Now Playing: Hawaii’s Most-Watched Hula Movie

Meet the people who brought you Hawaii’s Consolidated hula trailer. How this local favorite came to life; where the dancers are now.


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They all knew each other well, brought close by their nightly performances and their love of dance.

“It was just a joy to make the film together because it captured the very essence of our culture,” says Heine.

Not just hula culture, but also canoe culture. The paddlers were from Hui Lanakila Club. They were filmed on a different day on Oahu’s Waianae coast, across from the Kahe Power Plant.

Heine is the tallest woman dancer in the trailer. Today, she is employed as a project manager at Henkels & McCoy utility construction company.

Heine says sometimes, when the trailer comes on before a movie, she glances behind herself, wondering if anyone in the theater knows she is one of the dancers on the huge screen.

Reggie Keaunui, the bearded dancer, remembers taking his children with him to the Pearlridge Theatres soon after the trailer was made. Before the film came on, Keaunui told them to just watch the movie and not say anything.

“But when he saw me dancing on the screen, my youngest son turned around in his seat and proudly blurted out to the audience: “That’s my dad! That’s my dad!” Keaunui says he sank down in his seat.

Keaunui, now 56 years old, has three grandchildren. He works at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and got called into work there the day of our photo shoot. He is an avid waterman who coaches paddling and has crewed on trips to Tahiti on the Polynesian voyaging canoes Hokulea and Hawaiiloa.

Keaunui started dancing hula when he was a high school student at Kamehameha Schools. He says the power of the Consolidated trailer has helped to erase a lingering stereotype that male hula dancers are effeminate or gay.

Keanui says the trailer affirmed that hula is for all men and women, all people.

Heine says, “Hula was a way of life for us. We lived hula; we breathed it. The trailer gave us an opportunity to give thanks for our culture. Every time I see it, I think, this is the real deal.”

Phil Shimmin was president of Consolidated Theatres when he came up with the vision for the trailer after watching the Merrie Monarch Festival on TV.

It was the real deal because that’s what Consolidated president Shimmin wanted when he asked music producer de Mello, the CEO of Mountain Apple Records, to make the film. De Mello says Shimmin was very specific about how he envisioned the trailer, even down to the time of day it should portray: sunset turning into a very dark night.

Shimmin was tired of the silly “be quiet” cartoon trailer Consolidated was running in its theaters at the time, which showed a cartoon baby being yanked off the screen when the baby started crying.

“Shimmin hated the canned cartoon music. He wanted something authentically Hawaiian, a production that gave a sense of place,” says de Mello.

In 1991, the Hawaiian cultural renaissance was already underway, de Mello says, but it was unusual for a movie theater company deeply immersed in American popular culture to commission such a uniquely Hawaiian product. He credits Shimmin as being far ahead of his time.

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Honolulu Magazine November 2018
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