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George Clooney, Alexander Payne and The Descendants, Exposing Hawaiian Culture For The Better

George Clooney The DescendantsWell it looks like there might be some hope for Hollywood to have gotten some of Hawaii Cultural information correct.  As we know, Director Alexander Payne and George Clooney came to Hawaii in 2010 to shoot The Descendants; a book written by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  The Descendants started off as a  “dramedy” (drama/comedy) but word has it that it’s a tear-jerker that might release around November.

I actually watched from afar some of the shooting and the hard work creative people on the crew did to get the Hawaiian aspect of the story correct.  The breakdown of the film is that “Matt King (Clooney) is an indifferent husband and father of two girls forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries”.

Well, the good news is that there seemed to be some real care taken to make sure that the authenticity of the Hawaiian angle of The Descendants is as good as it can be.  Production Design headed by Jane Ann Stewart and Art Director T.K. Kirkpatrick (huge fan of both their work on Family Stone as well) seemed to have done a great job on the film as far as authenticity of the historical representation of ancient Hawaiian artifacts.  I watched as they meticulously studied Hawaiian history to get it right (thank God)!  As well, casting director John Jackson really dove into the Hawaiian culture during the film.  I recall him wanting to really understand the history and the CORRECT meaning and annunciation of the Hawaii language before he began casting.  Second unit director Tracy Boyd was a very powerful part of the productions as it was his gig to round up and shoot the authentic shots of everything Payne needed as the primary crew did their work. I so look forward to this film!

Alexander Payne is a killer director and writer in my eyes.  I know that the core of The Descendants is NOT about the Hawaiian Culture but judging from his past success in his films, perhaps this film will power through the best of the releases all the way to the top for 2012 Oscars, taking some Hawaiian culture with it.  But as in most cases, when Hollywood ads it’s sparkle to a story, sometimes the authenticity of a subject matter that is sensitive to native people around the world, the truth gets lost in the cracks of entertainment.

So soon we will see if Payne and creative team got it right.  But I have a funny feeling that those who are educated about cultural Hawaii and the history of the Ahupua’a will pleased.  The Descendants should be released sometime in Autumn 2011 (I think).  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a great film from Alexander Payne and George Clooney because a major part of Hawaiian culture gets to go for the ride and show the world much, much more about Hawaii’s history; and that’s always a good thing!


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