ImagineNATIVE 2017: Our Review of ‘Out of State’

Posted in Festival Coverage, ImagineNATIVE 2017, Movies by - October 18, 2017
ImagineNATIVE 2017: Our Review of ‘Out of State’

Good documentaries shed light on people that the mainstream regards as the other to normalize and accept them. And this documentary, Out of State, does that. There’s a lot to learn about the film’s three subjects. One of them is David, a Native Hawaiian with a face tattoo. David’s appearance and criminal past might make him a victim of derision by non-Indigenous people. However, Ciara Lacy, a fellow Native Hawaiian, directed this film for people like him.

That we can see him and one of us. The other two subjects are David’s fellow inmates at the Saguaro Correctional Facility in Arizona. Hale, another Native Hawaiian, saw David practicing real Hawaiian dance and wanted to learn. Both have a ‘kumu hula’ or dance teacher named Kalani. He mourns the idea that most Hawaiians don’t learn these things and does his best to teach his fellow inmates. And in a way he imparts his culture to the film’s viewers.

Eventually David and Hale leave prison and return to Hawaii. David takes long bus trips to his job as a ‘kumu hula’ serving as outreach the the state’s downtrodden people. One of the men David talks to mentions that ‘we are all Hawaiian,’ a sentiment he agrees with. Lacy depicts the state as homogenous. Hawaii’s people, despite of where they came from, needing to help each other as difficult it is to help themselves.

The only room for improvement that I need here is for the film to focus equally on Hale and Kalani. David’s story has more variety than the other two men. However it would have been nice to see a dynamic portrayal of the latter two. There’s much more to Hale’s easygoing nature and Kalani’s inquisitiveness. Nonetheless these stories, in the way that Lacy tells them, were enlightening to watch.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.