‘Aloha’ movie criticized by Native Hawaiian, Asian American groups

"Aloha" trailer still courtesy Sony Pictures

**Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Sony Pictures.**

The movie studio behind the controversial film “Aloha” is firing back at its critics.

The movie “Aloha” opens in theaters this weekend and features A-list actors like Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams.

Cooper plays a military contractor who comes to Hawaii and falls for the character played by Stone.

It’s the latest project for director Cameron Crowe, who also made box office hits such as “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous.”

Native Hawaiians say the title is disrespectful while an Asian American watchdog group questions why Asian actors weren’t given any substantial roles.

In a statement, Sony Pictures said:

“While some have been quick to judge a movie they haven’t seen and a script they haven’t read, the film Aloha respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people. Filmmaker Cameron Crowe spent years researching this project and many months on location in Hawaii, cultivating relationships with leading local voices. He earned the trust of many Hawaiian community leaders, including Dennis ‘Bumpy’ Kanahele, who plays a key role in the film.”

Crowe himself said, “There are so many surprises for the people that aren’t aware of what the movie really is. I say whether you see it this weekend or later on TV or something, check it out because we really honor Hawaii in every frame of this movie.”

However, some people KHON2 spoke with did not show a lot of love for “Aloha.”

Guy Aoki is a former Hawaii resident who is now the founding president of the watchdog group Media Action Network for Asian Americans.

As far as Asian characters, in the credits, they’re billed as “Indian pedestrian, upscale Japanese tourist, upscale restaurant guest, I mean these are people who don’t even have names so you know that their parts are not gonna be very big,” he said.

Aoki is asking the people of Hawaii to boycott the movie because otherwise it would encourage more filmmakers to make movies about Hawaii without using Asian actors.

“It’s an insult to the people of Hawaii that filmmakers come in and they want to use the lush background and they want to talk the culture as if they understand the culture and yet they don’t want to use the people who created the culture which are Asian or Pacific Islanders,” said Aoki.

Native Hawaiians say using the word aloha for the title shows that the people who made the movie knows so little about the culture, because aloha means so much more to Native Hawaiians than just hello or goodbye.

Activist Walter Ritte compares it to the protest happening in Mauna Kea “where the scientists are going to take a place that is sacred to us and now Hollywood is gonna take a word that is sacred to us and they have no qualms about using it in whatever way they want to use it.”

KHON2 also spoke with Hawaii Film Commissioner Donne Dawson who is Native Hawaiian. She says the title is a bad idea and she wishes that the film producers had consulted with cultural experts here before deciding on the title.

Kenia Chacon was an extra in the film and described the experience as a positive one:

“All I can say is that everyone who worked in the film were treated nice and fair. In fact, Mr. Cameron Crowe took his time to shake hands and talk to us. The crew and everybody on set was very nice and considerate of everyone on set and we were a large group of mixed people there. I don’t understand what the big problem is here. I personally think that the movie will be a nice one. I hope people are not being dissuaded from watching the movie by the accusations that are being made about the movie.”

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