Film Review: ‘Every Day in Kaimuki’ (2022) – MANIFF 2023

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Stars: Naz Kawakami
Director: Alika Tengan
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures 

“Are you leaving?”

A community radio host has the opportunity to leave and progress from his neighbourhood of Kaimukī – the move, however, is as daunting as it is ambitious.

Naz Kawakami stars as…himself…in what is viewed as a semi-autobiographical presentation of his auto-pilot life as he gears towards a move from Kaimukī to New York. At first, somewhat prominently, Naz is present at his radio DJ gig where he hosts a nighttime show on a community station. Edging closer towards his big move, he trains up an apprentice to eventually take the reins. This subsequently leads to an exposure of Naz’s everyday life.

Naz’s life is presented in three instances, from most important to least important: radio DJ; skateboarding; and his girlfriend. Between his home life and work life there exists skate life with his friends. The skate life, to some degree, exists as an antagonist to his romantic life. Rather than spending time helping out his artist girlfriend, whose opportunities spark the ignition for a NY transition, there is an overwhelming – and severely uncomfortable – neglect shown towards his partner. The notion of the part-time boyfriend, however, is a mere indicator of how sh*tty Naz can be later in the feature.

Truthfully, for as real as the presentation of his character and life is/was, Naz is an annoyance. To an extent, Naz is his own worst enemy – much of his issues are his fault. His own doing. Somewhat reminiscent of Clerks’ Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) arguably being the hero and villain of the film. Everything is his fault. Yet, there is a non-existent, or at most, half-assed, attempt at recognising his faults. There is a hideous odour of arrogance and being too good for what’s around him. Additionally, showing frustration towards his DJ apprentice for being able to “pass as Hawaiian” better, was cold and bizarre. 

Given that the pandemic features quite visually prominent in this film, present is also the notion that ‘life in lockdown’ etc. is given next to no exposure, and Naz leaving for New York during this period of restrictions and uncertainty just feels…dumb. Lack of exposure aside, what is presented from the Covid world is inconsistently logical – especially the mask usage, as whatever the restrictions were at the time, seem to be too confusing to follow. 

The lack of exposure, or misuse, goes beyond the pandemic. Skateboarding, for example, is frequently present, though no contextual meaning or subcultural background is presented. The skate community amongst Naz and his friends could have been a great spectacle in examining their purpose behind the extreme sport. Additionally, beyond the opening 10-20 mins of Every Day in Kaimukī, the radio DJ lifestyle lacks presence too. 

Ultimately, Every Day in Kaimukī is something of a mixed bag. In one moment, the film is beautifully dismal, then in another, disastrously dismal. A film where nothing happens is fine, but a film that isn’t going anywhere, is destined to struggle as soon as that revelation is made or discovered. However, on a technical level, the cool-again 4:3 aspect ratio (retro square picture) is present and fully equipped with a glowing cinematography, leaving Every Day in Kaimukī  to establish itself as having a thorough documentary-style visual, even if that strength is somewhat haphazard.

Every Day in Kaimukī had its UK premiere at MANIFF 2023 on Wednesday 15th March.

2.5 Stars


For John.

This article’s featured image: By Source,, Fair Use 

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