Controversial film about Native Hawaiian war hero set for release

The real Ben Kanahele, after being awarded the Purple Heart and Medal for Merit. (Image: U.S....
The real Ben Kanahele, after being awarded the Purple Heart and Medal for Merit. (Image: U.S. Army Signal Corps)
Published: Apr. 2, 2019 at 10:13 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A film about a Native Hawaiian war hero that sparked controversy over its lead actor is set for release in just a few weeks, but with a few changes.

The movie, originally called “Niihau,” is now being called “Enemy Within.”

The movie sparked outrage two years ago after it was announced that New York actor Zach McGowan would play Ben Kanahele, the Native Hawaiian hero in the Battle of Niihau.

Several accused McGowan and others behind the film of “whitewashing” the character and ignoring history.

McGowan has since been replaced by “Game of Thrones” star Joseph Naufahu, a New Zealand actor of Tongan and Samoan ancestry.

@joenaufahu plays ‘Ben Kanahele’, and boy does he embody the character!⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ENEMY WITHIN is in select theatres April...

Posted by Enemy Within Movie on Sunday, March 17, 2019

The film is based on the Battle of Niihau, when a Japanese pilot crash-landed on the island after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

After being helped by Niihau's residents, the pilot subsequently colluded with inhabitants of Japanese ancestry to take several people hostage and terrorize the island over the course of several days.

Kanahele was eventually able to kill him in a struggle, but he was also shot three times in the process. He later received the Medal of Merit and a Purple Heart.

The movie is set to be released on April 19.

[Read more: People aren’t happy that a white actor has been cast as a Hawaiian hero in ‘Niihau’]

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