For Hawaiians, the hula is not just a dance, but a way of life. While most Americans know only the stereotypes of grass skirts and coconut bras, the hula is a living tradition that tells of the rich history and spirituality of Hawai'i through music, language, and dance. American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai'i discovers a renaissance of Hawaiian culture as it continues to grow in California. Following three kumu hula, or master hula teachers, the film celebrates the perpetuation of a culture — from the very traditional to the contemporary — as it evolves on distant shores. Revealing the survival of Hawai'i's indigenous culture from near-destruction, American Aloha is a reminder of the power of reclaiming tradition for communities creating a home away from home.
Few American icons are as well known for their popular kitsch as the hula dance. From old Hollywood movies to entertainment for tourists, the hip-swaying girls in grass skirts and colorful lei have long masked an ancient cultural tradition.
From death on the streets of Crown Heights to director Steven Spielberg's controversial visit to a predominantly black high school in East Oakland, the film resists simple analysis and treads provocatively on the fault lines of racial coalition and conflict.