Waikiki Review: An Assured Exploration of Hawaii’s Cultural Trauma

Offering a literal behind-the-scenes glimpse of the iconic tourist spot, Christopher Kahunahana’s splendid debut feature, Waikiki, is a succinct emotional dive into the complex intergenerational trauma that plagues many Native Hawaiians. Foregrounding the stark economic divide between the resorts and the city, Kahunahana’s film is purportedly the first film written and directed by a Native Hawaiian. A marvel of economic storytelling, Waikiki spotlights the social and spiritual erosion of colonial tourism on the indigenous population.

The film follows Kea (Danielle Zalopany), a hard working native Hawaiian who is balancing three jobs while living out of her van, and saving enough money for a room. One drunken night, after a fight with her abusive boyfriend (Jason Quinn), she flees in her van – hitting a homeless man, Wo (Peter Shinkoda) in the process. Distraught, she puts Wo into her van, eventually shuttling him around as she attempts to maintain her rotating jobs.
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