Hot on the heels of its November movie series, the 14th annual FirstLight: Academy Screenings on Maui will return to Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului on Friday. It will then continue for eight more days from Dec. 20 to 23, on Dec. 26, and from Dec. 28 to 30.
Film buffs should be pleased that 26 cutting-edge movies will be shown in all this month.
Especially noteworthy is that nearly 10 films are being shown only on Maui, New York City and Los Angeles, says Barry Rivers, FirstLight director. "Which makes FirstLight, yet again, a meaningful stop in the film industry's quest for awards season kudos."
Surfer Matt Meola in “A Different Reason To Smile” screening Friday at Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Films being shown exclusively in NewYork City, Los Angeles and Maui will be "Ginger & Rosa," a drama set in '60s London in the midst of its sexual revolution. Costarring Elle Fanning, Annette Bening, Christina Hendricks and Alessandro Nivola, it will be shown at 5 p.m. Dec. 20. At 7:30 p.m. that evening, "Zero Dark Thirty," a recent winner of Best Picture and Best Director awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, depicts a hunt for Osama bin Laden from Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow.
As for movies screening this week, "Any Day Now" is a powerful tale based on a real-life story about a gay couple who want to adopt a teenager with Down syndrome. It screens at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
But Mauians love surf movies, and the lineup after "Any Day Now" will not disappoint.
Starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday, the Maui surfing community will come together for two shorts and one feature film that will be complemented by live music by Lukas Nelson and Lily Meola, food, libations and lots of giveaways.
Sanuk Footwear's short film, "A Different Reason To Smile," documents a team of Sanuk employees and surfers who traveled to Peru to participate in one of Operation Smile's medical missions.
"I feel like surf trips are kinda selfish, but this was all about helping other people," says Maui surfer Matt Meola, who starred in the film with other wave riders. "That was an amazing experience."
At 7 p.m. Friday, "Cowboys and Aerials" stars Meola along with Ry Craike, Clay Marzo, Chippa Wilson, Mitch Parkinson and Martin Potter, also featuring music by Nelson (who is Willie Nelson's son). Set in and around the world's best waves and accompanied by a live-wire soundtrack, "Cowboys and Aerials" is jammed tight with double-barrel action, and it explodes off the screen.
Highlights for Dec. 20 to 23 include Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained"; Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst in a drama based on writer Jack Kerouac's novel "On The Road"; and Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor in an inspiring story set against the backdrop of the Christmas Day tsunami in Thailand.
During the week after Christmas, highlights include Academy Award winners Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in the dramedy, "Stand Up Guys,' about the fate of three former bank robbers; "Quartet," a warm-hearted drama starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connelly and directed by first-timer Dustin Hoffman; and Bill Murray and Laura Linney in "Hyde Park on Hudson," about the pre-WWII meetings of FDR and the King of England.
The list goes on. "Not Fade Away" is the story of four New Jersey teenagers who decide to form a rock 'n' roll band after the Beatles and the Rolling Stones invade the USA, from director David Chase (The Sopranos).
"The Impossible" is an exploration of the impact on the never-ending quest for energy. It stars Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Frances McDormand.
"This December's FirstLight also features an unusual number of special encore films released prior to the start of the event," says Rivers.
They include "Lincoln," from director Steven Spielberg; the Sundance Audience Award winning "The Sessions," starring Helen Hunt, John Hawkes and William H. Macy; "Agro," directed by and starring Ben Affleck; Director Robert Zemeckis' "Flight," starring Denzel Washington; as well as a special "surprise" screening.
Screenings are complimentary to most film industry guild members. Visit the website at www.mauifilmfestival.com for complete details.