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Maui Film Fest preview
May 20, 2009 - Rick Chatenever
A phone call with Maui Film Festival Director Barry Rivers, especially at this time of year, is like trying to herd cats. Carrying on four conversations (two on phone) at once, the words and thoughts fly off in all directions.
“Are you going to Anthony’s,” he calls to one of his workers exiting the Maui Film Festival office in Paia. He doesn’t sound like he needs more caffeine.
“Order coffee for everyone … put it on my tab … tell them to call me if there’s a problem … they’ll recognize my voice.”
All that without taking a breath.
The frantic pace is standard operating procedure as Rivers nails down thousands of last-minute details for the Maui Film Festival at Wailea, which returns for its 10th anniversary season June 17 to 21.
The schedule was changing, literally, as he spoke. The announcement of this year’s celebrity honoree — or honorees —was still under wraps, but close.
This year’s featured films range from quirky comedies like Zooey Deschanel’s “500 Days of Summer” or Michael Cera’s “Paper Heart” to inspirational documentaries from the world of sports. These include “More Than a Game” about LeBron James’ school-days basketball team or all the legendary boxers who climbed into the ring “Facing Ali.”
As other film festivals across the country struggle to survive economic challenges, MFF has also cut back. There are some 60 to 65 films, including shorts, on the bill. The venues have been pared back to four: the outdoor Celestial Cinema and SandDance Theater in Wailea; and Castle Theater and McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Rivers describes the 60-plus film lineup as “streamlined. It’s our 10th anniversary, but I call it a festival of the future. Every film counts, now more than ever.”
Nightly triple bills are slated for the festival’s “crown jewel,” Celestial Cinema — the magnificent outdoor venue under the stars on the Wailea Gold and Emerald Golf Course. Screenings will run at 8, 9:30 and 11 during the Wednesday-through Sunday schedule.
After all the ruckus last year, filmgoers can — repeat, CAN — bring their own beach chairs to the panoramic setting.
As the sky progresses from pastel twilight to mesmerizing starlight, the Celestial experience magically combines the fun of a drive-in, a humbling glimpse at astronomy and a child’s wonder at a fairy tale.
The tentative opening-night slate is “Highwater,” “Women and the Waves” and “Waveriders.”
“We’re opening with surf films,” says Rivers. “It’s Maui. What a surprise.”
The Celestial nightly $15 ticket price is good for any or all movies that night. The festival is also offering a range of passes covering all permutations of screenings and panels, with or without the Hollywood parties that glitz up Wailea for those few days.
Rivers reports that this year’s passes represent savings from 25 to 60 percent off past years’ prices.
The other Wailea venue, the SandDance Theater, is literally right on the beach. Among its other attributes is the fact that it’s free. At press time, it was slated to be the setting for the festival’s celebrity tribute.
“We’re starting a new tradition for our 10th anniversary —the toes-in-the-sand tribute, year one!”
Meanwhile, back at the MACC, the festival will open with Japan’s Oscar-winning “Departures,” the heartwarming story from Japan of a classical musician forced to return to his family’s village.
The eclectic films touch on music with “Art Officially Favored” about the player of a unique instrument, or “Rock Prophecies” about a young blues prodigy whose father once ministered at Lahaina’s “Jesus is Coming Soon” church. “I Bring What I Love,” brings us an artist known as Africa’s Bob Dylan.
Addressing topical issues is “The Cove,” a documentary following a gutsy band of filmmakers who risked imprisonment to reveal the slaughter of dolphins for food in a Japanese village.
Maui Film Festival’s optimistic attitude and visionary philosophy have done as much to identify it among world cinema celebrations as the stars and filmmakers it has honored or the hundreds of movies it has shown.
“It’s under the stars, lit by the moon, powered by the sun,” says Rivers, alluding to its awareness of its environment and the green footprint it leaves there.
“It’s about shining a light on subjects that are sometimes hard going down. But it also knows how to have a good time!”
• Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Maui Film Festival ticket prices, information and scheduling updates are available at www.mauifilmfestival.com. Watch Maui Scene and The Maui News for breaking news about the festival.
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