At a time when gender-nonconforming people the world over are bullied, harassed, beaten and killed just for being who they are, KUMU HINA presents the remarkable story of a transgender native Hawaiian teacher who uses traditional culture to empower her students and create “a place in the middle” where all people are valued and respected. We want to share this inspiring story with the world as a model for building more gender diverse and inclusive communities, schools and churches.
With your help, we did it! We hit our initial Kickstarter goal of $10,000 to help take Hina and the documentary on a series of special screening events and community gatherings, and to create an educational version of the film that will be distributed to schools and colleges. But with just a few days left on the clock, weʻre stretching to raise just a little more to be able to take Kumu Hina to China in September.
Thatʻs right, Hina has been invited on a screening tour of China! Read more about this incredible new opportunity in the Updates section. And please don't forget, this is your last chance to get a personal copy of the KUMU HINA DVD. It won't be available again until after the PBS broadcast in 2015.
And now back to why this project is so important...
HAWAIʻI'S MĀHŪ TRADITION
Hina Wong-Kalu is a highly respected kumu, or teacher, cultural practitioner and community leader. She is also māhū – a person who embodies both male and female characteristics, or what Westerners call transgender.
Ancient Hawaiians valued māhū as caretakers, healers, and teachers who passed on their sacred knowledge from one generation to the next through through hula, chant and other forms of wisdom. Despite the efforts of Christian missionaries and two hundred years of colonization and repression, Hawaiʻi still maintains a strong tradition of respecting and including māhū in community life, providing a unique model of gender diversity for others to learn from.
ABOUT THE FILMS
KUMU HINA is a completed, feature-length documentary that follows several intertwined storylines over a momentous year in Hina's life. In addition to her role as an inspiring teacher, the film delves into her marriage and volatile relationship with a young man from Tonga and her work with the Oʻahu Island Burial Council to protect ancient remains. The film had its world premiere as the closing night film at the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival, where it sold out the largest movie theatre in the state, the historic 1,500 seat Hawaiʻi Theatre in downtown Honolulu, to a wildly enthusiastic audience. Itʻs currently on the domestic and international film festival circuit, and will be broadcast on PBS in 2015.
Excerpted from the feature, the shorter, in-progress educational version of the film, A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE, focuses on Hina's work as a teacher at a Honolulu public charter school where she uses traditional culture to empower her students. The hero and narrator of the story is Hoʻonani Kamai, a charismatic young girl who aspires to lead her schoolʻs all-male hula troupe. As student and teacher prepare for a climactic end-of-year performance, they gradually realize that what matters most is to be true to oneself. Combining beautiful tapa-style animation on Hawaiian history with verite material, the video is suitable for students of all ages.
WHY THIS CAMPAIGN IS NEEDED
Although there have been other films about transgender and gender nonconforming people over the years, they have tended to focus on the prejudice, discrimination, and hostility that they face rather than on their abilities and accomplishments. From Paris Is Burning to The Brandon Teena Story to Valentine Road, viewers have been introduced again and again to the ways in which trans people have been marginalized, excluded, targeted and killed.
KUMU HINA turns this paradigm around by portraying a world that recognizes those who display both male and female characteristics as gifted and special. A world where transgender people are visible, included and honored. A world where youth who are searching for their own creative forms of gender expression are embraced and encouraged to be themselves rather than to hide in fear or pretend they are just like everyone else.
Hina's visibility, community and educational work is a powerful real-life example that transgender people can succeed and make valuable contributions in their community and society. It's a story that deserves to be widely known.
OUTREACH AND EDUCATION PLANS
Finishing the production of the films is only the first step in creating a more welcoming and inclusive world for all. The work is not done until the outreach and education programs have succeeded in opening people's hearts and minds to what Hina calls the true spirit of aloha – love, honor and respect for all. The specific aims are to empower gender fluid youth and adults to reach their full potential; prompt educational institutions to be inclusive and respectful of all students; and help families, communities, policymakers and other leaders understand that gender nonconforming people are deserving of full acceptance and equal treatment no matter the place they call home.
The outreach campaign will kick off with a series of special community screenings featuring appearances by Hina, other cast and creative crew members, and renowned Hawaiian cultural experts. A scheduled Washington DC screening at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian will provide an opportunity to present the film to national policy and lawmakers and open a conversation on the importance of including gender diversity in anti-discrimination and educational legislation. Additional events will focus on areas such as California, Washington, Nevada and Utah with significant populations of Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders who can use the film as a resource to call attention to their culture and philosophy as models for inclusiveness. These events will be organized in close collaboration with local community groups, civic clubs, transgender advocacy organizations, Pacific Islander associations, church and spiritual groups, and cultural institutions including hula schools. Recognizing the key roles of personal relationships and community dialogue in promoting social change, the events will include ample time for social interaction and conversation.
Education, particularly of young people, is the second key component of the campaign. The second, shorter version of the film, called A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE, will appeal to youth because, unlike typical “instructional” videos, it is a real life story about a young person told from her own point-of-view. This educational video will be accompanied by a series of age-appropriate learning guides designed to help students and teachers discuss the issues of gender, diversity and culture raised by the film, consider how the stories relate to their own lives, and take action to make their schools more welcoming and inclusive. We plan to distribute the video and guides to every one of the 367 public, charter and private elementary, middle and high schools in Hawai'i to be used as part of the state's constitutionally mandated Hawaiian studies program, and also made available via an online portal to educational conferences, schools, churches and community groups worldwide.
Social media is a powerful tool for bringing disparate communities together. We will create a social media space centered around the concept of #APlaceintheMiddle – emerging from one of the film's key story lines - as a way to bring provoke and concentrate conversation and to foster simple, strategic and allied action to raise visibility and promote the human rights of gender nonconforming people. This component of the work will be particularly important for transgender and gender nonconforming people and their families who do not yet feel safe or comfortable identifying or speaking out in public.
We're using Kickstarter because the public television funding for production of the film does not include outreach and education expenses. Your gift will help cover the costs for
- Completion of A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE including new tapa-style historical animation, additional editing and sound mix.
- Hina's travel for one year of special screening and community events, including appearances in Washington DC, New York City, the Bay Area and additional locations tba.
- Professional writing, editing and design of the educational learning guides
- Production and distribution of 2,500 copies of the A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE DVD and learning guides
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The main way you can support the campaign is by contributing to this Kickstarter campaign. The donation levels really run the gamut, so hopefully everybody can participate at some level. Hina has created a wonderful Hawaiian approach to the awesome rewards, giving each the name of a Hawaiian Lei, with a small story about its significance to her and the spirit of this project. We hope you enjoy and are inspired to become involved.
Please also share this Kickstarter page with your friends and networks on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. And if you would like to have a special KUMU HINA screening event in your community, or provide your local school with A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE, let us know.
To contribute, start by looking along the right side of this page where you will see a list of pledge levels. Enjoy browsing through the many different rewards, all related to the film, and when you find a level that you wish to pledge, simply click on that level and proceed to Amazon Checkout. Unless we reach our funding goal, no payments go through and the campaign will not receive anything whatsoever, so please dig deep to support this great cause and help spread the true meaning of aloha.
HINA WONG-KALU, campaign spokesperson and main film character. Hina is a kanaka maoli woman of Hawaiian and Chinese descent, born in the Nu’uanu district of Oʻahu Island and educated at Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaiʻi. For the past 12 years she has been the Cultural Director at Hālau Lōkahi, a public charter school dedicated to using Native Hawaiian culture, history, and education as tools for developing and empowering the next generation of warrior scholars. Hina also participates in many community affairs and civic activities. She was a founding member of the native health organization Kulia Na Mamo, and is currently the Chair of the O‘ahu Island Burial Council, which oversees the management of Native Hawaiian burial sites and ancestral remains.
DEAN HAMER, film and education director. Dean is a National Institutes of Health scientist emeritus, New York Times Book of the Year author, and Emmy Award winning filmmaker with a long history in communicating complex and controversial ideas to diverse publics. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages and used as educational tools by schools, colleges, libraries and professional associations worldwide, and his films have been supported by Sundance and PBS and won numerous film festival laurels and awards. He moved to Hawaiʻi with his partner Joe Wilson in 2011 to work on the Kumu Hina project.
JOE WILSON, film and outreach director. Joe Wilson got involved in documentary filmmaking through his professional work and social activism on human rights issues. In 2004 he returned to his small hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania, to direct and produce the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary OUT IN THE SILENCE. Through a remarkable grassroots outreach campaign that included more than 1000 screenings across the country, many in small town and rural communities that had never before held any openly LGBT event, this film became part of a national movement to open dialogue, counter school bullying, and support fairness and equality for all.
CONNIE FLOREZ, co-producer. Connie has many years of experience as an advisor, researcher, writer and producer of films in and about Hawai’i. Her numerous awards include a Women in Film/GM Acceleration Grant for Emerging Women Filmmakers, CINE Winner-Golden Eagle Award, and the Accolade Competition. Her PBS credits include the narrative films THE FISHBOWL and CONSTRUCTIONS and the documentary STATE OF ALOHA. Connie,a native American and third generation Hawai’ian, is the founder of Hula Girl Productions and lives in Honolulu.
National Outreach Partners
- Not In Our Schools / Not In Our Town
- Gender Spectrum
- Center for Independent Documentary
- Transgender Law Center
- National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
- Pacific Sexual Diversity Network
Hawai'i Outreach Partners
- Hawai'i People's Fund
- Hawai'i Public Charter Schools Network
- University of Hawaii
- Hawai'i Maoli
- Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs
- GLSEN Hawaii
- GSA Hawaii
- Trans Spectrum Hawaii
- Equality Hawaii
- Da Moms
- LGBT Youth Safety Net Project
- Pacific Islanders in Communications
- Independent Television Service
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Risks and challenges
Although there are risks for any film-based project, in this case they are minimal due to the fact that KUMU HINA is already completed, is receiving considerable notice at festivals, and is guaranteed PBS broadcast. The greatest challenge will be to have schools learn about and use the educational version of the film. Our strategy is to first demonstrate the usefulness of A PLACE IN THE MIDDLE by distributing it through the state-mandated Hawaiian studies program in Hawaiʻi, and to relate it to national curriculum standards through professionally written learning guides.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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