It is a must-see for visitors planning a Hawaii vacation who want a preview of what life is really like for many of the people who live, love, and work here.
The film’s synopsis is simple: A struggling tourist hires two wanna-be tour guides to take her to an active volcano. The story is, of course, more involved and nuanced than that. It examines “lava tourism” and the effects it has on native Hawaiians and on people who come from all over the world to experience the Kilauea Volcano.
It is beautifully filmed, with dramatic landscapes and a compelling soundtrack. Most of the actors in Stoked: The Movie are local and/or native Hawaiian, which was an important part of the project. It took six months to cast the film. Many viewers who are fans of Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum PI will instantly recognize local actress Kimee Balmilero, who stars in both and is making her mark in Hollywood.
It was vital to the filmmakers to work with local actors. Many, if not all, Hawaii-themed films “whitewash” their films with actors not from Hawaii or with any connection to its culture. Hawaiian culture is too often ignored or lampooned in mainstream Hollywood movies.
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Stoke: The Movie is at times gritty and dreamy. It’s also funny, sweet, and thoughtful. It is an homage to Hawaii and its people. As Co-Director Zoe Eisenberg puts it, “It’s a love letter.” Stoke is a “road movie”, a story about a specific journey and the personal journeys of the film’s characters.
The film was shot during the Kilauea Volcano eruption, when a “lava hose” sent molten rock soaring into the skies around the active fissure. Some of the locations in the film are now under 40 feet of lava. Stoke: The Movie and the entire production itself are a testament to the resilience of a community deeply affected by the beautiful but devastating force of nature.
Stoked: The Movie was a hit feature at the world-famous Hawaii International Film Festival and a handful of others in Hawaii and on the mainland. It also won the Best Narrative Feature-Women in Film at the Austin Indie Fest.
The characters in Stoke are authentic, the locations are captivating, and the script is compelling. For visitors to Hawaii, Stoke: The Movie is a great film to watch to understand what it means to live in the Aloha State, far beyond what you might find in a cheesy Hollywood vehicle with A-list actors and contrived, stilted dialog. Stoke: The Movie gets Hawaii right.