August at Akiko’s is a beautiful movie that moves the audience through powerful sounds set against the picturesque country side of Hawaii’s Big Island. When you think of art films one does not necessarily first think of films made in Hawaii, Christoper Makoto Yogi’s film has been traveling the film festival circuit receiving glowing reviews from the art capitals of the world.
The story is about a traveling musician played by Alex Zhang Hungtai, from Hawaii who returns to his family home in Hawaii to find it is no longer there. He finds that his home is more than the walls of a house that is no longer there when he stays at a bed-and -breakfast run by a humble Buddhist woman, Akiko. Akiko takes Alex under her care through meditation, prayer, and community service to show him the aloha ‘āina that is just as much part of his soul as his music.
I liked this story because of it’s honesty. Many Hawaii films are pushed into one of two extremes, either most of the people in the film are Hawaiian or most of the people are white; neither is an accurate portrayal of Hawaii today. There are generations of non-Hawaiian people who were born in Hawaii, raised in Hawaii, and have a deep love and respect for the land. I liked how this was a story that showed the diversity of Hawaii with a common thread of aloha ‘āina. This film made me homesick. Nothing remains the same forever and when you leave a place, life carries on without you. I believe this film translates that message in way that anyone who has left their hometown can relate to.
After the showing of the film the director, Christopher Makoto Yogi, talked a little about his film. He spoke abut the space he wanted to create. Most directors talk about the film they want to create or feeling they want to convey. Christopher Makoto Yogi wanted to create an environment in each screening where the audience could absorb the richness of the film comfortably and at their leisure. He said one thing that made me chuckle, he said it was ok if someone falls asleep through the film. To me that spoke volumes about the space he created, a place of calm serenity that was safe to drift in and out of your thoughts with no expectations.
On a last note, from childhood I have always had crushes on musicians, and there is something undeniably sexy about the music of the saxophone. I would like to thank the director for one particular scene where Alex is playing the saxophone with his shirt off, that was smoking hot!