Screened as part of NZIFF 2022

Ka Pō 2022

Directed by Etienne Aurelius

A young Hawaiian woman escapes an abusive relationship and discovers her roots in this wild Aotearoa-produced Indigenous adventure set in the rugged wilderness of Kauai, Hawaii.

Aotearoa New Zealand / USA In English and Hawaiian with English subtitles
85 minutes DCP

Director, Cinematography, Editor


Chelsea Winstanley, Mojean Aria, Etienne Aurelius


Mainei Aloha Kinimaka, Mojean Aria, Charmaine Bingwa, Joey Koehne


Maui 2022

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A young Polynesian woman trapped in the throes of an abusive relationship gets revenge by burning down her boyfriend's home. Fearing retaliation, she flees into the mountains of Kauai, Hawaii, where she discovers a mythical creature that guides her back to her ancestral roots.

A unique combination of talent comes together to create the lyrical, tragic and meditative NZ-US film Ka Pō, a first feature for Hawaiian director Etienne Aurelius, produced by Oscar-nominee Chelsea Winstanley (Ngati Ranginui, Ngāi te Rangi, Pākehā).

Ka Pō is a magical work that meditates deeply on the tragedy of methamphetamine addiction in Polynesian communities, and how the spirit of the land and the people has the power to heal. The journey of lead actress Mainei Aloha Kinimaka (Kanaka Mao’li) forms the heart of the story, as she flees deep into the forest which holds secrets and her destiny. 

Ka Pō is a surprise coming from the Hawaiian film community, a “Native Noir” film more akin to Aotearoa films like Stray or Bad Blood. The Kauai forest is dark and damp and brooding – far, far away from the warm sands of Waikiki. Moments of magical realism mirror the works of Filipino-Native film genius, Auraeus Solito, and his Busong Trilogy  –  mesmerising moments that both surprise and astonish.

Etienne Aurelius is Indigenous Filipino (Tumanang tribe) and was raised within his extended Native Hawaiian community in Kauai, which informed his love for the A’ina (Land) and Indigenous storytelling.  Etienne spent many years working alongside Jason Momoa and early on in his career made the film We Are Mauna Kea – a documentary highlighting the Indigenous struggle against the construction of the 30-metre telescope on sacred lands. Audiences will know Mainei Aloha Kinimaka from Apple+ See starring Jason Momoa, who is Mainei's cousin. — Leo Koziol