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Kumu Hina 2014

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Kumu Hina
Produced by Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, & Connie M. Florez
Directed by Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson
DVD , color, 77 min.

Sr. High - General Adult
Culture, Diversity, Gender Identity, Indigenous Peoples, Multiculturalism, Native Americans, Native Peoples, Transgenderism

Date Entered: 04/07/2015

Reviewed by Jennifer Loft, Ph.D. student in Global Gender Studies, Department of Transnational Studies, University at Buffalo

Many Americans may think the term aloha signifies a simple “hello” or “goodbye” greeting. However, as Hina Wong-Kalu explains in Kumu Hina, aloha represents living in harmony with the land, living in harmony with each other, and offering unconditional love, honor, and respect. It is with this guiding knowledge that Hina Wong-Kalu explores her identity as a transgender Native Hawaiian woman, as well as her struggles and triumphs with both her students and her husband.

As a transgender woman, Hina is “in the middle,” a “rare person,” which is an honored and respected position in traditional Native Hawaiian society. As a mahu, or transgender woman, Hina embodies both masculine and feminine traits which are alive in each and every one of us. Prior to American colonization, mahu passed down cultural traditions such as hula and song. By teaching her students Native Hawaiian song and dance, Hina exemplifies the hard work that goes into making sure these cultural traditions that were once almost lost are kept alive for future generations. She sees her role as helping to mold young people into the best people they can be for their communities and for themselves. Of particular note is Hina’s mentoring of a young girl who is also “in the middle” and wishes to become a leader among the boys in the school.

This film is revolutionary in that it highlights relationships and aspects of gender identity considered taboo and unmentionable in American society. Through Hina, the viewer sees that gender, along with sexuality, does not lie on a binary and is instead extremely fluid. The love story portrayed in the film with Hina and her husband makes visible a nonheteronormative relationship and forces the viewer to question any stereotypes and prejudices they may unknowingly hold about transgendered people and relationships. Hina and her husband have the same struggles as every other couple – money issues, jealousy and trust issues, and overcoming adversity through hard work and love.

This film should be required viewing in any and all college courses dealing with gender, sexuality, and Hawaiian or Native American cultures. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in Hawaiian culture, women’s and gender studies, and a powerful love story. Kumu Hina is an emotional glimpse into the life of a woman working so diligently to better Hawaii for her students and for future generations.


  • Winner, New York AAIFF Audience
  • Winner, Rhode Island Youth Jury Award
  • Winner, Kansas City Jury Award
  • Winner, Frameline Doc Jury Award