The upcoming star-studded Sony Pictures film Aloha is under fire from an advocacy group that claims the film’s producers “used mostly white” actors in the Hawaiian-set production and failed to adequately depict the diversity of the island’s residents.
In a press release issued to the New York Post, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) blasted the film and its director Cameron Crowe for casting most of the main roles with white actors. Aloha stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Bill Murray, Rachel McAdams, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin, and John Krasinski.
“Caucasians only make up 30 percent of the population [of Hawaii], but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 99 percent,” wrote MANAA’s Guy Aoki. “This comes in a long line of films – The Descendants, 50 First Dates, Blue Crush, Pearl Harbor – that uses Hawaii for its exotic backdrop but goes out of its way to exclude the very people who live there. It’s an insult to the diverse culture and fabric of Hawaii.”
Aoki charged that most of the roles played by Asian-Pacific Islanders in the film “don’t even have names,” and are instead referred to in the script as “upscale Japanese tourist” or “Indian pedestrian.”
“How can you educate your audience to the ‘rich history’ of Hawaii by using mostly white people and excluding the majority of the people who live there and who helped build that history – APIs?” Aoki said.
Aloha has been riddled with problems since well before the advocacy group’s complaints; in December, internal Sony Pictures emails leaked to the media by hacking group Guardians of Peace revealed that then-Sony head Amy Pascal called the film’s script “ridiculous” and wrote “it never, not even once, ever works.”
“Scores same as last time and way way worse in NY,” wrote Pascal, referring to reportedly disastrous audience test reactions to the film. “It’s a wrap. There is no more to do… I’m never starting a movie again when the script is ridiculous and we al know it [sic].”
According to the Post, early reaction to Aloha has been so bad that Sony has prevented journalists writing features on the film from seeing it in advance of its May 28 release date. The decision to bar journalists and critics from seeing a film early is usually a sign that the studio expects bad reviews. The film was reportedly scheduled to open around Christmas last year, but was moved to May of this year for unspecified reasons.
This is not the first time MANAA has taken issue with Hollywood’s portrayal of Asian characters; in 2012, the group criticized the Warner Bros. film Cloud Atlas for using “yellowface” makeup to make white actors Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving appear Asian.
Watch the trailer for Aloha below: