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Filmmaker responds to ‘Aloha’ controversy

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  • Native Hawaiian sovereignty activist Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, left, with Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone in a scene from “Aloha” that was shot at Kanahele’s Waimanalo compound. The film opens Friday. (Sony Pictures)

LOS ANGELES » "Aloha" writer-director Cameron Crowe made a surprise appearance at an advance screening of his new film Tuesday in Los Angeles, calling it his "love letter to Hawaii."

The romantic comedy starring Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams, and featuring Native Hawaiian sovereignty activist Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, has met with considerable controversy even before its release Friday. Some Native Hawaiians, including Hawaii State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson, slammed the film for its title, saying "aloha" has a deep spiritual meaning and the movie’s use of it perpetuates misrepresentations of Hawaiian culture. Additionally, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans complained about the dearth of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the story about a celebrated military contractor who returns to Hawaii and reconnects with a former love while unexpectedly falling for his Air Force escort.

Local concerns about the use of "aloha" have gone national, with panelists on Fox News’ "The Five" discussing the controversy Wednesday.

The film’s studio, Sony Pictures Entertainment, released a statement Tuesday saying "Aloha" "respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people" and that Crowe "spent years researching this project and many months on location in Hawaii, cultivating relationships with leading local voices. He earned the trust of many Hawaiian community leaders, including Dennis ‘Bumpy’ Kanahele, who plays a key role in the film."

Crowe, whose other films include "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous," shot the film in Hawaii last year. It’s original title was reportedly "Dark Tiki." Standing in front of the screen at the Pacific Theatres at The Grove Tuesday, Crowe praised the state’s "land, sky and sand" and described his time in the isles as a profound, cherished experience. ("Aloha" will be screened for Hawaii reviewers Wednesday night.)

At the end of his brief remarks before the invitation-only audience, he repeated that the movie doesn’t "cease to be a love letter to Hawaii. I hope you enjoy it."

With the movie opening nationwide Friday, he can only hope the public relations adage that "all publicity is good publicity" will prove true with a boost in "Aloha’s" box-office take.

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