Hawaii Film Blog

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Princess Ka'iulani Film Causing Stir

A poster mock-up with the film's former controversial title

From its controversial titles to its non-Hawaiian star to its use of Iolani Palace, the $9 million Princess Ka'iulani film that's being produced by Matador Pictures and Trailblazer Films and is currently shooting on Oahu is causing a big stir among Native Hawaiians, state senators, and others.

Let's start with the title controversy: originally entitled "Barbarian Princess" (ironically so, since this was how the San Francisco Chronicle referred to the princess back in the day), the title was changed to "The Last Princess" to appease those who found the former title offensive (for obvious reasons). However, this new title is now an issue because Ka'iulani was not in fact the last princess--that designation, some say, belongs to the still-living royal descendant Abigail Kawananakoa.

Next is the casting of non-Hawaiian Q'orianka Kilcher (The New World) to play the half-Hawaiian, half-Scottish princess, despite director Marc Forby vowing to cast a Native Hawaiian in the role. The film also stars Barry Pepper (Flags of Our Fathers, The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan), Will Patton (A Mighty Heart, Remember the Titans, Armageddon), and Shaun Evans (Being Julia, Cashback).

Then there's the use of the sacrosanct Iolani Palace, normally off-limits to commercial filming. People are worried (with reason!) that a rough-and-tumble film crew will damage the palace's fragile and valuable contents.

And of course there's the whole representation/accuracy issue in terms of what the film will depict. The filmmakers say that there is some dramatic license taken--it is, after all, a narrative feature and not a documentary.

In the latest news, a group of state senators led by Clayton Hee just issued a letter to state film commissioner Donne Dawson complaining about the film and questioning its use of the state's production tax credits. Said Hee, "The grade-C movie being filmed at Iolani Palace should properly describe what it is, an inaccurate and insensitive depiction, an extension of the treatment of others towards the host culture at the expense of the treatment of each of us taxpayers." Dawson said that the film had hired "several Hawaiian consultants who are experts in Hawaiian language and culture."

>> Filming begins on movie about Princess Kaiulani [Honolulu Advertiser, 3/10/08]
>> Princess Ka'iulani film outrages some Hawaiians [Honolulu Advertiser, 3/20/08]
>> Senators seek overthrow of ‘Princess’ film tax help [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 3/25/08]


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