When most people think about the island of Hawaii, thoughts of hula dancers, exotic drinks, sparkling oceans and sprawling beaches come to mind. When I think of Hawaii, I remember a time as a young child on the island of Kailua playing with my Mom and Dad on the beach, awaiting the birth of my little brother and speaking Pigeon (English). What I didn’t know about Hawaii until today is that their prisons are overpopulated and many inmates are exported to Arizona. What I also didn’t know about is the lack of passing the down their culture and the misinterpretation that has been fostered over decades. I know first hand how rich and massive the Hawaiian culture is and am saddened that for some reason it s not being passed down to younger generations.
In a private prison located in the Arizona desert, two native Hawaiians discover their cultural traditions from a fellow inmate serving a life sentence. Out of State focuses on two of these inmates – David and Hale, who finish their terms and return to Hawaii hoping for a fresh start. Eager to prove to themselves and to their families that this experience has changed them forever, David and Hale struggle with the hurdles of life as formerly incarcerated men, asking the question: can you really go home again?
“The first time I walked into the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona I cried. There, in the middle of a dusty prison recreation yard, were 100 men chanting my entrance into the facility. Prior to arriving, I had reasonable concerns about filming in prison and had been advised by mentors to love my subjects but to also be cautious given their histories. Every expectation was immediately thrown out the door when I saw these men chanting in varying
shades of traditional Hawaiian dress and prison uniforms. Caught off guard, I did the only thing I knew how to do…I chanted back.”
“As a native Hawaiian, the metaphor of our cultural practices behind bars was immediately overwhelming, evoking profound resentment for the ramifications of the colonization of our people. To date, we struggle at the bottom rung of so many socio-economic factors in our own lands, including a striking overabundance of our people populating local and distant prisons.”
“Sadly, this is not new information about our community. However, what captured me in this prison space was the humanity and connection between men. If, in this most unlikely location, thousands upon thousands of miles away from home, they could discover their native culture from each other and create a bond, so much more was possible. And it still is. Out of State is meant to be more than a documentary; it is meant to give face to the hundreds of native men shipped to faraway prisons but who remain hopeful to return home to a fresh start.” These are the words and sentiment of the Producer/Director Ciara Lacy.
Out of State shockingly reminded me that no matter where men are incarcerated, the treatment once they are released is universal. These men either have support or they don’t. The ones who have the support often times are the ones who have the best possible chances of succeeding and creating a new life. Everyone has someone in their familial unit who has been incarcerated. Maybe if the families supported these young men and women a little more rather than passing judgement and throwing them out like yesterday’s trash, our society as a whole could finally break this cycle.
For more information on Out of State and other films at the Los Angeles Film Festival through June 22nd, click on www.filmindependent.org