Short Film: Take a Thrilling Trip Back to Ancient Hawai’i with ‘Until the Sun Sets’

Short Film of the Day

Why Watch? Today is Kamehameha Day, a Hawaiian public holiday honoring King Kamehameha the Great, who first established the unified Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1810. Those of us on the mainland may not get the day off, but we can certainly take a few minutes to celebrate indigenous Hawaiian culture.

Until the Sun Sets takes us back to Ancient Hawai’i, when the islands were ruled by various warring chiefs. It is the first day of Makahiki, the season of peace when all warfare is forbidden. A pair of lovers are sharing a quiet moment up in a tree when they notice the arrival of warriors down below. Yet technically Makahiki will not begin until sundown, and a nearby chief is making a last-minute assault on their village. The young man springs into action, urging the woman to stay hidden while he and his fellow warriors fight to defend their home.

Hale Mawae‘s whole script is dedicated to the Hawaiian language, and director Kenji Doughty follows suit in his realization. The weapons and costumes of the warriors, however minimalist, are a particular triumph. This commitment to faithful representation of the past is bolstered by an almost rambunctious ambition in style for such a small film, daring to toss in some bloody combat effects and a tense underwater escape scene. Until the Sun Sets, in succeeding as a sort of “indigenous heritage historical fiction action movie,” shows that well-meaning cultural authenticity and exciting genre filmmaking can coexist, and without any help from Mel Gibson.

What Does It Cost? Just over 13 minutes.

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Daniel Walber is a freelance critic living in Brooklyn. He holds a MA in cinema studies from New York University, loves any movie under 80 minutes, and is gay for Bette Davis.

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