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Reviewed by:
  • Out of State
  • David Lipset
Out of State. Documentary film, 82 minutes, color, 2017. Directed by Ciara Lacy; distributed by Out of State LLC. Purchasing information available at https://outofstatefilm.com/

State-based, capitalist society often excludes young, indigenous men whose backgrounds do not train or prepare them for its discipline and rationality, either in the workplace or the family. At the same time, capitalist society, or call it modernity, degrades and discourages indigenous values and agency, leaving such men unprepared for and untrained in their own cultural backgrounds. In short, modernity condemns them to a double form of masculine alienation (as discussed in my 2017 publication, Yabar: The Alienations of Murik Men in a Papua New Guinea Modernity).

In urban Hawai'i, some indigenous young men have sought agency and self-worth in drugs, violence, and crime, which is to say they have sought to find what is missing from their lives in anticapitalist, transgressive masculinity. They turn, in a word, to the street.

Ciara Lacy's compelling documentary Out of State follows the struggles of three Hawaiian men who were incarcerated in a for-profit Arizona prison for what they did on the street. There, we meet Kalani, the prison's kumu hula, now a middle-aged man who is just beginning a long sentence for theft, murder, and robbery. Deeply involved in training prisoners in indigenous Hawaiian culture, Kalani teaches ha'a and hula dances, leads rites to celebrate the dawn and the [End Page 246] New Year, and spends time annotating choreography as well as transcribing chants. Interspersed throughout the movie are enthralling images of Kalani leading tidy rows of bare-chested prisoners in waistcloths, dancing raptly in the prison yard to percussion provided by men playing ipu gourds.

The other two men featured in the movie participate wholeheartedly in Kalani's efforts on behalf of Hawaiian culture. One of these men, Hale, was convicted of drug-related offenses, robbery, kidnapping, and gun possession. When young, he tells us, he began to smoke marijuana that he stole from his mother. He smoked so much that he was left without any sense of purpose. At this point, he turned to theft and worked as a debt collector for illegal gamblers. In prison, Hale learns to dance and chant ha'a under Kalani's auspices and comes to the realization that "first and foremost, I am Hawaiian."

After serving fifteen years, Hale is transferred to a medium-security facility in Honolulu. "Some things in life you cannot undo. … I cannot change what I did wrong. … This was my mistake in life, thinking that I would rather be feared or respected than loved. Today, it is totally the opposite." Arriving home, he begins a furlough program that allows him to leave prison and work during the day while spending nights in his cell. He drives an airport van and sees carefree surfers and streets crowded with tourists. Meanwhile, he attends family functions, like a baby shower for his pregnant granddaughter, which prompt him to ponder his precarious life. "The hardest thing in my life," he tells the camera at one point, was "to forgive myself. … When my mom asked me to forgive her as a mom, I never expected that. All the anger, all the resentment went away. That, right there, changed my whole thinking." When his parole begins after several months, Hale leaves prison and is met by his high school sweetheart with whom he has kept in touch over the years. They marry that day.

The story of the third man, David, has a rather more ambiguous outcome. David recalls his twenty-year addiction to crystal methamphetamine during which he committed burglaries, assaults, and drug-related offenses. "I was crazy. … I didn't know who I was," he tells us in appreciation of how much he learned about Hawaiian culture and changed in prison. "I never knew one ounce of Hawaiian before I came … [to] jail. I learned everything in jail."

On parole, he goes home to his daughter's house, where he and his elderly father apologize to each other, David for the shame he has brought to the family name, and his father...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 246-248
Launched on MUSE
2019-02-28
Open Access
No
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