Hawaiian history stirringly told in "Kaiulani"

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Hawaii's 19th-century colonization by the U.S. forms the intriguing backdrop for "Princess Kaiulani," a stirring romantic drama centering on the last royal heir to the native line of traditional monarchs.


Retitled since screening as "Barbarian Princess" last year at the Hawaii International Film Festival, where it won the audience award, this independent film is attractively cast and produced with a distinct specialty luster. It's likely to appeal particularly in West Coast and island markets as well as to art-house patrons who appreciate period romance. The Roadside Attractions release opens May 14.

By the late 1880s, the independent kingdom of Hawaii, undermined by the influence of large American sugar companies, is struggling to maintain control of the islands' political and economic fate. Childless King Kalakaua (Ocean Kaowili), whose mixed-race niece, Princess Kaiulani ("The New World's" Q'orianka Kilcher), is designated to succeed him to the throne, succumbs to pressure from American business interests to sign a puppet constitution that significantly diminishes Hawaii's sovereign status.

Fearing for 13-year-old Kaiulani's safety in the increasingly unstable political climate, her widowed Scottish father, Archie Cleghorn (Jimmy Yuill), whisks her away to live with his friends, the Davies family, in Great Britain and obtain a proper Victorian education. As the princess matures into a cultured young woman during her unwelcome exile, she attracts the attention of Clive Davies (Shaun Evans), son of her father's business associate....

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