Movie Review

April 2, 2013

Letter to Los Angeles Times over The Descendants

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Written by: MANAA

February 28, 2012-MANAA Founding President Guy Aoki sends a Letter to the Editor (edited by board member Miriam Nakamura and member Dr. Ray Quan) to the L.A. Times.

March 18-It’s published:  “I rolled my eyes reading Betsy Sharkey’s gushing article about why The Descendants should win the Oscar for ‘Best Picture.’ (“Descendants is Rightful Heir,” February 26).  Most of the elements she liked in the film could’ve taken place anywhere and not in Hawaii, where it was filmed.  All of the main characters are white.  Though descendants from Hawaiian royalty, apparently none of George Clooney’s extended family married anyone but fellow haoles because they looked white, making them 1/16 Hawaiian.

“The press repeatedly pointed out that the director spent eight months living in Hawaii so he could soak up the place before writing his screenplay, implying he had succeeded in capturing the cultural flavor of the place.  Yet no one called him out for not creating a large part for anyone who was Asian/Pacific Islander, which is what at least 70% of the population there is.”

“That’s like spending eight months in South Central L.A. yet not writing a significant role for anyone black or Latino.”

Editors cut out the end of the letter:  “Would critics still have hailed such a film a masterpiece?”

“When directors and screenwriters portray a place dominated by certain ethnic communities yet don’t adequately include them in their project, these creators don’t fully understand the value and richness of that community and miss an opportunity to produce a unique experience we can all learn from and enjoy.”

March 27-Aoki emails the Times a response to a letter which disagreed with MANAA’s stance (edited with Miriam Nakamura-Quan):  “My letter (March 18, Sunday) took The Descendants director Alexander Payne to task for not creating any major roles for Asian/Pacific Islanders, the majority of which make up the population of Hawaii where his movie was filmed.”  In response, Jerry Collamer (March 25) said the ‘all haoles’ movie was necessary to make the point that whites/haoles had exploited the people of Hawaii.

“In the film, that point was made briefly by the A/PI mother of one of George Clooney’s daughter’s classmates.  It could also have been made by the boyfriend of his other daughter Alex had he been cast as A/PI.”

“As movies don’t always adhere exactly to their original source material, a new character could’ve been created to show the way the King family was perceived by the locals.”

“Could a director successfully depict the exploitation of Native Americans by only allowing White characters to speak of it and not give Native Americans any major role in the project?”

“There was no need (as Hollywood often does) to ignore the dominant race and culture in Hawaii, which is A/PI.”

The letter is not published.



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