COURTESY GEORGE TAHARA
Former Farrington High School teacher George Tahara will receive the Island Independent Film Festival's Kukui Olelo Award.
Film festival will honor veteran filmmaker Tahara
The egoless recluse in his 80s, is not expected to show up for the presentation
Many filmmakers could be described as enigmatic, but the reclusive George Tahara is in a class by himself. He routinely declines all interviews and awards, and seems disinterested in anything except making films. At approximately 85 - nobody knows his exact age - he is set to begin filming yet another Hawaiian legend, a genre to which he has been committed since 1948, when the 10-minute short about the legend of Chinaman's Hat, called "Kioni's Poi Pounder," was released.
A retrospective of his work screens as part of the Island Independent Film Festival
On screen: 6 p.m. Sunday, followed by awards ceremony
Place: NextDoor, 43 N. Hotel St.
Also: For more on the film festival, visit CinemaParadise.org
Despite his guaranteed absence at the awards ceremony, the Island Independent Film Festival (formerly Cinema Paradise) will honor Tahara with its Kukui Olelo Award Sunday at NextDoor in Chinatown.
"If people grew up in Hawaii during the '50s, '60s and '70s, they saw these films," said Raymond Karelitz, a publisher and instructor who spent three years working with Tahara publishing books and organizing a time line of his work. "Literally, George put some of these films away for 30 years," said Karelitz, who became interested in Tahara's films while teaching at Farrington High School. "He didn't care; he just liked to shoot them."
Tahara's career began with government-sponsored war-bond films during World War II. That evolved into a special interest in Hawaiian legends, which he learned orally from kumu hula Mary Pukui.
"He has kept the Hawaiian legends alive," said Karelitz, "and he appreciates that they should be told in a dignified manner." In addition to his short films - some credit him with 200, others say the number is closer to 1,000 - he also made many local commercials.
When Karelitz asked Tahara if he would grant the Star-Bulletin an interview, the independently wealthy Tahara said, "Why?" And though festival supporters have urged him to attend the event where the public will have a chance to see at least 11 of his films, he just laughed.
"He's the filmmaker," said Karelitz. "He's the boss. What he says goes. And he has absolutely no ego in there at all. He does it because he's got this compulsion to make films. There's no ulterior motive."
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Contest pushes isle filmmakers
"Showdown in Chinatown" marks its first anniversary with its first championship showcase starting at 7 p.m. Saturday at Next Door in conjunction with the Island Independent Film Festival.
'Showdown in Chinatown'
2006 championship filmmakers competition:
When: 7 p.m. tomorrow
Place: Next Door, 43 N. Hotel St.
By then, filmmakers vying for a $1,000 championship prize will have had a week to work on their films in an extended version of the monthly competition that has filmmakers scrambling over 24 hours to complete a seven-minute film based on a given theme and using two specific props.
The championship theme is "Finding Love," the props required are gum and a wine bottle, and this time around, filmmakers will also have to incorporate a line, "You don't have to leave," which can be written or spoken.
Torry Tukuafu started the event as a non-time-consuming means of encouraging fellow filmmakers to practice their craft by completing minifeatures in a day. Starting with about four to seven teams monthly, the event has grown to include about 20 teams, and Tukuafu expects to see 20 to 30 teams entered in the championship round.
Additionally, two films from the competition, "Her," directed by Brett Wagner, and "The Quick Fix," directed by Andrew Ma, were selected to be screened at this year's Hawaii International Film Festival.
The event's success has led to some growing pains, such as having to move from its original home at thirtyninehotel when crowds could no longer fit.
Tukuafu said it's also become necessary to prejudge films, a move that he tried to avoid for as long as possible.
"One of the things I loved about Showdown, what was beautiful, was that it was all-inclusive. But what happened was the screenings would go over three hours, and people would just start leaving."
Now, 10 films are chosen to be screened during the main event, with remaining entries screened later in the evening during a mixer period.
Heading into 2007, Tukuafu said he's looking forward to launching Showdown's Web site, and he hasn't lost his enthusiasm for the monthly event.
"I love it. The only thing that kind of sucks is, because it's such a big endeavor I find I don't have time to work on my own films.
"What makes that OK is that I get a lot of joy from people coming up to me and saying, 'Thank you for giving me an audience.'
"When I'm watching the films, I enjoy the stories, but I can also see that they had a good time working on it. I can tell how much they enjoyed setting up a scene, and I can imagine them laughing and the memories that come out of the experience, and that's what it's all about, getting people out and being creative."