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  • Writer's pictureThomas Bonifield

Review: "The Islands" Proclaims The Gospel

Updated: Dec 8, 2019

This Christian film tells the true story of the advent of the Faith in Hawaii.

Teuira Napa plays the female tribal chieftain Kapiolani in a scene from "The Islands."

The Islands is the lastest feature from veteran faith-based film director Tim Chey and it introduces audiences to the courageous historical figure of Kapiolani. She was a Hawaiian tribal chieftain who accepted Christ in the early 1820s and thus opened the way for the Christianity to spread throughout the island chain.

The movie follows the arrival of missionaries from Boston - played by Mira Sorvino, John Savage and Michael Camp - and their efforts to spread the Gospel among the tribe of Kapiolani, who is potrayed by silver-screen newcomer Teuira Napa. Her fellow tribe members greet the outsiders coldly, suspicious of their intentions because of previous interactions with Westerners. The local priestess pushes for their explusion or even death, but is rebuffed by Napa's character, who is more welcoming of the missionaries.

The tribe, as was customary at the time, believes in pagan gods, including Pele the volcano god. In order to placate him, they renew the previously discontinued practice of human sacrifices. Kapiolani opposes the sacrifices and eventually accepts Christianity and, in an act of tremendous personal courage, enters the volcano in an effort to convince her followers of the authenticity of her new faith in the Almighty.

The film was shot on location in Hawaii and features some truly beautiful cinematography. The scenery, costumes and props - especially the native weaponry - are top-notch and there's a heavy dose of dialogue in the Hawaiian language, too, all of which lends a feel of authenticity to this period piece. The script, co-written by Chey, boldly and repeatedly presents the Gospel via the missionary characters, making it work harmoniously in the overall narrative.

All that being said, we found the dialogue and pacing rather languid. And that is not for a lack of action - there's plenty of it, including fight scenes and a human sacrifice - but it was not executed as well as it could have been. There were also uneven performances from the cast, many of whom were local actors without much big screen experience, and the switching back and forth between English and Hawaiian was at times awkward. The Islands reportedly had a budget of $1.2 million which, for a period piece of this nature, seems low and left us with the sense that the filmmakers' reach exceeded their grasp in regards to needed scope and scale of the production.

Christian Film Blog rates The Islands 6 out of 10 and recommends you see it. Even though we feel the picture could have been stronger with a bigger budget, Kapiolani is a very compelling historical figure among Believers and this portrayal of her story is worth watching.


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