Gone Home (Oranirani)

Gone Home
Theatrical release poster
Directed byManulele Kapua
Produced byPe'a Oranirani
Manulele Kapua
Screenplay byPe'a Oranirani
  • Nata Johnson
  • Neru Kai
  • Jason La'au
Music byGeorge Utu
CinematographyStephen Momoa
Edited byStephen Momoa
John Grayson
Christie Herring
Samuel Carles
Distributed byOranirani Studios
Release date
  • October 5, 1982 (1982-10-05)
Running time
172 minutes
CountryCelestial Isles
Budget$5 million
Box office$128.5 million

Gone Home is a feature-length live-action film by Oranirani Studios covering the theme of Yocatullic heritage. It was released in 1982 to the backdrop of an increasingly globalized world in which Oranirani felt his native country, the Celestial Isles, was being left behind. Rather than portrayed as backwards and regressed, however, Oranirani depicted his homeland as a noble place more in touch with nature and ancient traditions that made the Yocatullic people a proud one. The movie inspired thousands of visits to the Celestial Isles, largely by ethnic Yocatullic people several generations severed from The Isles, although non-Yocatullic people also visited in attempts to discover spirituality. It has been variously described as a loose adventure, a drama, and a coming-of-age story.


In 1982, a young man of Yocatullic ethnicity (Nata Johnson) living abroad is feeling depleted by his life. He feels that school duties, social life, and the complexities of modern society are overwhelming and he seeks an escape. One late night, the man (named Ho'i, the Yocatullic word for "Return") is watching a documentary about the Celestial Isles and witnesses a mixture of plight and suffering alongside tradition and nobility. Ho'i decides that he wants to rediscover his ancestral roots and asks his father, Mr. Reiloa (meaning "Lost" or "Abandoned"), for permission and money to go. Mr. Reiloa disagrees at first, demanding that Ho'i return to his studies. A few days later, however, he changes his mind and agrees to let his son visit the Celestial Isles.

After a long flight and a brief boat trip, Ho'i lands in Makuahine and explores the village. He is welcomed by the local chieftain, only named as "Ari'i Mauaruna" (played by the actual Ari'i Mauaruna of the time, Malama Muma'iruna'oremoana Yokatala), and wanders the town looking for a shaman. Upon encountering one (Jason La'au), Ho'i has a few questions answered. He has a dream that night and returns to the shaman for guidance, where he is instructed to visit and explore the jungles of the nation. He agrees to take up the challenge, and begins by wandering beyond the village of Makuahine into the jungle of Makuahine Island.

After a few days of travel in the jungles of The Isles, from island to island, Ho'i comes across an isolated community living inland from the coastline. As he enters the village, he is greeted by the daughter of the chief, Ruanetu (Neru Kai), followed by the rest of the community. Ho'i and Ruanetu share quality time together, getting to know one another. He is allowed to observe and, eventually, participate in traditional rituals, festivals, and celebrations. He is taught the Way of the Warrior, and the tenets considered central to the Yocatullic code of honor in being a warrior.

Although initially rejected as an "Outlander", the village slowly begins to warm up. This is all tested, however, when a great storm is seen over the horizon. The scout who spotted the storm blames the presence of the Outlander, but Ho'i is allowed to stay due to the danger of going alone in the jungle during a storm. The village floods during the heavy wind and rain, and Ho'i saves multiple children from drowning when he leads them to high ground, and helps remove debris from blocked areas. Ho'i, Ruanetu, and the children spend the night hiding in a nearby cave with a crackling fire while the storm rages on outside. During this night, Ho'i has a spiritual vision in a dream.

After the incident, Ho'i is welcomed as part of the community. The scout apologizes to him, and the chief embraces him as a part of the village. Ho'i is given a traditional tattoo by the village elders. He shares a passionate night with Ruanetu, and says his goodbyes to everyone in the village.

Ho'i promises to come back one day, and sets out for Makuahine to return to his family at home. As he leaves, he encounters the same shaman he met when he first arrived. The two do not share any words, but simply exchange a look. With a smile on both ends, Ho'i boards a small sea plane to begin his journey home. During this, the film's famous track Sublustria begins to play in the background. It continues to play while the credits roll following the plane's flying into the sunset.


The production of the film was very important to Pe'a Oranirani, and so he made sure to cast primarily Yocatullic staff and actors. The location scouting was primarily done for the opening sequence in "foreign borders", as Oranirani had his heart set on filming the majority locally in The Celestial Isles. A combination of Asteria and Roeselle was chosen as the home area for Ho'i, as this would help the largest target demographic of the film feel that the area Ho'i was leaving, representative of the "Outside stresses of the world" and what Oranirani calls "Detached modernity". Oranirani stated that this was to help viewers sympathize with Ho'i in an era where the Yocatullic people were not particularly well-known, were often stereotyped, and faced prejudice from the greater societies that they had taken up residence in.

The film is told in the style of a coming-of-age story, although it is often given labels that confuse the genre. Oranirani stated that the film is about introspection, heritage, and personal growth. Oranirani was insistent that no unnatural damage be done to the rainforests, and that sets be based on pre-existing structures. As a result, while the house and school sets during the "Foreign Borders" sequence were constructed specifically for the role, all sequences in the Celestial Isles are based within the city of Makuahine, the jungles of the various islands, and a small fishing village on Me'aulelei.