‘The Wind & the Reckoning’ Review: A Hawaiian Story of Resistance

A docudrama follows a family fighting to stay together and avoid exile to a leprosy colony, but fails to carry an emotional punch.

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By Concepción de León

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It’s a story as old as the United States itself: American business interests drive white men onto Indigenous lands, where they displace and impose their own rule of law on an otherwise sovereign group of people. The docudrama “The Wind & The Reckoning,” directed by David L. Cunningham, tells the true story of a group of Native Hawaiians who resisted the government-mandated exile implemented to address a leprosy outbreak in Hawaii in the late 1800s. A provisional government, put in place after American businessmen overthrew Queen Lili’uokalani and dissolved the Kingdom of Hawai’i, forced Natives suspected of infection onto the island of Moloka’i. There, marriages were no longer recognized, and thousands died and were buried in unmarked graves.

“The Wind & The Reckoning” follows Pi’ilani (Lindsay Marie Anuhea Watson), her husband, Ko’olau (Jason Scott Lee), and their son, Kalei (Kahiau Perreira), as they fight to stay together after the latter two are infected. As Pi’ilani, who never contracts leprosy, says in a voice-over, “No man, no government could break the bonds of marriage and family.”

Sadly, the film does not carry the emotional punch that the subject matter warrants. “The Wind & The Reckoning” is centered on gunfights between Ko’olau and the soldiers, and one would have liked to get a sense of the broader world outside of this battle — the people in the leprosy colony, for instance, or the political turmoil of the time. The story feels too self-contained and the characters too one-note, which, despite the merits of the subject, makes it hard to feel immersed in their world.

The Wind & the Reckoning
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. In theaters.

The Wind & the Reckoning

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Concepción de León is a writer and book editor based in New York.

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