Directed by: #AlikaMaikau
Written by: #AlikaMaikau
Moloka’i is the fifth most populous island of Hawai’i and boasts the tallest sea cliffs of anywhere in the world. While writer/director Alika Maikau doesn’t actually set his gritty, tense film on this particular island he does transport us to the Hawai’i where he grew up and which he knows intimately. This is not a Hollywood land of grass skirts and hula girls but a living, breathing community that is fighting hard to keep its own identity in the modern world. The film’s protagonist Kainoa, too, is struggling to keep his own identity as he faces a life after prison of which he is unsure.
We meet Kainoa (Mandrial-Santos) as he approaches a young teenager waiting on his own after school, and as we watch the interplay between them and listen to the back and forth of the dialogue, we must work out for ourselves what Kainoa’s purpose and role is here. Is he out to sell drugs? Is he recruiting for a gang? Or is there a deeper connection between the two young men that they are only just finding out how to decipher themselves?
The dialogue is fast paced and littered with colloquialisms which lends it a very genuine feel. It is also superbly delivered by Mandrial-Santos and Austin Tucker as Jonathan, who both supply a very natural tone to the rhythm of the speech. There is a real feeling of generational difference between the two and you can tell how hard Kainoa is working to identify with and keep the younger Jonathan on-side.
The film is expertly shot, keeping close to the characters throughout and following them as they circle each other and jostle for position within the confines of their single location. The whole scene looks as though it comes from a large budget full-length feature; as though we are witnessing just one instance from a much wider story. The cinematography goes a long way to establishing this, using muted institutional greys as a backdrop while the colourful exchange of the characters gets to shine in the foreground.
With a story that could rightly be told most anywhere in the world, Alika Maikau has managed to create an undeniably personal and local film that speaks to the heart of the issues that have impressed upon him from his own community. With a mix of universal themes placed into a particular setting he allows the viewer to transport themselves into his world and to share in an intimate story that has global reach.