Ciara Leina`ala Lacy (Kanaka Maoli), 2018 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) National Artist Fellow, presented her directorial debut, Out of State, to an audience of over 100 people in Portland, Oregon, on September 26. The film explores complex questions of cultural and religious identity, the cycle of criminal behavior and its impact on the family, and the resilience of Native Hawaiian culture. The screening was open to the public and was also attended by the NACF’s 2018 National Artists Fellows who were gathered in Portland for a three-day convening.
Out of State follows the lives of Native Hawaiian men imprisoned at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona, a for-profit prison nearly 3,000 miles away from their homeland. Exploring the inner conflicts of going home, Out of State examines the healing role of cultural practices in rehabilitation for incarcerated populations. Thanks to a peer-to-peer program managed by the inmates, prisoners are able to reconnect with their Hawaiian culture.
The practice of one’s religion in prison is a civil liberty, guaranteeing inmates the time and space to practice their religion. Many of the men come to prison without a cultural connection and find their identity while incarcerated. “So much about prison is restriction, but no one can take away religious practice and identity. This is really powerful for the men,” Lacy says, but despite the cultural and religious support system they have while incarcerated, many inmates struggle to reintegrate back into Hawaiian society.
In the documentary, Lacy and her crew followed inmates David and Hale over a two-year span documenting their time in prison, and highlighting the complexities of life after being released. Eager to embrace their second chance, Hale eases back into society through a work release program while David is unable to overcome common barriers facing Native Hawaiians today, such as finding a decent paying job and affordable housing.
Out of State will broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens in Spring 2019. Lacy’s hope is that the film will force us to think differently about Indigenous people and the conditions leading to incarceration of Native Hawaiians. Her next project The Ninth Island – in collaboration with 2011 NACF Artist Fellow Christen Marquez (Native Hawaiian) – will examine the economic disparities forcing many Native Hawaiians to seek a living away from their homeland.