Movie Review - Out of State (Portland Film Festival)

Ciara Lacy's documentary follows mainly two prisoners as they get paroled from jail and have to readjust to life outside after both being incarcerated for nearly 20 years. What's unique about these two men is that both are Native Hawaiian, but they're incarcerated in a prison located in southern Arizona. Lacy opens her movie with the statistic that overcrowding has led Hawaii to ship its male prisoners out of state to for-profit prisons like the Saguaro Correction Center in Arizona.

Given that premise, I thought Lacy's movie would be more of an examination or an indictment of this state-sanctioned process of displacing its own citizens across a whole ocean or perhaps how the people of Hawaii feel about this practice. Except, Lacy's movie isn't about that at all. Instead of being akin or perhaps a companion piece to Ava DuVernay's 13th, this movie makes no bones about the practice. There's no real commentary on it at all. The two men might as well have been in prisons that were on the Hawaii island. Perhaps, in real life, it's no big deal, but then why set it up as a premise if there's no concrete follow-through?

David Kahalewai is the first ex-convict to whom we're introduced. He's the one who's most involved with the Native Hawaiian religion, which is taught to the prisoners, and especially the hula dancing. David learns and then teaches the choreography. However, he has trouble maintaining a job due to his convict-status and probably due to temper problems. When he's hit with child support and rent, he finds it difficult not to return to drugs and crime. His encounter with a homeless man is hauntingly prescient.

Genaro "Hale" Gualdarama is the second ex-con to whom we're introduced.  His situation is a little better. He doesn't seem to have the financial problems or social issues that David has. For Hale, he does have to work on forgiveness and engendering love from his family and friends rather than fear.

Lacy throws up a graphic, enumerating the crimes of each person. She then rather blows by them. Ultimately, the crimes don't matter. Each guy is reformed and is earnestly trying to move forward and be better people. Yet, providing more details about their crimes and why they did them would've made the movie more comprehensive. Lacy doesn't insert pictures or delve into the men's pasts at all. She's all about looking forward.

The centerpiece though of her movie is the hula dancing. We see David practicing it and really getting into it, but then, all of a sudden, it's gone and David is alone on a beach looking out at the waves. We can guess as to what happened.

I simply wish Lacy had filled out a few of those details. Nevertheless, it can't be understated that these Hawaiian men are absolutely beautiful and so is their culture, and this movie compassionately gives us a glimpse into it.

Not Rated but for general audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 19 mins.

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