May 30, 2009

Princess Kaiulani trailer

Ka’iulani:  the Activist Princess

Travel Blog • Pam MandelSeeing her portrait reminded me of this article about the Ka’iulani movie that’s coming out, a lush costume drama that tells the story of the activist Princess’ short life. There was a bit of a flap about the movie because the working title for the picture is “Barbarian Princess.” Our guide at the museum told us that the press in her day, never having met Princess Ka’iulani, referred to her exactly that way—as the Barbarian Princess—but she won over “society” with her elegance and grace. Some Native Hawaiians were also angry that the role of the Princess went to the ethnically ambiguous Q’orianka Kilcher rather than to a Hawaiian actress; beyond that, they worried about the film crew’s impact on Iolani Palace, and were concerned that the story would trivialize a historic figure who fought for their independence.

Comment:  Previous postings said Barbarian Princess was the working title before producer Marc Forby chose the title Princess Kaiulani. But lists it as Barbarian Princess (aka Princess Kaiulani). So Barbarian Princess may be the final title.

Just because the press of the day used the phrase "Barbarian Princess" doesn't make it a good title. The press also called Indians things like "Heathen Savages," "Dirty Redskins" and "Murderous Devils," but I wouldn't choose those as titles for a Native-themed movie.

Many people won't get the irony or even see the movie, so they'll think "Hawaiians = barbarians." I suggest something that combats stereotypes--like "500 Nations" or "We Shall Remain"--not something that reinforces them.

Trailer thoughts

As for the trailer, this movie looks like a Victorian-era costume drama set in England or America east of the Mississippi to me. It doesn't have much of the lush feel I associate with Hawaii.

Obviously it shouldn't show hula girls or blond surfers or tourists in leis. But where are all the Hawaiian and Asian peoples and cultures? Where are all the scenic landscapes?

Having read James Michener's Hawaii, watched Hawaii Five-0, and visited Hawaii twice, I'd say this movie should look and feel uniquely Hawaiian. I'm not getting that sense from the trailer.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

I don't see much of a stereotype problem with the name (who calls indiginous people "barbarians"?), but see more of a problem with the inappropriate use of the "barbarian" name.

It first brings to mind Hyborian heroes like Conan and his imitators (Dave the Barbarian, etc). And right behind that, it brings to mind the Iron Age hordes of Europe fighting against the Romans.

Neither of these perceptions of barbarians have anything to do with Native Hawaiians.

You are right, though, they need a better name.