Sunday, November 7, 2021

A Locally-Made Short About Hawaii's Infamous Massie Trials

Decades before the "Central Park 5," there were the Massie trials in Hawaii in the early 1930s. Five young local boys were falsely accused of raping a white woman, Thalia Massie, who was married to a Navy officer. Although they were found innocent, that verdict did not end their troubles.

Following the trials, one of the boys was attacked and severely injured, leading the group to huddle together and strategize about how they could best protect themselves. Ala Moana Boys premiered this week at the 2021 Honolulu International Film Festival.

The 18-minute short is the first locally-made look at the events circa 1931-32. Rather than focus on the trials, director Keli'i Grace's intent was to shine more of a direct light on the boys themselves.

There has been, previously, a 2018 PBS documentary  about the case as well as a 1986 CBS-TV miniseries. The latter, Blood & Orchids, was very loosely based on the events of the Massie trials; Madeleine Stowe starred as the victim while Kris Kristofferson played a detective assigned to her case.

The trials have only recently been taught in Hawaii schools. Grace told Hawaii Public Radio that none of it was covered during his formal education. The script for his short film was written by locally based journalist Alexander Deedy, who from the islands works as assistant editor of Alaska magazine.

Ala Moana Boys screens again November 19th and 20th at HIFF locations. It will also be made available online beginning November 10th, via, to festival passholders.

A recent book about the trials, A Death in the Islands, was optioned by the screenwriters of Disney's Moana animated feature. Grace meanwhile hopes to expand his short film into an episodic series or full-length feature film.

[Ala Moana Boys Facebook page]

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