American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawaii

The hula is experiencing a rebirth that celebrates Hawaiian culture across the American mainland.

American aloha 01
POV, True Stories
Premiere Date
August 5, 2003
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2004 CINE - Celebrating Excellence in Film, Video & Media Arts-Golden Eagle Award
  • Flanary lisette marie filmmaker bio

    Lisette Marie Flanary

    Lisette Marie Flanary's credits include producing the 35mm short Homeland in El Salvador, which received a Student Academy Award, and writing and directing her own short film, Kill Kimono, which toured in Asian American film festivals around the country. Flanary, whose mother is from Hawai'i, and who spent many summers on the islands while growing up, is a hula dancer and board member for the Hawai'i Cultural Foundation in New York City. After receiving her BFA in film and television from New York University in 1995, she co-founded bluestocking films, inc. She earned her masters degree in creative writing at New York's New School in 2000 and also teaches screenwriting.

    Other ITVS Films
    Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula

    Evann Siebens

    Evann Siebens specializes in making films about dance. A former dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, and the Bonn Ballet in Germany, she has filmed dancers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bill T. Jones, and Lucinda Childs. She is also a graduate of New York University and co-founder of bluestocking films, inc. Evann has been the videographer for numerous documentaries on dance including State of Darkness and From the Horse’s Mouth. Her short films, POTHEAD and do not call it fixity... have screened at film festivals and on arts networks worldwide. Siebens co-directed The Breach, a dance film series for DV Republic, and was commissioned to direct a documentary on the Jose Limon Dance Company in 2000.

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    The Film

    Few American icons are as well known for their popular kitsch as the hula dance. From old Hollywood movies to entertainment for tourists, the hip-swaying girls in grass skirts and colorful lei have long masked an ancient cultural tradition. Now, after years of being shadowed by stereotypes, the hula is experiencing a rebirth that celebrates Hawaiian culture. Hawaiians — wherever they live — are challenging misconceptions by redefining the evocative storytelling art of the hula dance across the American mainland.

    For Hawaiians, the hula is a way of life. Since ancient times, hula has preserved history through oral tradition, and expressed the soul of Hawaiian spirituality. The sacred chants communicated with the gods, recorded genealogy, honored the chiefs, exalted nature and celebrated humanity. Yet by the early 20th century, many of the unique cultural traditions of Hawai'i were in danger of disappearing — especially the hula. Denounced as a "heathen" practice with the arrival of American missionaries, the hula was soon outlawed and forced underground. Hawaiians were discouraged from being proud of their ancestry, and soon even the language was banned. Nearly lost after decades of assimilation following the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the hula emerged as a symbol of fierce ethnic pride during the Hawaiian renaissance that swept the islands in the 1970s.

    American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai’i shows the survival of the hula as a renaissance continues to grow beyond the islands. With the cost of living in Hawai'i estimated at 27 percent higher than the continental United States, large numbers of Hawaiians have left the islands to pursue professional and educational opportunities. Today, with more Native Hawaiians living on the mainland than in the state of Hawai'i, the hula has traveled with them. From the suburbs of Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area, the largest Hawaiian communities have settled in California, and the hula continues to connect communities to their heritage on distant shores.