Thursday, April 9, 2015

Kumu Hina [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
Official website

Kumu Hina [2014] (directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson) is a documentary about Hina Wong-Kalu a contemporary native-Hawaiian māhū (transgender person) who as māhūs often did in traditional Hawaiian/Polynesian society serves as a Kumu (or master) at a hālau hula (traditional hula school) in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The film played recently as part of Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center's 20th Annual Asian American Showcase and will air in May, 2015 on PBS's Independent Lens program.

I found the film's subject matter interesting because as questions surrounding gender -- gender roles, gender identification, gender relationships -- become more and more prevalent in our time (and across the globe...) there have been some fairly interesting films made about various traditional, non-Western approaches to these questions. 

I think here of an excellent recent film set in China called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan [2011] that was about a laotong (or "sworn sister") kind of relationship that apparently existed in traditional Chinese society. 

The current film is about a person who began life as a Hawaiian man and in his twenties/thirties did undergo a sex change operation to become physically a woman but who did certainly claim that all his life he identified with being a woman.  While certainly most people would not go to the point of undergoing a sex-change operation, most of us do know people from our childhoods who ALSO more-or-less clearly identified more with the opposite sex/gender than than with the one which they physically were -- the "harder-core tomboys" and the "boys who dressed-up / played with dolls."

Well, the point of this film, which I do find interesting (and humane), was that in traditional Hawaiian / Polynesian society THERE WAS A RESPECTED _MIDDLE_ PLACE FOR THESE FOLKS.  And they often became the TEACHERS, to some extent even PRIEST-LIKE TEACHERS (mediating between "the old traditions" and "the people"), of the society.

This film is without question "not for all", BUT also it is also (without question) an INTERESTING one and IMHO on a whole bunch of levels.

One of the most interesting levels for me is simply: Is Christianity / Catholicism (which is about a Universal Church big enough FOR EVERYBODY who sincerely belongs there) capable of learning from other cultures / traditions?

I obviously think that it is.  And in our generation, we are asking if there is there a place for the "tom boys" and the "girly boys."  We have them in our midst and even in our families.  We invite them to our family Christmas and Mother's Day dinners.  Is there a place for them in Church?

It would seem that Pope Francis with his now famous "who am _I_ (!) to judge?" comment has opened-up the door IN THE CHURCH for this discussion.

If we can be kind to our "more butch," "effeminate," and even more generally to our "generally (!) harmless but strange" (Addams Family-like ;-) relatives in our families, why can't the Church?

Again, I think _we can_ be so kind and, honestly, if we believe in a Church "big enough FOR EVERYBODY who belongs there," I believe we must.

Yes, this is not necessarily a film for everybody, but one certainly for adults to see, consider and then talk-about.

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