Shot in pastoral countrysides of the Big Island of Hawai‘i, August at Akiko's is a quiet film filled with deep undercurrents of history and mythology. Capturing the daily lives of a tight-knit community of locals, the film immerses the viewer in the shape-shifting landscape of a place we all think we know, but really know little about: Hawai‘i.
How does one confront an unspoken ancestral history? Cosmopolitan musician Alex Zhang Hungtai (Last Lizard, Dirty Beaches) returns to the Big Island of Hawai‘i having been away from his home for close to a decade. Armed with just a suitcase and a sax, Alex arrives on the gorgeous, lush Hāmākua coastline. Upon arrival in Nīnole, his grandparents’ hometown, he finds that his grandparents' old house has been leveled and development of a new property has already begun. He quickly realizes that Hawai‘i is no longer the island of his childhood memories.
On island, living in the shadow of his ancestors, Alex slowly adapts to this quietly magical place. Alex’s unexpected guide on this journey is his lively, generous host, Akiko. With her, Alex communes with the land, learns to dance at the Japanese festival of the dead, visits the center of the sacred Kīlauea Volcano, and experiences first-hand locals’ efforts to pay tribute to the past through song, spirit, and work. Alex’s journey of self and artistic discovery manifests itself in a music that he creates while on the island. He slowly opens up; he learns to breathe, to move, to slow down, to find the home within.