It’s time for an animated film as this week’s selection for BitPix Pick of the Week is the incredible Kapaemahu, directed by Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson and playing triple threat, writer/director/star Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu. It’s an incredible story of four dual spirits, all four containing the male and female essence, who placed their power into four boulders that stand on the sandy banks of Waikiki Beach. While the film is just under nine minutes long, it puts so much into the story of these four spirits and what they mean to those who lived to hear the legend.
Narrated by Wong-Kalu in an ancient Hawaiian dialect, Kapaemahu brings the tale of these four spirits, who brought love and healing to the Hawaiian people from Tahiti. The mahu, which in this dialect means ‘in the middle’, are well known in Hawaiian culture, beloved for their gentle ways and miracle cures, using their powers to help the native people in any way they can.
This is a beautiful story told in an equally beautiful way, with incredible animation bringing this story to life, from the wonders of the creation of the monument to its complicated history as time passed and the legend was more or less forgotten, and in some aspects, suppressed, with the duality of the mahu being more or less torn from the history of the great monument.
Everything about this film is a love letter to the culture of Hawai’i, from the legend of the mahu themselves to the narration and even the credits being displayed in a native dialect. It’s an incredible homage to the acceptance and reverence of both the culture native to Hawai’i, as well as to third gender and transgender acceptance.
Hamer and Wilson deserve praise for their work, but rightfully, the spotlight here is on the incredible icon that is Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, who is a force in her own right. A traditional mahu and modern trans woman, this story is her own, and it being told by her is the perfect way to show the beauty of native Hawai’i, and of the Niihau dialect in which the film was presented. This is only ancillary to the film, but one look at the life of the person known best as “Kumu Hina” and its easy to see why she not only wanted to make this film, but the importance it has to her own story.
It’s easy to see why this film has garnered such attention, as its majesty is apparent in each moment of the film. A gorgeous animated short, it’s well worth watching for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, it can be seen on the BitPix platform this week, taking its well-earned place as this week’s Pick of the Week.