Princess Kaiulani, the Movie
Cinco de Mayo. Mother’s Day. Soon, it will be Memorial Day and, then, officially summer will begin. But summer’s vibe has already started to beat here in Hawaii.
The Humpback whales are swimming north for their summer feeding grounds. A south swell swept through Hawaii a couple weeks ago, sending surfers scurrying for the south shores of our islands. And—drum roll—one Hollywood movie after another is opening. Summer is made for movies, right?
Even way out here in the middle of the Pacific. Iron Man 2 opened this past Friday, and Robin Hood is slated to open this Friday, just like they will across the rest of the country.
Not all of Hollywood’s movies make it to Hawaii.
This Friday, however, a movie will open in a limited release—including the islands of Hawaii.
Princess Kaiulani is a coming-of-age story of a young woman in Hawaii. The lead character in this movie was, indeed, a real woman and a real princess.
Princess Kaiulani was half-Hawaiian and half-Scottish. She was born in Hawaii and educated in England. She wore the latest gowns from Paris, she spoke English, Hawaiian, French and German, and she studied art. Robert Louis Stevenson befriended the young princess, calling her, “the island rose” in a poem her wrote for her. Princess Kaiulani lived to experience Hawaii as a sovereign nation and as a territory of the United States. But she didn’t endorse Hawaii’s annexation by the United States in 1893.
When the Crown Princess heard the news, she traveled from England to the White House to plead her people’s case. She is reported to have said,
"Seventy years ago Christian America sent over Christian men and women to give religion and civilization to Hawaii. Today, three of the sons of those missionaries are at your capitol asking you to undo their father’s work. Who sent them? Who gave them the authority to break the Constitution which they swore they would uphold? Today, I, a poor weak girl with not one of my people with me and all these ‘Hawaiian’ statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am strong - strong in the faith of God, strong in the knowledge that I am right, strong in the strength of seventy million people who in this free land will hear my cry and will refuse to let their flag cover dishonor to mine!"
President Grover Cleveland promised to help her cause; however, Congress refused to restore the monarchy.
You may have heard that there are still those today who continue the Princess’ efforts. It’s true. It’s not unusual to see tents set up, banners waving in the trade winds and people gathering to promote some form of sovereignty for Hawaii—from recognition of Native Hawaiians as a group with the same rights as American Indians and Alaskan Native tribes to outright independence from the United States.
Based on what I’ve read on the movie’s website, it sounds like this will not be your typical Hawaii-set movie. There will be no garish Hawaiian shirts or grass skirts made of cellophane. On the Princess Kaiulani movie website , writer/director/producer Marc Forby says, “I think the single most important thing this film is going to accomplish is to show the world that the Hawaiian people had real culture, real history and undo a lot of the damage this Tiki Bar Culture has done over the years.”