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Film / Finding 'Ohana

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Finding ʻOhana is a 2021 American family film directed by Jude Weng and written by Christina Strain. The film stars Kelly Hu, Branscombe Richmond, Kea Peahu, Alex Aiono, Lindsay Watson, and Owen Vaccaro.

Pili (Kea Paehu) and Ioane (Alex Aiono) are siblings of Hawaiian ancestry being raised in Brooklyn by their widowed mother, Leilani (Kelly Hu). After their grandfather, Kimo (Branscombe Richmond), has a heart attack, Pili is forced to sacrifice a summer at a Geocaching camp and accompany her mother and brother to Hawaii, where years of unpaid property taxes and poor health are jeopardizing Kimo's ability to remain in his home.

When Pili finds a journal in Kimo's house containing clues to a treasure, she and her new friend Casper (Owen Vaccaro) attempt to track it down in order to save her grandfather's home, with Ioane and Casper's friend Hana (Lindsay Watson) getting wrapped into it as well.

It premiered on Netflix on January 29, 2021.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Casper shows no overt attraction to either Pili or Hana, but does talk about Ioane's muscles admiringly more than once.
  • Artistic License Geology: The film depicts a Hawaiian lava-tube cave with stalactites. While stalactites can form from lava, they don't look like the ones in the movie, which look like the more common sedimentary type.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: Pili's retellings of the story of the privateers are in cinematic widescreen.
  • Big Applesauce: The story begins in New York City as Pili and her friend are competing in the finals of a geocaching competition.
  • Color Wash: Pili and Casper's Imagine Spots involving the pirates are filmed with a slight sepia tone.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: When the group has to cross a lava pit, while the lava is a good ways down, no one even mentions the area being hot.
  • Cool Big Sis: Hana takes on a cool elder sister/friend role for Casper.
  • Disappeared Dad: Prior to arriving at their grandfather's home in Hawaii, Pili and Ioane were being raised by their mom in Brooklyn, where they relocated after the death of their father.
  • Genre Shift: Finding ʻOhana starts out as a fairly mundane kid's movie about connecting to one's roots while trying to find treasure in a 2020s homage to The Goonies, but its climax shifts things into the explicitly supernatural with the introduction of the Nightmarchers, who start hunting the group down for disturbing the tomb the treasure is located in.
  • Good-Times Montage: The film ends with Pili and Ioane having fun with Hana and Casper in various spots around Oʻahu.
  • Heritage Disconnect: Pili and Ioane's mother raised them in Brooklyn with barely any contact with their Hawaiian roots past some phrases, so they know very little about their culture at first.
  • Heroic Lineage: Since Pili and E's father died in combat, that makes his family this in the eyes of the Nightmarchers. As long as they give back what they took, they and their friend's trespassing can be overlooked.
  • Hitodama Light: When the presence of the Nightmarchers becomes evident, the regularly lit torches in the tomb turn blue, and the Nightmarchers themselves carry torches with blue flames. When their procession ends and they go to the sea, they turn into glowing balls of blue light before going underwater.
  • I Choose to Stay: At the end of the movie, Leilani, Pili, and Ioane choose to move back to Hawaii and sell their apartment in Brooklyn rather than force Kimo to move to Brooklyn.
  • Indian Burial Ground:
    • Caves in general are considered sacred and off limits because they might happen to be burial grounds. Hana and E have to leave small offerings just to go after Pili and Casper.
    • It turns out the treasure is indeed located within a tomb, which puts it under the Nightmarcher's protection. The pirates who put it there met their end when their fight over the gold disturbed the tomb and the Nightmarchers came to deal with them. Monks, who managed to escape just in time, was the sole survivor.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: Leilani is shocked and angered when she learns that her father is five years behind on his property taxes and is in danger of losing his home.
  • Kids Driving Cars: Pili and Casper sneak out while Ioane's sleeping and drive to Kualoa Ranch.note  It turns out that Pili can actually drive decently well, and they manage to not crash the car or end up in any other accidents. However, she does have issues staying in one lane, and they have to stop for a moment to let Casper throw up on the side of the road due to motion sickness induced from Pili's shaky driving.
  • Kiss Diss: Happens between Hana and Ioane when they've found the treasure and the latter tries going for a kiss, only for his lips to meet her iPhone as she says it's time to do celebratory selfies instead. They end up sharing a real kiss in the denouement.
  • Meaningful Rename: Ioane introduces himself to Hana as "E," with the excuse that he was tired of having to teach others how to pronounce his name. At the end of the movie, more appreciative of his heritage, he's back to using his full name, Ioane.
    Ioane: Actually, it's Ioane.
    Hana: Really?
    Ioane: It's a good name.
  • Military Brat: Pili and Ioane's father joined the US Army when both were young and died in combat. While Ioane has some memories of him, Pili doesn't remember him at all due to being a baby at the time.
  • Mistaken Ethnicity: In Brooklyn, so many people assume Pili is Puerto Rican that she decided to learn Spanish, which comes in handy at the beginning of the story when she needs to tell her geocaching partner which safe combination to use without the opposing team knowing.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: As Ioane, Hana, and Casper attempt to pull up a rock-filled weight, Ioane admits he's not as strong as he looks because all he did was do one CrossFit course which gave him some muscle definition, but not much else in the way of strength.
  • Mood Whiplash: The celebratory mood of the scene where the group finds the treasure slowly progresses to a more somber one when Hana realizes it's located in a tomb, and therefore they can't keep any of it or tell anyone, lest the cave get combed over by selfish tourists and other thrill seekers on the mundane end. This is on top of the danger of the Nightmarcher's violent response to such disrespect to a final resting place.
  • No Antagonist: Finding ʻOhana has no true antagonists, and even the Nightmarchers merely want the gold taken from the tomb back and leave once that's taken care of without harming anyone.
  • Only Friend: Up until Casper meets Pili, the teenage Hana is implied to be his only friend.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The Nightmarchers are the ghosts of Hawaiian warriors who guard tombs and melt off the faces of those who look at them directly if they don't happen to be a relation of someone in the procession. While most of the Nightmarchers seen are wearing traditional Hawaiian garb, including Pili and Ioane's father, as they depart some are wearing WWII-era military gear, implying that they died during the conflict.
  • Real After All: Ioane dismisses them as a myth at first, but at the movie's climax the Nightmarchers are revealed to be quite real and very dangerous.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Hana and Ioane hook up at the end of the film.
  • Shout-Out: Ioane refers to Casper as "Ginger Stark" at one point due to his nerdery and red hair.
  • Secret-Keeper: The main characters all agree to keep what happened with the treasure and the Nightmarchers to themselves.
  • Secret Stab Wound: After Ioane gets bitten by a brown violin spider, he makes Casper keep it between them as to not worry Pili and Hana. He almost succumbs to it, however, and ends up nearly drowning before Pili saves him.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Pili never learned how to swim, to both Kimo and Casper's shock. Kimo plans on teaching her, but he doesn't get around to doing it due to getting a second heart attack and having to go to the hospital. She sort of learns how to swim when Ioane nearly drowns and she needs to save him, but Casper has to coach her to reach the shore.
  • Take That!: When Pili and Casper visit Kualoa Ranch, where Lost was filmed, Casper mentions that while he recognizes how influential the show was, he also feels it wasn't actually all that good, and people's investment in it even years later is only because they don't want to admit that they'd placed so much investment into a show with such a poor ending.
  • Tasty Gold: After tossing a gold coin to Ioane in the cave, Pili tells him to bite into it since it will leave teeth marks.
  • Token White: Casper is the only white person of note to appear in the movie apart from the pirates in the Imagine Spot sequences, and the only white person in the main cast.
  • Wham Line: As the Nightmarchers force the shack doors open, one says "Mine." in Hawaiian. It's Pili and Ioane's father, having become a Nightmarcher after death.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Ioane has arachnophobia, which comes into play when the group needs to pass through a tight cavern and he ends up dealing with both a harmless Kauai cave wolf spider, and the far more dangerous brown violin spider.
    • Hana has acrophobia, which comes into play when they have to sidle along a lava pit and she has problems moving forward.