Friday, March 12, 1999

Six Kalaupapans
get celeb treatment
in Belgium

By Mary Adamski


Six Kalaupapa residents traveled far from their simple Molokai life this week for the premiere of "Father Damien," a movie filmed at the Hansen's Disease settlement last summer.

The residents were formally presented to Queen Fabiola of Belgium, and given the celebrity treatment at the first showing of the movie yesterday in Antwerp, the country's capital.

"It was just like the Oscars," said Fe Austria-Schwind, head nurse at the Kalaupapa Hospital, in a faxed note to the hospital staff.

She and nurse Frances Padeken accompanied Katherine Puahala, Elaine Remegio, Kuulei Bell and Richard Marks to Belgium as guests of Era Films of Brussels.

The local folks all had roles in the movie about Belgian priest Damien DeVeuster, who served people with leprosy at the settlement for 16 years until his death from the disease in 1889.

The Catholic Church beatified Damien in 1995 in the second step toward sainthood.

The Kalaupapa contingent was delivered to the door of the Metropolis theater in a convoy of limousines which also carried some of the stars -- including Derek Jacobi, Kate Ceberano and Alice Krige -- producer Tharsi Vanhuysee, screenwriter John Briley and Flemish author Hilde Eynikel, whose book was the basis for the movie.

About 2,000 people attended the premiere.

Austria-Schwind made and packed several haku leis to share during their reunion with the head nurse at the Kalaupapa Hospital, in a faxed note to the hospital staff

actors and production crew, many of whom developed bonds with the Kalaupapa residents during their stay on the remote Molokai peninsula.

Austria-Schwind wrote that she was invited to present one of the leis to the queen.

"We are wearing muumuus, not slinky gowns, and leis, not diamonds," she said before the group departed last weekend.

The producer said earlier he will arrange for the film to be shown in Hawaii. No date has been set.

Other Hawaii residents at the premiere were Mary Charmick, who accompanied her friend Elaine Remegio, and Jeanine Thomason of Molokai, who worked as production manager here.

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