Independent Lens: Kumu Hina

About This Episode


Imagine a world where a little boy can grow up to be the woman of his dreams, and a young girl can rise to become a leader among men.

Kumu Hina tells the inspiring story of Hina Wong-Kalu, a transgender native Hawaiian teacher and cultural icon who brings to life Hawaii’s traditional embrace of māhū — those who embody both male and female spirit. The film traces Hina’s evolution from Collin Wong, a timid high school boy, to her present position as a married woman and cultural director of a school in one of Honolulu’s grittier neighborhoods. When Ho’onani, a charismatic 6th grade girl, asks to join the school’s all-male hula troupe, Hina gives her the opportunity to express her inner male spirit. As teacher and student prepare for a climactic end-of-year performance, they meet many obstacles, but hold fast to the idea that being true to oneself matters most (see A Place in the Middle).

The film also delves into Hina’s pursuit of a dream of her own: a fulfilling romantic relationship. Her marriage to a headstrong Tongan man, and the challenges they encounter, offer a glimpse of a Hawaii rarely seen on film and a deeper understanding of the true meaning of aloha — love, honor, and respect for all.