Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bes' Kine

I took a week off of work, thinking I'd volunteer the whole time at the Hawaii International Film Festival. I got a lotta reasons/excuses, but whatever. I wound upp only working one day, so I only earned one free ticket. Which means I spent too much money during my vacation, but it was way worth it.

While I was in line for the premiere of Ecila, my friend Jeannie was flyering for a movie her (I think) huzz had helped produce. I'd heard of it before, somehow, but there was little bombast or hoopla. I'm a sucker for anything about dark-haired boys on skateboards. If they're gonna be speaking a little pidgin, I'm already obsessed. Boom, it was the first movie I bought tickets to, and a couple days later when Jeannie texted she had comp tickets for the second showing, I dragged my roommate to the theatre.
One Kine Day is the film directing debut of 808 Skate Shop owner Chuck Mitsui. Forgive me for comparing it to another movie (and I mean it in a good way): I was reminded of Larry Clark's first film KIDS. (and apparently so do the guys at Contrast Magazine). But this wasn't a mainlander's view of local life; nor is Mitsui trying to be mimic any other films or filmmakers. What he achieves perfectly is the pulse and pace of life on the Windward Side, during a very tumultous 24 Hours for it's main characters. Clark's dim, grim urban streets provoke you with gratuitous & sensational scenes; Mitsui's vibrant island paradise seduces you over to it's dark side with finesse & aplomb.

Both films are about the relationship between a young couple facing hardship. However,Telly, the guy in KIDS is promiscuous, and Jennie just lost her virginity to him. In One Kine Day, Ralsto promises to stay with his girlfriend Alea although she's pregnant, and has been before. While Jennie spends the whole movie trying to tell Telly she's HIV positive, Alea tells Ralsto their predicament while they're lying in bed at the start of the movie. There are more contrasting parallels, but I don't wanna give away too much.

I was so into this movie, I don't know where to start, because I'll never stop.
So many things drew me into the story, about a high school girl considering going through with her second pregnancy; while her boyfriend spends a whole day trying to raise enough money for "da kine". Who the fuck writes a teenage abortion story set in Hawaii? And to present it so candidly, without moralizing the situation, or the characters' motives? I think that's really brave, and shows a lot of respect for the characters, as well as the audience, each of us given permission to make our own judgments and conclusions about the situation.

There's even a scene where Ralsto bets all the money he has on his hottie, bad boy friend Nalu's, brother's chicken in a cock-fight. The camera doesn't survey the crowd, or linger too long on anyone at the cock-fight, because you wouldn't do that if you were there in real life. In fact the camera just follows the boys thru the event, as if they're walking through the park. Nothing to notice or ponder on. I've only heard crazy stories about cock-fights, but never been to one. I would totally sneak glances and even gawk if I was there. But these guys aren't tourists, so nothing is surprising to them, and now nor to us, the viewers, who feel like we belong there too. The battle between the birds isn't directly depicted, but cleverly shot, and convincing. No one stops to consider the legality or cruelty of the sport. It's just part of life.

I was also very impressed with how much you learn about each person driving the story. Local life centers heavily around family, and we look into each of these kids' homes, even learning a little about each parent, and what kind of life everyone lives. And even then, we become empathetic to whomever might otherwise be vilified by a sanctimonious lens. Nalu's brother who raises roosters to fight, is very loving toward them, and treats them like pets. Alea's party-hard mom CC, is trying to win her daughter back, but CC obviously looks like she was a young mother herself.

Of course I've heard the usual critiques about local productions. I get real defensive about this, because there's an endless array of crap from outside of Hawaii, but people who live here are automatically skeptical about independent films, moreso than they are toward Hollywood productions, set in the islands. I can understand any critique, and accept it on individual terms. Still I've heard a lot of reasons people give for not supporting local projects, without knowing anything about them.
I'll agree that some of the pidgin was a little too much. However, dialogue is one of the hardest things to write, and reading it naturally ain't easy either. Plus, this cast is pretty young, and mostly non-experiencedl actors who were friends with director Chuck Mitsui. Another complaint came from a friend, after the Q&A of the second screening. Mitsui was describing how the music people listen to, deeply affects and reflects their culture. My friend was bothered that the film implies that everyone listens to Hawaiian music. I argued that, if anyone was going to portray a place heavily influenced by Hawaiian music, perhaps Hawaii would be the first and only choice. The songs complement their scenes, and fit that side of the island. Furthermore, our punk rock friend Josh86 & his band Black Square are mentioned several times in the script, and are the featured band at the evening's house party.

Guess what? You don't gotta take my word for it: One Kine Day won the HIFF Audience Award for a narrative feature. It's already scheduled to play at the 2011 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, and I'm sure more to come. (put Asians - or Christians - as a focal point, and garanz ballbaranz you got a audience . Do something as good as this, you got a broader following.)

I been trying to look upp the director, Chuck Mitsui's email address or contact info. Found an old one, I hope he checks, but he don't post much on his twitter or facebook pages. The movie needs more exposure and promotion, because I think it's an important story, with a unique point of view. I hope he finds some way of reaching out to younger people who would be entertained & even educated by it. Just like KIDS, I believe One Kine Day should be played to adolescent audiences, who will undoubtedly be able to relate to the people portrayed in this movie & their issues. It would definitely spark discussion, and even touch a nerve. I need to shut upp now.

I got some of the photos from and more info from FITTED. Chuck Mitsui also started the ASH, the Association of Skateboarders of Hawaii (that's the email I hope to reach him at). He's not my T, so I ain't stalking him, but I just wanna wish him well, and learn more about the film & it's future.

(most of this movie's audience ain't gonna be queer, so they probbly never heard of the indy flick Ethan Mao, which is about an Asian family taken hostage on Thanksgiving, by the middle child & his boyfriend. The older son is pretty/vacant like I like 'em, but the younger one seems kinda wimpy or gay too. The wicked stepmother - played by the same actress as Ralsto's mom - gets all wet when Ethan & his huzzbin tie upp the whole family around the dinner table. It's so sadistically subversive, that it kinda turned me on....maybe because I wish I was her, tied upp with all them chinky twinks.)

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