Film critic Kristian Fanene Schmidt reviews Sundance 2021’s buzziest titles and he’s looking at This Is The Way We Rise today.

Sundance Film Festival just wrapped up! It’s around that time of year when Hollywood descends upon Park City, Utah (with all its problematic aspects, to be sure!). Or at least in theory, because our arses are still stuck in a pandemic.

That’s okay since they’ve made everything available online. I am quite happy to screen movies, sans snow, from the comfort of my bed. More importantly, it’s great that the festival is the most accessible it has ever been.

Those who can’t afford to kiki in the mountains with the industry elite can finally tune in for the first time without picking up a tab for flights, accommodations or overpriced pizza that ain’t even good. With a record number of people attending the festival this year, I hope they keep this up!

And on that note, here’s a rundown of my thoughts about This Is The Way We Rise at the Sundance Film Festival 2021.

WARNING – Potential spoilers ahead for this This Is The Way We Rise Sundance review

This short gives us an opportunity to gain more insight into the creative world of queer Hawaiian poet Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osoario. Following a three-year-long writers’ block that hits her hard, the doc captures the return of Osorio’s creativity as she fights for sovereignty on sacred land at Mauna Kea. We witness both an outward peace wash over her as a creative fire is lit within.

Osorio gains inspiration from powerful figures including an elder who stands up to armed police officers. We hear the calls of author and activist Haunina-Kay Trask, “We are not American. We will die as Hawaiians. We will never be Americans,” encapsulating the long history of resistance against colonisation dating all the way back to Captain Cook – That’s why they killed his ass! The Kānaka Maoli have not forgotten and continue the fight against oppression. That spirit is what drives Osorio.

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Director Ciara Lacy shows us all the beautiful imagery tourists expect from Hawaii: the land, the sea, the sky. She also shows us a history of exploitation, destruction, and the mana of the people.

The Hawaiian flag, a mashup of the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripe, appears frequently to represent Hawaiian independence. Seeing that image makes me hope one day a new flag, free of imperialist stain, flies over sovereign Hawaiian land.

Check out the making of This Is The Way We Rise: