'Princess' sparks heated debate


POSTED: Friday, October 16, 2009

The 29th annual Hawaii International Film Festival launched yesterday at the Sheraton Waikiki's RumFire with a spirited news conference that included Q'orianka Kilcher, star of the much-debated “;Barbarian Princess,”; a feature film premiering to a sold-out Hawaii Theatre tonight.

“;She's my role model, and I think she's an amazing role model for all young women,”; the 19-year-old Kilcher said of Princess Kaiulani, whom she portrays in the movie. “;It was very close to my heart because I did grow up in Hawaii.”;

The Peruvian actress acknowledged the challenge in presenting a beloved historical figure was “;to do the memory of Princess Kaiulani justice; I was deeply humbled and honored to portray such an amazing woman that I look up to.”;

A question from filmmaker Vilsoni Hereniko, a director and professor of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaii, about why the word “;barbarian”; was included in the title sparked ardent responses from Kilcher and writer/director Marc Forby.

“;The title was meant to bring in, and then challenge audiences from, say, middle America who might be expecting something like sexy dances at a luau,”; said Forby. “;We wanted to draw attention to how Hawaiians were treated in the 1800s; this has never been about exploiting the Hawaiian people. I never knew it would get so heated. I thought the irony would be obvious.”; He also apologized for the controversy and any offense the title has caused.


Producer Nigel Thomas hundreds of possible titles were considered.

“;It's very hard to come up with a title that doesn't sound like a cruise line,”; he said.

But it's a topic that continues to rankle some native Hawaiian leaders.

;[Preview]    World Debut For Film On Princess Kauilani

The Honolulu Film Festival kicks off with the film “;The Barbarian Princess”; already sold out.

Watch ]


“;We take serious issue with the title of the upcoming film 'Barbarian Princess,'”; Abigail Kawananakoa said in a statement. “;It is a perpetuation of the wrongs and hurtful aspersions cast upon our people for well over 200 years.”; Yet she went on to note that after viewing the movie, she will “;neither condemn nor celebrate it.”;

The world premiere is only one aspect of the 10-day festival packed with international fare, a special “;Lost”; celebration all day tomorrow and local talent.

“;For all the 'Sturm und Drang' over 'Barbarian Princess,'”; producer and Academy for Creative Media founder Chris Lee wrote in an e-mail message, “;the real story of this HIFF is the coming of age of an entirely new generation of local filmmakers—some of them from ACM—who are now positioned to create a sense of Hawaiian cinema.”;