Princess Kaiulani (film)

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Princess Kaiulani
Princess film.jpg
Poster for US theatrical release
Directed by Marc Forby
Written by
Music by Stephen Warbeck
Distributed by Roadside Attractions
Release dates
  • October 16, 2009 (2009-10-16) (Hawaii Film Festival)
  • May 14, 2010 (2010-05-14) (United States)
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $9 million[1]
Box office $883,887[2]

Princess Kaiulani (sometimes titled Barbarian Princess) is a 2009 film based on the life of Princess Kaʻiulani (1875–1899) of the Kingdom of Hawaii.


The film stars Q'orianka Kilcher in the role of Princess Kaʻiulani, one of the last heirs to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii. This movie was shown in Hawaii International Film Festival under the title Barbarian Princess; afterward, Roadside Attractions acquired this movie's United States rights and changed this movie's title for United States release.[3]

The movie follows the progression of Kaʻiulani's short life, beginning with a happy life in Honolulu interrupted by the events surrounding the imposition of the Bayonet Constitution. The movie follows her through her education in Victorian England, the announcement of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, her campaign to attempt to convince the United States to reverse the overthrow, and her return to Hawaii.

The historical events are generally portrayed accurately,[citation needed] though some of the details, for example the reasons for King Kalākaua's signing of the Bayonet Constitution, are not explained in detail. In contrast, many of the personal details of the princess's life, including particularly the depiction of her love life, are representative of who she was rather than strictly historical. Her life also included many significant events that are not in this movie.

The movie was written and directed by Marc Forby, and also stars Barry Pepper as Lorrin Thurston, Will Patton as Sanford B. Dole, Julian Glover as Theophilus Harris Davies, and Shaun Evans as Clive Davies.

The first public performance of the movie was in Honolulu on October 16, 2009, at the historic Hawaii Theatre, as part of the 2009 Hawaii International Film Festival.[4] The performance was sold out.[5]



The film's working title "Barbarian Princess" provoked controversy in Hawaii, with individuals stating that it brings up painful memories of past discrimination.[6] In response, the title was briefly changed to The Last Princess,[7] changed to Princess Kaiulani later in 2008,[8] then shown as Barbarian Princess for the 2009 festival. The producers stated that the title was meant to be ironic and is meant to draw audiences who may not be familiar with the history of Hawaii.[9] The film was finally released for wider distribution as Princess Kaiulani.

Many native Hawaiians were disappointed that the film used a non-Hawaiian for the title role.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes reported that only 23% of critics gave the film a positive review. Roger Ebert called it an "interesting but creaky biopic." Hailed by the Hollywood Reporter and panned by the New York press, Princess Kaiulani was either praised or left audiences cold.[10] The film won the Audience Award for "Best Feature" at the 2009 Honolulu International Film Festival in a tie with Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Jeremy Kay (February 10, 2010). "Roadside drawn to Hawaiian biopic Princess Kaiulani". Screen Daily. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  4. ^ "Barbarian Princess, 2009". Hawaii International Film Festival web site. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  5. ^[dead link]
  6. ^ Richard Borreca (March 25, 2008). "Senators seek overthrow of ‘Princess’ film tax help". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  7. ^ Mike Gordon (April 6, 2008). "'The Last princess': A Tale of Ka'iulani". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved October 7, 2010. 
  8. ^ Mike Gordon (September 26, 2008). "Still Searching for a Title both Inoffensive and Provocative: The Princess paradox". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved October 7, 2010. 
  9. ^ Katherine Nichols and Gary Chun (October 16, 2009). "'Princess' sparks heated debate". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  10. ^ "Princess Kaiulani". Box Office Mojo web site. Retrieved October 7, 2010. 

External links[edit]