Jonny Kealoha (Tui Asau) is a washed-up and alcoholic Waikiki Polynesian entertainer. One day, he is summoned by the ailing Auntie Margaret (the very regal Marlene Sai), his long-revered kumu. She breaks the news that she wants Jonny to be the new instructor to a group of male students. Jonny’s boyish charm and impish smile instill little confidence in the group or haumana, and he finds that he has to earn their trust, which is challenging given that they think he knows little more than cheesy Waikiki tunes. Even more so, Jonny doubts his own ability, retaining very little from his youth as Auntie Margaret's pupil. All he has is a binder full of loose leaf notes.
Jonny also gets ire from Napua (played by actress Mary Pa'alani), who leads the girls’ group and has put in years of hard work and discipline to reach kumu status herself. She has little faith that Jonny’s haumana will be ready in time for the all-important Royal Hula Festival that has always featured Auntie Margaret’s haumana. Can Jonny and the boys set aside their differences and get ready for the big show?
THE HAUMĀNA joins the pantheon of underdog stories that have been explored on the big screen. The difference is, this film is completely homegrown, with all local actors, cast and crew, and an amazing soundtrack: a music score composed by George “Geebz” Del Barrio and songs by the likes of Robert Cazimero, vocalist Lehua Kalima (of Na Leo), and guitarist Shawn Pimental. Also look out for Kelly Hu, in a truly "tita"-riffic performance!
Keo Woolford's feel-good cinematic ode to the richness of Hawaiian culture is a perfect film to close this year's Hawaii International Film Festival.
Synopsis written by: Anderson Le