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KS Maui alum Lindsay Watson’s newest film tells the story of Hawaiian heroine Piʻilani fighting to keep her family intact as Native Hawaiians who contract leprosy are exiled to Kalaupapa.

The Wind & The Reckoning: Lindsay Watson’s newest film revives the story of a Hawaiian heroine

Nov. 17, 2022

The little-known story of Piʻilani — a heroine fighting to keep her family intact as Native Hawaiians who contract leprosy are exiled to Kalaupapa — seemed destined to stay lost in the annals of history.

But with the help of Lindsay Watson, KSM’13, Piʻilani’s story is getting the treatment (and attention) it deserves in “The Wind & the Reckoning,” making its Hawaiʻi premier in the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival.

As Hana in Netflix’s “Finding ʻOhana,” Watson said it wasn’t much of a stretch to portray a contemporary Hawaiian girl reconnecting with her native roots. Her latest role as Piʻilani, however, required her to travel into Hawaiʻi’s past and test her acting chops.

“It was such a feat for me as an actor. It took so much effort and time,” Watson said. “Between the language and the time period, it was a stretch. But it’s been so cool to do these roles back to back and see what I’m capable of.”

On Maui, you can see “The Wind & the Reckoning” this weekend at Consolidated Ka'ahumanu Theatres, from Friday, Nov. 18 to Sunday, Nov. 20. Watson along with co-star Jason Scott Lee and the rest of the cast will be at the 7 p.m. showing on Friday and Saturday to greet fans.

Largely in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, the film draws upon the memoirs of Piʻilani. A leprosy outbreak threatens the islands, and Piʻilani’s husband (played by Lee) and her child contract the disease. Her refusal to let her family be torn asunder sparks a clash with Western authorities.

“This is a story I didn’t know about growing up,” Watson said. “We’re getting to preserve not just this story, but our language, on film. Film is forever.”

As “The Wind & the Reckoning” makes its rounds through the film festival circuit, Watson has been traveling across the country with it. The reception has been phenomenal, she said, and it’s helping to educate the world about “a dark moment” in Hawaiʻi’s history. 

Connecting with that part of history wasn’t easy, however. Filming during COVID in 2020 in a remote part of the Big Island away from internet and cell service helped. But so did on-set kumu who contributed ʻike about language pronunciation and cultural authenticity. She even gleaned emotion from Piʻilani’s memoir itself.

“When you’re portraying a real person and you’re going to be the face to their words, you really want to make sure you’re doing it right,” Watson said. “I’d like to think I’m a strong Hawaiian woman and would go to the ends of the earth to protect my own family in the way Piʻilani does.”

When asked what viewers should expect when they watch the film, Watson said the emotional resonance of hearing ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi in film is powerful.

“So many people are in tears from just hearing the language on the big screen,” she said.

Watson has come a long way since her performance in the KS Maui production of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” as a freshman. And even as her Hollywood star appears to be rising (she has more films on the horizon that she’s staying mum about for the moment), she hasn’t lost touch with the values of her KS education.

“On set, a lot of people will say, ʻOh you’re so respectful, you’re so great to work with,’ and I’m like, that’s a Hawaiʻi thing, that’s a Kamehameha Schools thing.”

While Piʻilani shines as an exemplar of what a strong Hawaiian woman looks like, another mana wahine also continues to inspire: Ke Aliʻi Bernice Pauahi.

“Everyone looks back and realizes the gift we had,” Watson said. “Without her generosity, I don’t know where a lot of us would be.”

Where to Watch “The Wind & the Reckoning”

Consolidated Ward Theatres:  Monday, Nov. 14 - Thursday, Nov. 24
Consolidated Theatres Kapolei:  Friday, Nov. 18 - Thursday, Nov. 24
Consolidated Theatres Pearlridge:  Friday, Nov. 18 - Thursday, Nov. 24

Consolidated Ka’ahumanu Theatres:  Friday, Nov. 18 - Sunday, Nov. 20

Waimea Theater:  Thursday, Nov. 17 - Thursday, Nov. 23

Hawai’i Island
Regal Makalapua:  Wednesday, Nov. 23 - Sunday, Nov. 27

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