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Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Newport Beach Film Festival
Detail of a poster for the Hawaiian-language
movie "Ka'ililauokekoa."

Two Hawaii films
to be shown at Newport

By Tim Ryan

The locally produced film "Ka'ililauokekoa," which won the Aloha Airlines Filmmaker Award at last year's Hawai'i International Film Festival, has been selected for showing at the Newport Beach Film Festival in April.

"Ka'ililauokekoa" is brought to life in the Hawaiian language. The interpretation of the legend is exact, relating the story of Kauai Chiefess Ka'ililauokekoa.

The 80-minute film is directed by Kalaiokona Ontai, 25, who will attend the Southern California event. "Ka'ililauokekoa," which cost less than $30,000 to make, was produced by Aha Punana Leo, a nonprofit native Hawaiian educational corporation. The Hilo-based organization's mission is to revitalize the Hawaiian language.

"It's such a good feeling that our Hawaiian videos and films can be shown outside of Hawaii to spread aloha and get our race and state recognized," Ontai said after learning the film had been accepted into the festival.

The film, one of 150 in the Newport Beach Film Festival, will be shown April 2, along with another Hawaii film shown at HIFF, "Hokule'a: Guiding Star," directed by Leah Kihara.

The Newport festival, which runs March 29 through April 5, spotlights films from around the world, including features, shorts, documentaries and animation that compete for a series of awards: Jury, Audience and Director's. "Ka'ililauokekoa" is in the feature film category.

Aha Punana Leo last month was contacted by festival program director Monique Yamaguchi -- sister of Hawaii restaurateur Roy Yamaguchi -- about showing the film. Approval came last week, Yamaguchi said.

"We wanted this film because its images are not your typical Hollywood movie, its use of the Hawaiian language exclusively, and the unique story," said Yamaguchi. "I'm very interested in promoting nonmainstream films, indigenous filmmakers, films that use the medium to talk about culture."

Screenings of the Hawaii films will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers and the audience to be moderated by Michael Renov, a documentary film teacher at the University of Southern California.

"Hokule'a" is a 56-minute documentary about the Hawaiian voyaging canoe's trip to Rapa Nui during its 25th anniversary year.

Both films will be screened at The Edwards Island Cinema Theaters at the Fashion Island shopping center, Newport Beach, about 55 miles south of Hollywood.

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