Korean American screenwriter Christina Strain and Taiwanese American director Judy Weng released the Netflix original movie Finding Ohana on Jan. 29. With a predominantly Asian American cast and crew, the film showcases representation both on and off screen.
Finding Ohana follows two siblings, played by Kea Peahu and Alex Aiono, whose trip to an Oahu town becomes a treasure-hunt adventure that connects them to their Hawaiian heritage.
According to Khon2, Strain said that growing up as an Asian American, one of her heroes was the character Data, played by Jonathan Ke Quan, from the movie The Goonies. She said she wanted to write “a Goonies style adventure starring all Datas.”
“5 years ago I found myself really unhappy with everything I’d written. I’d written scripts I thought I ‘should’ write to break in[to the industry], and in the end I hated all of it,” Strain wrote on Twitter, according to Khon2. “So I wrote something for me.”
Strain described Finding Ohana as “a Goonies style movie in Hawaii that was about family, culture, and heritage” with three of the four starring roles played by Asian and Pacific Islander actors. It was also directed, written and produced by Asian American women and included starring roles that were played by Asian and Pacific Islander actors, reports Khon2.
According to The Nerd of Color, the actors were excited by the opportunity when they read the script. Peahu, who plays Pili, said she connected with her character through similar life experiences.
“And I feel like we even have some similar backgrounds. She’s from Oahu and she moved to Brooklyn and I’m from Oahu and I moved to LA. So when I got the script, I was already really excited to get her. And then I got the role, and that was crazy,” Peahu said, reports The Nerd of Color.
Actors Lindsay Watson (Hana) and Alex Aiono (E), who play Hana and E, were both quick to realize the significance of having Hawaiian culture portrayed in such an authentic light and at such a large scale, reportsThe Nerd of Color.
“My jaw dropped when I read it. I was born and raised in Hawaii with this culture, and I’ve never seen it on the big screen. And I’m like, ‘This is a Netflix film that’s going to tell my story to the world?’” Watson said.
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