at over 50 film festivals. Her film The Moon and the Night  received support from the Sundance Native Lab and was shortlisted for the Student BAFTA awards. Inheritance was supported by Tribeca Studios, Netflix, and Gold House and premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. Professionally, Erin worked for three years as a Senior Producer-Director for Jubilee Media, where her videos accumulated over 130 million views.


Pō’ele Wai (As the Water Darkens) (2022)
Director: Tiare Ribeaux
Runtime: 23 minutes
Country: Hawai’i
Language: English, Ōlelo Hawai’i
Rating: PG13


A weaver, Kunawai, experiences the growth of a mysterious rash on her body when she discovers that her drinking water has been poisoned by fuel leaking into Oʻahu’s watersheds. She navigates between survival and her connection to the ‘āina (land), and becomes entranced by a mysterious painting inspired by a Hawaiian creation story. Kunawai’s transformation takes her through cemented waterways until she reaches the ocean to be cleansed.

About the Director

Tiare Ribeaux is a Kanaka ‘Ōiwi filmmaker, writer and creative producer based between Honolulu and Oakland. Her work involves a magical realist exploration of spirituality, labour, and the natural environment, drawing upon the structure of dreamworlds and Hawaiian cosmology to critique both social and ecological imbalances. Her films use visual narrative storytelling and components of science fiction and fantasy to reimagine present realities and future trajectories of lineage, place and belonging. She is currently a Sundance Native Lab Fellow.


A Tale of Two Sisters (2022)
Director: Angelique Kalani Axelrode
Runtime: 8 minutes
Country: Hawai’i
Language: English
Rating: G


Gigi and Angi sit silently in the car, refusing to speak to each other. As tension builds, the narrative shifts to a contemporary dance inspired by the mo’olelo of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele and her older sister, Pele. The traditional epic of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele is one of love, lust, jealousy, and justice, detailing the quest of Hi‘iakaika as she journeys to find the handsome Lohi‘auipo for her sister. A Tale of Two Sisters blends narrative and movement-based storytelling to portray two sisters overcoming tension in their relationship.

About the Director

Angelique Kalani Axelrode is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker/activist. She worked extensively with Planned Parenthood in Tennessee and was awarded the Creative Wildfire grant for artists building a new, more just “normal”. Her work has been featured in film festivals across the country and is heavily influenced by her identity as a multiracial queer woman.


This selection of short films are featured in the strand A Moment of Aloha, part of the Constellating Histories: Encountering Asian American Diasporas Onscreen programme. For the full programme lineup please click here.

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Important Notice:
Do note that Oldham Theatre operates on a free seating arrangement. Doors will open 20 minutes before showtime so arrive early to choose a seat and avoid disrupting the screenings as AFA does not play ads and screenings will start promptly.
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