Kumu Hina, which won the Frameline Jury Award for Achievement in Documentary, was called “a subtle but inspiring tale” by Alice Lytton in IndieWire. “This is a film which could, if given the chance, push people both within and without the LGBT community to question not only their assumptions but also their language.”
The film is an intimate portrait of Hina, a mahu (transgender) woman and cultural legend in Hawaii who teaches Hawaiian language, history, and culture. She finds a surprising candidate to lead her school’s all-male hula troupe: Ho’onani, a sixth grader who is proud to be seen as a mixture of boy and girl. As Kumu (teacher) Hina helps Ho’onani negotiate the mixed reactions of her classmates and her family, the power of culture to instill a sense of pride and acceptance becomes clear.
We spoke with Hawaii-based filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson about how they first came across Hina, what younger generations can learn from this story, and things that surprised them while making the film. Kuma Hina premieres on PBS tonight, Monday, May 4, at 10pm (check local listings).