Happy Asian American Pacific Islander Month!
Good news! The story of the Ni’ihau Incident is coming to the big screen. Bad news? Hollywood has learned nothing from the whitewashing outrage that has been in the zeitgeist for the last year.
If you’re not aware of the incident that happened on the island of Ni’ihau during World War II, you’re not alone. The Ni’ihau incident is a true story of an Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service pilot who crashed into the Hawaiian island after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Before learning of the attack, native islander Ben Kanahele and his people saved the pilot. But, after learning of the Pearl Harbor attack, the pilot, with the assistance from three Japanese locals, began taking hostages. Kanahele ultimately killed the pilot and was decorated for his bravery.
Kanahele’s story is now being told by director Gabriel Robertson in Ni’ihau. This is a picture of Ben and Ella Kanahele.
Deadline has reported that Zach McGowan (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Black Sails, Shameless) has been cast to play the famous islander.
This is what Zach McGowan looks like.
The film about the Hawaiian hero is now being told through the eyes of a white actor. You would think Hollywood would have learned by now from the controversy that surrounded Ghost in the Shell, Death Note, Aloha, and Doctor Strange.
Unfortunately, 27 Ten Productions, Amber Entertainment, and Affirmative Entertainment, along with McGowan, will produce the film with the promise to keep the material with the “utmost care and authenticity.”
— Laura ลอร'า 劳拉 (@lsirikul) May 9, 2017
They’ve already failed with the casting of the main character.
It’s quite tiresome to mention how often Hollywood whitewashes the stories that belong to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. With the poor sales from Aloha, Ghost in the Shell and The Great Wall, one would think Hollywood would have learned something. Unfortunately, this proves they have not.
The sad thing is that the story of Ben and Ella Kanahele should be told because it marked the heroism of the islanders during the Pearl Harbor attack. Ben Kanahele risked his life to put down the captors, who took his people as hostages.
Moreover, the Deadline announcement states this incident was considered a factor in President Roosevelt’s decision to sign Executive Order 9066 (it wasn’t), so there is the added dimension of using this whitewashed movie to justify Japanese American internment. Which is even more egregious considering 2017 is the 75th anniversary of this historical blight.