David L. Cunningham‘s The Wind and the Reckoning, is a frightful reminder of the days of Imperialism. In what he adapted from Ka Moolelo oiaio o Kaluaikoolau (“The True Story of Kaluaikoolau” Amazon link) into a movie is a tale about love, commitment and hate. Thankfully, the former is about a family sticking together, and the latter concerns how America took control of Hawaii. This book has been reprinted many times since its original publication in 1906, and I believe it’s essential reading.
Because nobody back then knew how to treat leprosy, a lot of natives got displaced. Locals were expected to “do what’s right,” and the law would make sure it happened. The inhabitants feared being moved to the remote colony on Moloka’i and many no doubt fled to deeper inland if not to the caves. And in what made me invested is that what occurred there also transpired in various corners of the world too. In Victoria, BC, anyone with this condition, namely the Chinese, were sent to the nearby D’arcy Island, and weren’t given much to help them fend for themselves.
As the first few minutes of this film suggest, individuals suffering from this living death would rather meet their maker than live an even harder life. Nothing is said if the colony were ever provided resources to continue surviving. If they don’t have food, they’re certainly doomed to die. Given what I knew about my hometown’s history, at least some people had hope. But to fully answer those questions would’ve been distracting. I believe what the movie does is to shed light on treatment of lepers back during the turn of the century.
While this story focuses on Ko’olau (Jason Scott Lee), I can only imagine what others may have faced. He is excellent in this film; While Power Rangers fans know him for his past work and sticking to genre projects, I’m glad to see he’s not wanting to pigeonhole himself. All those moments with the fictional son, Kalei (Kahiau Perreira), felt genuine and this performer deserves a nomination!
Thankfully, his wife, Pi’ilani (Lindsay Marie Anuhea Watson) didn’t contact it. Although she lost her husband and child, what she did afterwards is the stuff of legends. The real life figure decided to recount her experiences in the aforementioned book and I’m glad her tale still resonates today.
Even Matt Corboy is noteworthy as Sheriff Stoltz, a down and dirty villain. When he makes this manhunt personal, I get the sense he will commit a hate crime and claim it was for justice, when it’s not. To hit those notes is tough, and hopefully this actor wasn’t drawing from something terrible from his past.
To understand their mindset helps fill the run time. Ultimately, The Wind and the Reckoning is about this woman’s willingness to be with her family till the end. Not only did Cunningham’s work show a time not every Hawaiian knew about, but also, it brings to light an era where this condition was stigmatised. Because of my knowledge of my city’s dark past, I felt a stronger connection to this movie. Perhaps it is time more forgotten moments get exposed for what it is than to hide it.
5 Stars out of 5
The Wind and the Reckoning Trailer
This movie played at the Los Angeles Pacific Asian Film Festival (May 4 to May 13, 2023)