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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hawaiian Rainbow/Kumu Hula: Keepers Of A Culture
Hawaiian Rainbow/Kumu Hula: Keepers Of A Culture
MVD Entertainment Group // Unrated // December 11, 2015
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted April 5, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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Hawaiian Rainbow & Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture:
Most of us will never understand the unique mind-set of the Islander. To say the environs and lifestyle, particularly of Hawaii, casts a spell is an understatement. It happened to filmmaker Robert Mugge on a 1986 visit, inspiring him to team up with a bunch of heavy hitters in order to craft these two documentaries. Hawaiian Rainbow(1987) and Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture(1989) examine in some depth Hawaiian music and dance, respectively, helping to further the awareness of Hawaiian culture spawned by what's known as the Second Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s. If you're in thrall to Island Ways or just need a vacation, this DVD double feature will chill you out, while imparting a little knowledge, brah. Good fun!

Hawaiian Rainbow hits everything you love about Hawaiian music: traditional chants, percussion, ukulele, slack-key and steel guitar, falsetto singing and more. Combining relaxed interviews and in the field footage with awesome performances and dances, this rainbow will leave you smiling, and with a greater understanding of just what goes into this deceptively simple music. Origins of instruments and definitions of styles are sufficient enough to make the movie a helpful research aid, but it's the performances that will have expats crying.

Beautiful harmonies capture the spirit of Aloha and expert players will enthrall musicians. Guitar players will love to learn more about slack-key, will be knocked out by some super-speedy ukulele playing, and will be intrigued by a particular glove/slide combo used to play steel guitar. Performers include Auntie Genoa Keawe, the Ho'opi'i Brothers, Makaha Sons of Ni'Ihau, and many, many more. Grab a mai tai and soak it in.

Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture spotlights another profound aspect of Hawaiian culture, one inextricable from our thoughts when we think of the Islands, and that would be Hawaiian dance, practiced for centuries. Full of lush photography, invigorating and/or beautiful music, and hypnotic dance, Mugge's film does for Hula what Hawaiian Rainbow does for music; illuminates history, origins and particulars of the dances while entertaining and enrapturing you.

Easy-going interviews with highly knowledgeable experts feel like chilled-out little mini-lectures you might happen upon while visiting the Hawaiian Islands. There's no pedantry, just mellow enthusiasm and information. Meanwhile performances of both main types of Hula dancing, a form of expression not so recently suppressed by missionaries, are just as engaging as if you were watching them during a Luau. Choreographed performances at the shore go the extra mile with immersive camera work, creating a beautiful effect.

Kumu Hula uses interviews with dancers, dance-leaders, and students to impart a personal touch to the proceedings. Acknowledgment of the Hula craze from the Mainland, with clips from old Hawaiian-style comedies, places the dance, and Hawaiian culture in general, in a broader societal context. Both of Mugge's thoughtful, ravishing documentaries will be of huge interest to those who study the culture, and will hold the attention of anyone longing for paradise. While recommended for serious aficionados, others should take a little mini-vacation and Rent It.

The DVD

Video:
Swaying your way in new HD transfers from original 16mm prints, both movies look both surprisingly vintage for films from the late '80s, but also appear rich, lush, and nicely detailed for 16mm. Of course there is plenty of film grain to be seen, which is both to be expected and rather nice, but details are as solid as you'd hope. Full of warm, natural colors, and minus any serious or notable damage, these transfers are pretty great for 16mm.

Sound:
Stereo Audio Masters for both films are also newly restored, and sounding great for their age and original production value. Interviews are all clear, clean and easy to hear, while music sounds fantastic, benefitting from basic stereo mastering for some dimensionality.

Extras:
Extras are limited to Chapter Selections for this double-feature.

Final Thoughts:
Mugge's thoughtful, ravishing documentaries about Hula and Hawaiian music will be of huge interest to those who study the culture, and will hold the attention of anyone longing for paradise. Full of informative but laid-back interviews detailing the histories and nuances of both art forms, as well as captivating performances, both documentaries are a treat for students, lovers of the Island ways, world music fans, and pretty much anyone who wants a tropical vacation. While recommended for serious aficionados, others should take a little mini-vacation and Rent It.

- Kurt Dahlke

~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com

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