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The Independent Critic

Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (Narrator), Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole (Chant Composer/Chanter)
Dean Hamer, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Joe Wilson
8 Mins.


 "Kapaemahu" Screens as Finalist at Indy Shorts  

"I want the history of my homeland to be correct. The foreigner shall not teach me the history of my people, I will teach the foreigner."

                                                                                - Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu

The word "beautiful" doesn't do justice in describing Kapaemahu, an eight-minute animated short film screening as a finalist during this week's Indy Shorts International Film Festival going on virtually and at Tibbs Drive-In in Indianapolis. There's something majestic about Kapaemahu, a film that won the Grand Jury Award at Animayo 2020, an Academy Award-qualifying film festival, and is now a finalist at Indy's own Academy Award-qualifying fest with Indy Shorts. 

Kapaemahu reveals the healing power of four mysterious stones on Waikiki Beach - and the legendary transgender spirits living within them. The legend has it that long ago four extraordinary individuals of dual male and female spirit brought the healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaii. Kapaemahu was their leader and they were beloved for their gentle ways and miraculous cures. They imbued four giant boulders with their powers and these stones still stand on what is known now as Waikiki Beach. 

Until now, their story has been hidden. 

Now? It's brought magnificently to life by the trio of directors behind Kapaemahu including Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson. Using the eyes of a curious child as their lens, the filmmakers have masterfully, there's that word masterfully again, created a film with tremendous artistry and integrity and devotion to Indigenous people. The film is written and narrated in Olelo Niihau, the only form of Hawaiian that has been continuously spoken since prior to the arrival of foreigners. Chant composer and performer Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole's work here is mesmerizing, a spiritual vibration reverberates throughout the film that companions Academy Award-nominated Animation Director Daniel Sousa's extraordinary imagery to perfection. Dan Golden, an Oscar-nominated sound and visual designer, has created a composition that digs so deeply into this legend that you can practically feel it in your bones. The film's narration embodies wisdom and nature. 

Together? Kapaemahu simply must be remembered come awards season. It's easily one of the most memorable, engaging, and vital animated shorts of the year or perhaps even years. 

In addition to its Grand Jury Award, Kapaemahu received a Special Mention at Tribeca Film Festival and there's no doubt its awards season is far from over.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic