Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Sep 17th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Sugar Substitute

film_PrincessK1Hawaiian history looks great, less filling, in 'Princess Ka'iulani'
She is a cultural heroine in Hawaii. The last princess of the royal line, she fought with poise and determination to preserve Hawaiian independence even as American military and political forces were robbing the islands of their self-governing sovereignty. She exists in a historical moment blighted by unsavory skullduggery on the part of the United States that most Americans deserve to know more about. Hers is an epic story of gender, race, class, heartbreak, perseverance, and unswerving courage.

Too bad it inspires such a lukewarm effort in rookie filmmaker Marc Forby's Princess Ka'iulani. Shot on location in Honolulu (including interiors inside the royal Iolani Palace), and in Britain, Forby's film aims for historical grandeur    and righteous moral fervor. But while he offers a cogent depiction of how American business interests hijacked the Kingdom of Hawaii and stole the islands from their people in the name of "democracy," Forby's pedestrian storytelling never quite lives up to the story being told. It's a perfectly workmanlike effort, but, given the material, it could have been much more stirring.

Q'orianka Kilcher (the young Peruvian-Swiss actress who played Pocahontas in The New World) brings regal bearing and multicultural integrity to the part of Princess Ka'iulani. Daughter of  seafaring Scotsman and onetime Royal Governor of O'ahu, Archibald Cleghorn (Jimmy Yuill) and a Hawaiian mother of royal blood (who dies when the princess is a young girl), Ka'iulani is the favorite niece and designated heir of childless King Kalakaua (Ocean Kaowili) and his royal sister, Liliu'okalani (an impressive Leo Anderson Akana).

The story begins in 1889, when Western capitalism in the form of American sugar companies have invaded the island. Teenage Ka'iulani is present one night at a royal ceremony disrupted by a party of armed Americans demanding that the generations-old monarchy step aside in favor of a so-called "constitution." Instigators include villainous American cabinet minister Thurston (Barry Pepper), whose plan is to obtain 100 percent of political power in the islands for the "haole" foreigners who represent 10 percent of the population, and Sanford Dole (Will Patton), a Yank businessman afflicted with a latent conscience.

For the princess' own safety, her father packs her off to England to stay with family friends, enrolling Ka'iulani in a boarding school where the snooty English girls and martinet headmistress constantly sneer that "nobody cares that you're a princess." During the four years she spends being educated as "a respectable lady," U.S. troops land in Hawaii and slaughter all who oppose them. Her uncle's monarchy is overthrown, and when Liliu'okalani, now Queen, refuses to recognize a new constitution "crafted by thieves," she's placed under indefinite house arrest.

Most of this drama happens offscreen, or is conveyed in little backstory vignettes. In the foreground, Forby invents a never-very-convincing romance between Ka'iulani and Clive (Shaun Evans), the son of her English host family. (It's as if Forby doesn't believe the princess' story is dramatic enough unless she has to choose between her country and the man she loves.) Eventually, Ka'iulani embarks on a campaign against the American annexation of Hawaii that leads her all the way to a diplomatic meeting with President Grover Cleveland.

The film is most successful in exposing this shameful episode in U.S.-Hawaiian history, and as an artifact of cultural pride. But too many trite scenes leech the spark out of the story—like when a timorous Ka'iulani throws out her prepared speech and charms a bunch of gruff old Central Casting newshounds at her first press conference, or when the gallant Clive reminds an insulting duchess that Ka'iulani's noble bloodline is centuries older than her own.  Forby also attempts a feel-good finale, implying that Ka'iulani's success in petitioning the U.S. government to halt annexation (a petition that ultimately failed) somehow restores voting rights to indigenous Hawaiians disenfranchised by the bogus constitution.

It's all done with the best possible intentions, and it's an often lovely film to look at. But this gripping story ought to stir the soul in a way this film never does.

PRINCESS KA'IULANI ★★1/2

With Q'orianka Kilcher, Barry Pepper, and Jimmy Yuill. Written and directed by Marc Forby. A Matador release. Rated PG. 100 minutes

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

A Different Revolution

Aries Moon late Wednesday and Thursday. We think new thoughts and initiate new ideas. Sun in Virgo with Saturn in Scorpio help disciples to create orderly structures to anchor and bring forth new ideas. Stabilizing Taurus moon Friday and Saturday. We anchor new ideas into form and matter, like seeds planted in the soil. We tend them, waiting for green shoots to emerge. Like the gestating Virgo Sun Madonna, awaiting the birth of the holy child, the Soul, the new light at winter solstice. Mercury and Chiron converse about what hurts and what heals.Saturday is a complex day with Mercury (communication), Mars (action!) and Uranus (revolution). Mercury in Libra is opposite Uranus in Aries. Oppositions (recognizing something new appearing over there somewhere) eventually synthesize. Mercury in Libra calls for Right Action and Right Relations, especially with money. Uranus in Aries—the revolution this time must be different.  Also on Saturday, Mars enters Sagittarius. Where are we going, what are our goals, where’s justice, where’s the mountain, do we have good shoes? Sunday Venus trines Pluto—in-depth assessment of money, values and resources. Gemini moon Monday; we talk a lot, tending to tasks in gardens and neighborhoods. Cancer Moon Tuesday and Wednesday; we nurture and nourish. The stars and planets remind us.Note: William Meader, esoteric author & international teacher, will be speaking on “The Soul of Humanity Evolving Through Crisis” at Meditation Mount, 7pm, Friday, Sept. 12.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 12

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

What's your all-time best Skyview Flea Market score?

Santa Cruz | eBay Business

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Soquel’s Pinot Winner

When you taste Soquel Vineyards’ extraordinary 2012 Partners’ Reserve Pinot Noir, you will know why it won a Double Gold in June at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition.

 

Wood Fire Woodie

Scotts Valley pizzeria gets fired up the old-school way