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Kawa, the second book by author Witi Ihimaera that has been brought to the screen, is now out on DVD. Ihimaera has been internationally acclaimed for his bestselling book Whale Rider and the hit film based upon it.
“My greatest inspiration has been the stories of men and women struggling with difference and trying to change the world,” Ihimaera says. “Some of those people died -- and are still dying -- for what they believed and believe in.”
“My greatest triumph has been to write about Maori people and gay people in New Zealand -- by far the most put-down minorities in my country -- so that both our stories are heard.”
As the film opens, Kawariki appears to have everything. He’s a successful businessman of Maori descent living in Auckland, New Zealand, moving as easily within Maori circles as he does in the more westernized Pakeha society. He has a stunningly beautiful wife, Annabelle (Belle, for short); a rambunctious 16-year-old son; and a precocious 7-year-old daughter. He adores them all, and they, in turn, practically idolize him. They live in an elegant house, and everything comes across as perfect in their exotic and supremely picturesque world.
After all, this is a man who was brought up with strong sense of duty to be leader of his whanau (the Maori term for family), as well as his community. But appearances can be deceiving. Kawa has a deep and tightly kept secret -- one that has compelled him to move out of their home, leaving Belle desperately bewildered. Instead of communicating, though, her husband attempts to compartmentalize his life, clinging to the vain hope that he can continue doing so despite the havoc this duplicity threatens to wreak.
However, on the weekend that his elderly father is to step down, in accordance with their tribal traditions, and name him as the new head of their clan, his seemingly balanced existence becomes desperately complicated. The fact is that Kawa is gay, and his lover, a devoted but impetuous actor named Chris, is no longer willing to keep their relationship a secret. Having led a double life for so long, Kawa balks at revealing his true sexuality to his wife, kids, and conservative parents.
The film is adapted from Ihimaera’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, and the book’s title is derived from a comment one character makes: “All of the nights in the ‘Gardens of Spain’ and we’ve never been introduced,” using the term as a euphemism for all the steam rooms, bathhouses, back-room bars and alleyways that are often so much a part of a closeted man’s shadowy world. At its heart, this is the novelist’s genuine coming-out experience -- or pretty close to it.
“Kawa is based on my own story of being a gay husband and father leaving his family and children because he has fallen in love with a young man,” Ihimaera says. “The warrior culture that I belong to could never condone anything that is less than masculine and, as a consequence, Maori gay men have been subjected to violence. Man is at the top, women are lower and, well, Maori gay men are the lowest of the low!”
First-time director Katie Wolfe allows the action to unfold naturally, in a leisurely way, bringing a subliminal feeling of normalcy to the most tumultuous events. With numerous wide shots of sumptuously photographed billowing clouds, sunsets, lush green vistas, and sparkling azure oceans, sandwiched between snippets of the modern Maori’s world, we’re given a first-class production that visually borders on hypnotic. Similarly, as with the original narrative, Kate McDermott’s screenplay doesn’t at all apologize for itself -- these are tough situations with tough consequences. No longer able to reconcile the way he’s been living, Kawa must make a choice, and innocent people are going to be hurt -- but most especially Kawa himself will be hurt, regardless of how he proceeds.
“I made a mistake -- I chose the wrong life,” he guilelessly confesses to his wife at one point.
Yet among the key elements that make this film so rare and remarkable is that, yes, it is definitely, fittingly and unapologetically pro-gay, but not at the expense or belittlement of anyone else’s viewpoint. In particular, it treats the beliefs of the Maori people with terrific respect even as it asserts the validity of its own position.
In the central role, Calvin Tuteao gives an award-worthy performance, presenting a handsome, mature, thoroughly likable and identifiable everyman. If he’s straddling several worlds (whether culturally or sexually), it certainly doesn’t show … at first. Then again, quite often the calmest smiles have been known to conceal the most complex emotions, and this is the case with Kawa.
Kawa ultimately parts with his wife to be with Chris, but their match, alas, is bittersweet. Nonetheless, as his would-be partner, Dean O’Gorman’s motivations are clear and on some level, rational. He’s involved with someone who insists on keeping their relationship (and him) under wraps. As it’s played out, following the guy he loves is not really the act of malice or neediness that it might be coming from a lesser talent in an inferior movie; more accurately, it’s a misguided hope for resolution that simply can’t occur.
Nathalie Boltt, too, is spot-on, as Kawa’s wife, Belle, a woman placed in the middle of near-overwhelming circumstances. Although she’s nobody’s victim, neither is she anyone’s villain. Rather, she’s a figure worthy of empathy, who ostensibly had everything, only to have it taken away for reasons entirely beyond her control.
Likewise, veteran actor George Henare portrays Kawa’s father, Hamiora, as well-rounded and believable. He loves his son, but is beleaguered by such a revelation, and the shocking awareness that nothing is as he thought it was or ever will be resounds in his every glance.
Successfully rounding out this “generational portrait” is Pana Hema-Taylor as Kawa’s strapping (if slightly headstrong) son, Sebastian. Here’s a lad searching for guidance, but like his father, he has grown up surrounded by deeply rooted customs that may not always conform with our increasingly puzzling and transitory world.
In the end, there are no absolute rights or wrongs. To its noteworthy credit, Kawa doesn’t go for easy answers. In this piece of “art,” as in life, some are wounded -- but they also maintain the ability to heal, and grow, and face (or at least strive for) better days. As shown in the final reel, the story happily notes above all that things are changing. That’s why at its conclusion, a refreshing balance is struck between realism and idealism that is rare in many LGBT offerings these days.
“Over the years, many Maori gay men have become their own gay ‘tribe’ and, supporting each other, have begun to change attitudes within our community,” Ihimaera stresses, then divulges: “I was the chairman of the first gay Maori and Polynesian men’s group in Auckland. So these days you can be gay and a warrior, too!”
An utterly outstanding release, Kawa is available on DVD through Wolfe Video. For more information or to order online, go to: www.wolfevideo.com .
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.