Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, June 5, 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Moviegoers Becky Burk-Brady and John Hamdorf catch
the last rays of sun before sunset at the Maui Film Festival.


Maui's first film festival
proves a huge success

Film director Burton accepts his
Silversword Award with an air of whimsy

By Tim Ryan


WAILEA, Maui -- Minutes after midnight Saturday, after the last screening of the Maui Film Festival, a clean up crew was removing trash from the driving range where the Celestial Cinema outdoor theater delighted a few thousand film lovers in four nights of screenings, and the technical staff was beginning to remove the giant screen held up two by 50-foot poles.

Beach chairs rented by the audience were stacked in wobbly rows and carried away in golf carts.

Several chalk pathways that meandered over the grassy knoll, designated by the Maui Fire Department as "fire exits," had faded.

Maui Film Festival

And festival Director Barry Rivers, who had been on hyperspeed since Wednesday night when the festival began, crashed onto a patio chair at the nearby SeaWatch restaurant, a smile spreading ear to ear. "Yes, we did it and I can finally start to stop," he exclaimed.

Though the final numbers of people attending and financial profit or losses were not completed, the first Maui Film Festival screened 20 films and documentaries in two locations some 30 miles apart: Wailea on the island's southwest side and at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on the east shore.

By conservative estimates, more than 3,000 people attended the events under the stars in Wailea, including 1,375 for the opening night showing of DreamWork's "Chicken Run," another 1,500 at the MACC, and 600-plus for Friday night's showing of the pro-marijuana tome "Grass," which brought actor and Maui resident Woody Harrelson out to introduce the film.

Lucky for the Wailea Resort hotels and golf associations and several other major sponsors, which had already committed to two more years of hosting before this inaugural festival began.

Rivers' commitment to the festival was a factor in convincing sponsors to believe in the event. Rivers purchased about $150,000 in state-of-the-art projectors, a Dolby Surround Sound system and a movie screen after deciding that this would be less expensive in the long run than paying rental and shipping fees.

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Moviegoers marched onto theater grounds -- a golf course
in Wailea -- with beach chairs and blankets in hand.

Visiting festival directors -- and Rivers himself -- were quick to point out that right now the festival is more event- than film-oriented.

Chuck Boller, the new executive director for the Hawaii International Film Festival, who attended opening night, was astonished at the quality of sound and picture in the outdoor setting. But unlike HIFF, he said, the Maui event's success probably will depend on the number of tourists who attend.

"The fact that Barry has such incredible support from these major resorts seems to point to success," Boller said. "And I think the films he's showing, at least in this first festival, do appeal to tourists in general, perhaps more than our films."

Parties prior to or immediately after screenings had themes associated with a picture's storyline: At the MACC, a "salsa" party was held following a documentary on Hispanics; after the film "Bossa Nova" was shown at Wailea's Celestial Cinema, a Latin band played at SeaWatch restaurant.

Every screening at the outdoor theater also was accompanied by an hour of hula, chants and Hawaiian music.

Christian Gaines, former HIFF director and now head of the American Film Institute's Los Angeles Film Festival, called this event "a boutique festival" because of its small number of diverse films "carefully geared to specific audiences and events."

"I think it's been incredible," Gaines said. "The Celestial Cinema was like a childhood memory; lots of people having a great time. The emphasis was on making the whole experience -- not just seeing the film -- something very, very special."

Gaines described the Dolby sound as better sound than audiences hear in most commercial movie theaters, and the image was incredibly bright."

Boller is intrigued by the idea of showing films outdoors but said HIFF's November schedule means possible weather-related problems. He's also not sure where such an event could be held in Honolulu.

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
As the Maui Film Festival came to a close, some took in its
"Taste Of Wailea" event held on Wailea's Gold
& Emerald Golf Course.

Neither directors perceive the Maui festival as a threat to its big brother HIFF because the Maui event screens 80 percent fewer films, is more event- than cinema-oriented and occurs at a different time of year.

"The state is big enough for two festivals,"Boller said. "Anything that increases the appreciation for film helps us all.

Gaines said there are many instances where film festivals co-exist within the same region, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"The key," Gaines said, "is that each festival maintain its own identity and focus and stay cued to that focus."

One reason Rivers started this event is he feels the statewide HIFF doesn't serve a large enough audience or show enough films on Maui. Gaines agrees, with some qualifications.

"The concentration of HIFF is Honolulu and it has a commitment to serving the neighbor islands," he said, "But every neighbor island venue is different and their programming needs are different ... so it is very difficult to focus and serve their needs completely."

It's evident that Rivers knows the Maui market, Gaines said.

"He's a brilliant packager and marketer; he listened to his constituents and saw a niche that was begging to be filled."

This year's film choices are best described as "eclectic," including animation, classic silent films, documentaries and new foreign films, Gaines and Boller agreed.

Next year, the Maui Film Festival will shift to mid-June to attract more celebrities. This year's event came just a few weeks after the Cannes Film Festival, when many stars and filmmakers linger in Europe for vacation.

Long term success rests on several factors, including major sponsorship which means major funding, said Boller.

But Maui's cachet certainly will attract people, as will River's efforts at creating the ultimate outdoor theater.

"The word Maui has more of a mythology, more of an image than just Hawaii," Gaines said.

"We're a 'smaller is beautiful' festival," Rivers said. "Less frenetic; more fun."

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin