Waikiki – Director Christopher Kahunahana

Award-winning filmmaker Christopher Kahunahana feature film debut, WAIKIKI,  focuses on the spiraling plight of Native Hawaiian hula dancer, Kea. While escaping her abusive boyfriend she crashes her beat-up van into a mysterious homeless man. From there Kea finds herself flung into a surrealistic journey of self-exploration and enlightenment. Director Christopher Kahunahana’s eagerly awaited feature debut breaks down the enduring, stereotypical image of paradise we have of Waikiki to reveal a vulnerable and authentic  portrait of indigeneity. Leaving behind the touristic image of paradise and island culture, WAIKIKI tackles the often-unspeakable generational trauma of postcolonial cultures through mixing of genre conventions, experimental storytelling, and perspectives. Director, writer, producer and co-editor Christopher Kahunahana stops by to talk about the history of Hawaii, from pre-colonial times to the present, the impact of American sugar interests and the path to statehood. We also discuss the challenges of making a feature film in Waikiki, the beautifully calibrated performance from his lead actor Danielle Zalopany, and the support of his entire cast and crew.


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For more go to: waikikithemovie.com

About the filmmaker – Christopher Kahunahana is an award-winning Hawaiian filmmaker and Sundance Institute Feature Film and Native Lab Alumni. He is the writer, producer, and director of WAIKIKI which premiered at the Urban World Film Festival 2020 and opened The Smithsonian’s Mother Tongue Film Festival. WAIKIKI has been recognized with multiple awards including a Grand Jury Award for Best US Narrative Feature at The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Best Feature Grand Prize at Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival, and Best Made in Hawaii Feature Film at the Hawaii International Film Festival. In 2020 Kahunahana has been a panelist for the American Film Market “Changing the Narrative: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Film”, The Geena Davis Institute “Gender in Media AAPI representation”, and the American International Film Festival NY “A Paradise Lost: Hollywood’s Effect on Hawai’i”. He has also served on the selection and advisory committee for GOLD HOUSE FUTURES a partnership with CAPE, Netflix, and Tribecca Studios. His short LĀHAINĀ NOON, is presently streaming on the Criterion Channel, and his 360° film PIKO is being exhibited in the Honolulu Museum of Arts. He is currently writing AIMAN, a near-future sci-fi centered on Oceanic climate refugees.




Best North American Narrative Feature, Grand Jury Award, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Best Feature Grand Prize, Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival
Best Narrative Feature, Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
Best Hawaiʻi Feature Film, Jury Award, Hawai’i International Film Festival
Jury Award Honorable Mention, Bentonville Film Festival
Audience Award, Best Feature, Boston Asian American Film Festival
Indie Vision Breakthrough Performance Award, Twin Cities Film Festival
Best Hawaiʻi Film, Hawaii Film Critics Society
Best Cinematography, Special Jury Award, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Best Cinematography, Jury Award, Hawai’i International Film Festival
Best Music in a Feature Film, BMI Film Festival Awards

86% on RottenTomatoes

“A Lynchian look at the dark side of paradise.” — Nathaniel Miur, AIPT

“Utterly remarkable for its raw energy…a combination of beauty, pain, and longing…a star-making performance.” — Jason Sanders, Filmmaker Magazine

“A hauntingly beautiful film that depicts the complicated and intertwined sides of paradise, both darkness and light…” — Chris Lee, Variety

“Zalopany’s riveting performance has desperation, manipulation, narcissism and panic folded into it.” – Roger Moore, Movie Nation

“Pulls you in.” – Stephen Saito, Moveable Fest

“Kahunahana’s splendid debut feature…demonstrates that he is a remarkably accomplished visualist…never less than fascinating…”   Christian Gallichio, The Film Stage