Tag Archives: 2020


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DIRECTED BY: Christopher Kahunahana

FEATURING: Danielle Zalopany, Peter Shinkoda, Jason Quinn

PLOT: A Hawaiian native who works three jobs to make ends meet undergoes a breakdown when her van hits a homeless man.

Still from waikiki (2020)

COMMENTS: Kea starts Waikiki with three jobs: a hula dancer at a tourist show, a part-time instructor of native Hawaiian language at an elementary school, and, most lucratively, a gig at a hostess bar where she sings karaoke duets with lonely old men (a vocation that is slighter sadder than outright prostitution). Still, she can’t quite make ends meet—thanks in part to her estrangement from an abusive boyfriend—and is living out of her van. She also has a history of unspecified mental illness: when she tells her ex that she’s hit a homeless man, he wonders if she’s imagined it. That hit-and-not-run is the impetus for her sudden descent into homelessness. Guilty Kea gathers the bum into her van, carting him around for the rest of the movie as her already bleak fortunes sink lower.

Shots of dingy, dark concrete streets alternate with visions of tranquil blue seas and cool streams cutting their way through verdant forests. Honolulu (outside of Waikiki’s beaches) is an ugly city, plopped smack into the middle of a tropical paradise. He aili’i ka aina, he kanau ke kanaka, Kea scrawls on a whiteboard for the edification of her young students. “The land is the chief, the people are the servants.” Cut to a shot of a crane hoisting metal girders into the sky (construction projects are omnipresent in Waikiki‘s Honolulu). Kea looks grim and anxious filling out an application for housing; then, dolled up and adorned with a stage smile, she sways and mouths Connie Francis’ cheesy lyrics: “There’s a feeling deep in my heart/Stabbing at me just like a dart/It’s a feeling so heavenly…” The contrasts are obvious, but meaningful. We don’t mind when Kahunahana hammers them, because he’s getting at something uncomfortably true: the precariousness of the daily lives of millions of workers, as glamorous-on-the-surface bottle girl Kea sinks into dereliction in the space of a couple of days.

As the bum, Peter Shinkoda’s function within the story is ambiguous. He isn’t exactly mute, but he almost never speaks, and when he does it’s only on fragments. He becomes Kea’s voluntary responsibility, but in a sense, he drags her down to his level rather than redeeming her. He also serves as a conduit for her flashbacks. She berates him, calls him “pilau,” and the camera focuses on his face as it segues into a brief montage of her childhood memories before cutting back to a shot of her gazing into a mirror. Coupled with shots later in the film, the editing suggests an identification between Kea and Shinkoda that runs deeper than the surface plot might suggest.

Waikiki is being pitched by some as “the first narrative feature written and directed by a Native Hawaiian filmmaker.” A quick IMDb search reveals the existence of Keo Woolford‘s The Haumana (2013), which itself doesn’t seem like it could possibly be the first narrative feature written and directed by a native Hawaiian. That said, it’s still an extremely rare occurrence, and the novel native Hawaiian perspective here is one of Waikiki‘s pleasures, along with breezy island cinematography and a magnetically dark and ironic performance from Zalopany.

In limited theatrical release at the moment after an unusually long festival run, Waikiki should find a bigger audience on VOD starting December 5.


“…ventures into the surreal… while it creates some confusion as far as the narrative is concerned – or what there is of it — the writer/director shows a strong handle over sequences that stir the subconscious.”–Stephen Saito, The Moveable Feast (contemporaneous)

CHANNEL 366: 30 COINS, SEASON 1 (2020)

30 Monedas


FEATURING: Eduard Fernández, Megan Montaner, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, , Pepón Nieto, Manolo Solo

PLOT: In a small Spanish town, strange supernatural take place involving the town’s new priest, Father Vergara, previously an exorcist and currently an ex-convict. Vergara has in his possession a coin: one of the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas for betraying Jesus. He gets swept up in the increasingly strange events along with the town mayor, Paco and the town veterinarian, Elena. Amidst the deaths and strange creatures that appear, the three discover a conspiracy within the Church which involves gathering together all thirty coins.Still from "20 Coins" (2020)

COMMENTS: Getting A-level cinema talent to bring their A-game to the smaller screen can pay off; see with “Poker Face” and “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.” In most cases, that talent creates the concept and is involved in some way—directing a few episodes, writing/producing—but then the majority of production gets farmed out to others. It’s a rarity to have said talent directly involved in a the entire run of full-season of television (where a season is eight to ten episodes, in a world where “miniseries” appears to be a dirty word). Notable exceptions are ‘s “Twin Peaks: the Return” and Mike Flanagan’s Netflix shows (“The Haunting of…,” “Midnight Mass,” “The Midnight Club”).

Add “30 Coins” to that list. Spain’s Álex de la Iglesia, together with co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarría, combines elements of trashy telenovelas with a supernatural conspiracy involving the Vatican over eight episodes. Fans of de la Iglesia’s Day of the Beast will find this  familiar ground. Beast is comparable to early ; “30 Coins” is like later Raimi, but with a bit more edge.  The telenovela aspect involves the star-crossed romance of childhood sweethearts Elena (Megan Montaner) and Paco (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) who has an ambitious and jealous wife, Merche (Macarena Gómez). This triangle weaves in and out amongst the Lovecraftian events (several of the creatures who appear are explicitly named in that mythos).

The main title, one of the most vivid and memorable created for a television show, establishes the tone. It evokes the already over-the-top Biblical epics of the 1950s, with the Crucifixion shown in lurid detail, Judas getting paid off, and Jesus and his betrayer sharing a look that can be described as psychotic triumph. Judas’ suicide and the scattering of the coins end the sequence, setting up the show’s backstory.

The eight-episode series was created for HBO Europe, and proved to be successful enough on HBO Max that it was renewed for a second season, scheduled to premiere October 2023.  Advance word on the second season suggests it focuses on the people of Pedraza, who have lost their minds and are confined to a psychiatric hospital. Elena lies in a Madrid hospital bed in a coma; Paco, shattered by remorse, tries to take care of her. Paul Giamatti will join the cast as Christian Barbrow, an American tech and business billionaire, science guru, writer of sci-fi novels, and head of a mysterious brotherhood of global elites. As horror grows around the cast, they must face a new enemy.

The first season can be streamed on HBO Max (or whatever they’re called today). Those thirsting for a home video release are out of luck, as there is no domestic release of the show as of this writing. There is, however, a Spanish Blu-ray release that has an English dub soundtrack as well as Spanish/English subtitles and a Spanish soundtrack—and is region free (although the format is incompatible with Playstation 3 and maybe some other units). Contact your favored importers.

Season One trailer:

Main title:

Season 2 teaser:

Season 2 trailer:


“…this season remains bogged down in dull relationship drama and a confusing, mutating conspiracy, with only occasional flashes of the weird horror that the concept and the first episode’s opening scenes promise.”–Josh Bell, CBR (contemporaneous)