Kumu Hina

Kumu Hina

  • BY Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson | IN Identity
    Premiered May 4, 2015

About the Film

Kumu Hina is the story of Hina Wong- Kalu, a transgender native Hawaiian teacher and cultural icon who brings to life Hawaii’s long-held embrace of mahu — those who embody both male and female spirit, and were traditionally respected as caretakers, healers, and keepers of ancient traditions. MORE

The film traces Hina’s evolution from a timid high school boy to her position as a married woman and cultural director of a school that specializes in Hawaiian language, history and culture, located in one of Honolulu’s grittier neighborhoods. As she contemplates who should lead the school's all-male hula troupe in their final performance, a surprising candidate presents herself: Ho’onani, a sixth grader who is proud to be seen as a mixture of boy and girl. As Kumu 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.

The film also delves into Hina's pursuit of a dream of her own: a fulfilling romantic relationship. Her tumultuous marriage to a headstrong Tongan man offers insight into the universal challenge of loving somebody outside the norm and a deeper understanding of the true meaning of aloha – love, honor, and respect for all.


The Filmmakers

Dean Hamer, Producer/Director

Headshot of Kumu Hina filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson.Dean Hamer is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, The New York TimesBook of the Year author, and National Institutes of Health scientist with a long history in communicating complex and controversial ideas to a diverse public. He formed Qwaves with partner Joe Wilson to produce insightful and provocative documentaries about often overlooked social issues. Their short films were part of the pioneering days of citizen-generated content on the Internet and cable television, and have been used as outreach and educational tools by a wide range of community and education organizations. Out in the Silence, the first feature film from Qwaves, premiered at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at Lincoln Center, and with support from the Sundance Documentary Film program and Pennsylvania Public Television Network, it was widely distributed through PBS, multiple digital portals, and hundreds of community screenings.

In addition to his film work, Hamer is the author of several bestselling nonfiction books, a consultant for the BBC and Discovery Channel, and a sought-after lecturer and frequent guest on TV documentaries and news shows. He lives with his partner Joe Wilson on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, where they moved to pursue the making of Kumu Hina.

Joe Wilson, Producer/Director

Joe Wilson got involved in documentary filmmaking through his social activism on human rights issues. Frustrated by the limitations of traditional organizing and advocacy, he picked up a camera with hopes of reaching broader audiences with stories that would inform and compel people to act. Together with Qwaves co-founder Dean Hamer, his films on controversial and often ignored human rights issues have won awards and official selection at more than 100 film festivals around the country and the world, and received widespread attention for their role in promoting social change.

In 2004, Wilson returned to his small hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania, to direct and produce the Sundance-supported, Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary Out in the Silence. Through more than 700 grassroots screenings across the country, this film has become part of a national movement to open dialogue, counter school bullying, and support fairness and equality for all in small towns and rural communities. The Out in the Silence Award for Youth Activism, established in 2011, is continuing the campaign beyond the immediate life of the film by honoring courageous and unheralded young people who are leading the way in making schools and communities safe from bullying and welcoming for all, especially in places where silence and invisibility have rendered LGBT youth and their allies marginalized and powerless for far too long. Wilson lives with his partner Dean Hamer on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. LESS

Film Credits

A Film by
Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson

Written, Produced and Directed by
Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson

Nels Bangerter

Connie M. Florez

Original Score

Jared Greenleaf
Jed Henry
Ryan Woodward

Dean Hamer
Joe Wilson
Connie M. Florez
Fred Vanderpoel
John Kuamoo
Cindy Iodice

Online Supervisor
Alex D. Da Silva

Digital Intermediate Colorists
Kent Pritchetti
Gary Coates

Sound Design
James Lebrecht

Sound Effects Editor
Jamie Branquinho

Dialog Editor
Chase Keehn

Recording Engineer
Pierre Grille

Additional Editing
Juli Vizzai
Shirley Thompson

Story Consultant
Lisette Marie Flanary

Liu Makai
Hinaleimoana Wong-kalu

Cultural Advisors
Leonelle Akana
Ashliana Hawelu-fulgoni
Kimo Luluhiwalani Awai Iii

Archival Footage Courtesy of
Hawaii News Now: KHNL/KGMB
Kamehameha Schools©

Hinaleimoana Wong-kalu
Haemaccelo Kalu
Ho'onani Kamai

Laara Allbrett
Dana Kaua'i Iki
Pa'ula Chandler
Peter Dela Cruz
Hifokamoana Halangahu
Keikimuaokalani Kalima
Toni Halangahu
Sosaia Vea

Haumāna of Hālau Lōkahi Public Charter School
Ciena Lucas
Anela, Wailua &
Pumehana Howard
Titan Cummings
Jeremy Cesneros
Joe Yung
Makoa Oyama
Leone Gurr
Joshua Reyes
Alii Pedro-hale
Kamuela Kaluhiwa
Orion Quilana-amina
Harlem Lima-naki
Jawaiian Reyes
Sage Fontana
Micah Lau
Rhys Galeai
Isaiah Pasion
Kainoa Mattos-felicilda
Kona Stewart
Hinano Paia
Kaleleonalani Kamanawa


Written & Performed by Makana
Makana Music

“Deep in an Ancient Hawaiian Forest”
Written & Performed by Makana
Makana Music

“Walking With You”
Written & Performed by Makana
Makana Music

“Far From Home”
Written & Performed by Makana
Makana Music

“Na Ka Pueo”
Written & Performed By Makana
Makana Music

“E O Mai”
Written & Performed By Keali'i
Reichel, Punahele Productions

“Isa Lei”
Performed By Haemaccelo Kalu

Mahalo Nui Loa (Special Thanks to)
Nancy Aleck
Sandra Alvarez-smith
Keith Awai
Patricia Benabe
Marlene Booth
Josephine Chang
Erika Cohn
Ramona Diaz
Mallika Dutt
Hula's Bar & Lei Stand
Kim Coco Iwamoto
Kamuela Kala'i
Paulette Ka'anohi Kaleikini
Kari Kalima
Dorothy Kanani
Jack Law
Brad Kaiwi Lum
Kai Markell
Christen Hepuakoa Marquez
Georgette Moana Mathias
Rodney Loteni Powell
Darlene Rodrigues
N. Bird Runningwater
Jonathan Likeke Scheuer
Peter Tuiolosega Silva
Mina Son
David Weissman
Jeffrey Winter
Henry And Francis Wong
Luna Yasui
Malika Zouhali-Worrall

Executive Director for PIC
Leanne Ferrer

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Kumu Hina is a co-production of Qwaves, LLC and the Independent Television Service
(ITVS) in association with Pacific Islanders in Communications, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This program was produced by Qwaves, LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2014, Qwaves, LLC

Is Hawaii unique in its acceptance of transgender identity? How has your community handled and responded to transgender people? What surprised you or upset your expectations in this story?


  • 2015 Independent Lens
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Is Hawaii unique in its acceptance of transgender identity? How has your community handled and responded to transgender people? What surprised you or upset your expectations in this story?