Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, September 22, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
David Wenham, left, plays with a soccer ball made of burlap in a
scene from the film "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien."
On the right is the film's director Paul Cox.

‘Damien’ debuts
on Molokai

The film debuts on Oahu at the
Hawaii Theatre tomorrow

See also: Molokai movie premiere

By Tim Ryan


Director Paul Cox is elated and exhausted.

"We conquered the beast and have an achievement beyond any expectations," said the man who guided "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien" to completion -- twice.

The film debuts on Oahu at the Hawaii Theatre tomorrow. A 7 p.m. show is sold out; a 10 p.m. screening has been added. Tickets are $18. Call 528-0506.

Shot on Molokai and on Oahu, the film tells the story of Belgian priest Damien DeVeuster from 1872, the year before his arrival in Kalaupapa, through his years ministering to the Hansen's Disease patients at Kalaupapa, until the time of his death in 1889.

In addition to David Wenham who plays Father Damien, the film also stars Kris Kristofferson as Meyer, Derek Jacobi as Father Leonor Fousnel, Peter O'Toole as Williamson, Sam Neill as Prime Minister Gibson, and Kate Ceberano as Lili'uokalani.

Without any infrastructure at Kalaupapa, everything and everyone had to be flown down daily from "up top," Cox said.

Production designer Jan Petitjean and his crew spent nearly two months at Kalaupapa on Molokai painstakingly recreating nearly 25 buildings, including the settlement's Hospital and St. Philomena Church.

"But you can overcome those sort of inconveniences once you're all dedicated to a common goal. For a time we lost that common goal."

Last January a Belgian judge halted production work on the film in a dispute between Cox and Tharssi Vanhuysse, the film's producer, over the final cut. Cox said the producer's version was more commercial and lacked "the heart and Hawaiian spirit" the biopic requires to give Damien his due. Cox eventually was brought back on board to reedit the film.

"It's been a tough and difficult journey but I am totally behind this film because it's the one I envisioned," Cox said.

Cox is proud of the product primarily, he says, because it's "a very true story."

"I haven't exaggerated it and tried to keep a very Hawaiian heart in it," he said. "It's always difficult to capture a culture one not your own.

Cox believes Damien's story will make people "feel part of the human family." "It makes you want to reach out with understanding and love and not frustration and anger," he said. "The world is riddled with so much hatred, ignorance and greed.

"Damien is a great figure and we need these figures in our world to appreciate because in our world we celebrate the wrong gods."

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