Urban Islanders: The Friendships Behind Every Day in Kaimukī

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The team who brought the hazy skateboard indie Every Day in Kaimukī to Sundance talk nineties movies, leaving Hawai’i, and human-cat rivalry with our Indigenous editor Leo Koziol (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rakaipaaka).

Alika Maikau Tengan’s Every Day in Kaimukīwhich premiered this week at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, is the first film by an Indigenous Hawaiian filmmaker to do so. It is a chill, urban study of what it’s like to feel disconnected from one’s own land—even when you have spent your entire life on the island.

Every Day follows twenty-something Naz, a student-radio DJ and skateboarder, who is planning to finally move away from a lifetime on O’ahu after his artist girlfriend, Sloane (Rina White), lands a spot at the Pratt Institute in New York City. Naz, who is Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian), has talked plenty about moving off the island, but his skater pals will believe it when they see it.

Co-written by Alika Maikau Tengan and the film’s lead, Naz Kawakami, Every Day is set in the titular Honolulu neighborhood of Kaimukī, a stone’s throw away from beaches we never see. Instead, the settings are the streets and parks that Naz and his friends skate down, the studio at KTUH 90.1 FM, indie art galleries, and Naz and Sloane’s small apartment, which feels increasingly cramped as Naz struggles comically to divest his belongings and work out how to get his cat to New York.

There’s a fresh, authentic feel to the cast and soundtrack, which are populated with the filmmakers’ friends, including cinematographer and producer Chapin Hall and actor Holden Mandrial-Santos, who plays Naz’s friend Caden, and wrote many of the film’s original songs. You can listen to those on the film’s Spotify playlist alongside other indie Hawaiian artists including Goon Lei Goon, Hapa Hunting and Lionel Boy (two members of Goon Lei Goon are also in the film).

On a Zoom call with Tengan, Mandrial-Santos, White and Hall, we reminisced about the many in-person film festivals we are missing, where so many Indigenous filmmakers have made priceless connections.

Read the full interview.