Competing for the title of Best Documentary at the festival this year is “Out of State,” a story about personal change and second chances.

Director Ciara Lacy follows two inmates as they learn about their rich cultural heritage while locked up behind bars, and the transition from a life of controlled routine to total freedom back on the beautiful island of Hawaii. Exposing the wisdom and hardships they gained throughout their turbulent journey, “Out of State” is a film worth rooting for.

Since the mid-1990s, Hawaii has sent most of their male prisoners to for-profit prisons in the United States, due to overcrowding. The men profiled, David and Hale, had been locked up at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, a unit specifically built for men who committed crimes in Hawaii. Being held thousands of miles away from home, the men grow to see their incarcerated peers as brothers. They learn ancient Hawaiian traditions behind bars, including dance routines, chants, and other rituals that they had previously disregarded for a life of crime and substance abuse.

They learn ancient Hawaiian traditions behind bars, including dance routines, chants, and other rituals that they had previously disregarded for a life of crime and substance abuse.

Only about the first quarter of the film is dedicated to the prison system (personally, I would have loved to explore that a bit more), but the true test lies in how the men act once released. David’s release seems promising, turning towards spirituality and keeping the traditions he learned close. He is wise when talking about his “second chance” and his appreciation for the friends and family that love him unconditionally.

Ciara Lacy is a native Hawaiian and her approach in humanizing and sympathizing with convicted criminals is a testament to her directorial skills. The film itself is a straightforward character-driven documentary, but what makes it special is the common thread of personal growth and the universal desire to better oneself.

“Out of State” premiered at the 2017 LA Film Festival on June 18.