Kauai bit actorsWAIMEA, Kauai >> Except for his aloha shirt, he still looked like a prisoner of war.
enjoy premiere of
POW movie To
End All Wars
The story behind 'The Bridge
on the River Kwai' still
needs a distributor
By Anthony Sommer
David Maki, who in real life is a Hanapepe beekeeper, was one of 300 Kauai residents who worked as extras, playing prisoners of war, Japanese soldiers and Thai villagers in the film "To End All Wars," which premiered yesterday on Kauai as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival.
"I went to the casting call, and they just took one look at me and said, 'You're hired,'" laughed Maki.
About 500 people attended two showings of the film. Many worked on the film, which was shot entirely on Kauai last summer. Most of the filming took place at a complete prison camp built in a valley just north of the old Koloa Sugar Mill.
Going into the theater, everyone hoped they had been part of a good movie. When they came out, they were blown away by how powerful it was.
"It was even better than I thought it would be. These guys are great actors and just amazing people," said Maki.
His gaunt appearance earned him work on the set for the entire two months of filming. Additionally, Maki's back is the sole image on the poster designed to promote the movie.
"You have the most famous back on the island," Kauai Film Commissioner Judy Drosd told him at the party after yesterday's showing.
"To End All Wars" is the true story of a group of officers from a Scottish regiment that surrendered at Singapore and was used as slave labor to build a railroad through Thailand and Burma. It is the same historical backdrop that was used in "The Bridge on the River Kwai," which was fiction.
The complex and often graphically brutal story revolves around the conflicts among a group of Allied officers (Robert Carlyle, Kiefer Sutherland and Ciaran McMenamin) and a similar set of conflicts among the Japanese officers.
At one point, McMenamin (who plays Ernest Gordon, the author of the book on which the movie is based) begins a philosophy course he is teaching to fellow POWs with the question "What is justice?" The difficult answer essentially is what the movie is about.
Two of the Japanese actors (Masayuki Yui, who played the camp commander, and Yugo Saso, who played the interpreter) received standing ovations when the film was over.
"To End All Wars" does not yet have an American distributor. Director David Cunningham, who grew up on the Big Island and still lives in Kona, attended yesterday's showing. He said negotiations are under way with three distributors.
"When can we get the video?" one extra shouted to Cunningham from the audience.
"Brah, you have to ask Blockbuster," Cunningham responded.
In an interview afterward, Cunningham said he expects an announcement on a distributor will be made in the next few weeks, and "best case" is that the movie will be in at least some theaters by Christmas.
"Since Sept. 11, people have been pushing to get it out earlier," Cunningham said. "It carries a message that deals with two totally opposing sides of thought that has become very timely."