Hula film has a French twist


POSTED: Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's been seen all over Europe, but hardly anyone here has viewed French filmmaker Arnaud Dufour's hula documentary, “;Aloha from Paris.”; That is, until Tuesday, when the Bishop Museum hosted a special showing. All the more special because Sandra Kilohana Silve and dancers were there.

Silve, who lives in Manoa and travels to Paris, for 28 years did the opposite. She got so homesick in the French capital that she “;created Hawaiians,”; as she puts it. She turned 30 Parisians, a few of them Hawaii expats, into Halau Hula o Manoa, which, despite the name, was based in her Rue de Turin apartment.

In 2005, the dancers came to Hawaii, many for the first time. They were trailed by Dufour, cameras running.

For Europeans, Dufour's tightly edited film is a lesson: Hula is not Hollywood hip shaking, it's serious cultural tradition.

For a local audience, it's seeing things you take for granted though fresh eyes. The women of the halau seem far more immersed in Hawaiian culture than many island residents. You watch them seeing the volcano for the first time, having a picnic on the beach in Waimanalo, grateful to finally have fresh ti leaves to make hula skirts.

The French halau - here again for the International Waikiki Hula Conference - danced after the film, then invited everyone to have French-style pupu they'd spent two days preparing.

One of Silve's dancers, Beatrice Lelievre, was asked why she studied hula. She'd spent a few early years on the Big Island, she said. “;Hawaiian culture missed me.”; Then: “;Sorry, that came out in French. I mean, I missed Hawaiian culture.”;


Piece of Cake

“;I found the key to getting married,”; said a single friend of mine. “;I'm taking cake decorating classes.”;

She was just back from, her word, the “;flawless”; Lanai wedding of former Miss Hawaii-actress-singer Candes Meijide Gentry to food and beverage exec Milan Drager.

Gentry met Drager in 2005 when he gave wedding cake decorating classes at the then Kahala Mandarin Oriental. The matrimonial mood survived Drager's two-year stint at the Mandarin in San Francisco.

Drager was busy with the rehearsal dinner at the Hotel Lanai and the wedding day breakfast at the Lodge, complete with bride and groom's team lawn bowling, not to mention the ceremony overlooking Sweetheart Rock above Hulopoe Beach and the reception under a 60-foot clear tent adorned with crystal chandeliers, iridescent silk chiffon drapes and a crystal curtain behind the head table.

Thus occupied, he was unable to decorate his own four-tier pink Luster Dust pina colada wedding cake. He did, however, design the wedding dinner - burgers. That is, mushroom and bacon burgers with gorgonzola cheese and homemade avocado spread with a pear-and-fennel slaw, on a parmesan-sundried tomato-basil buns with hand-cut sweet potato fries and ginger-ketchup and wasabi mayonnaise.

If, like me, you missed the nuptials, fear not. The whole affair was taped and will be shown next summer on “;Platinum Wedding,”; a WE-TV show.


Hungary for Obama

Rolling his luggage into the Cades Schutte building last week was attorney-sports commentator Jeff Portnoy, back from Europe.

Portnoy spent two weeks lecturing on American constitutional law at Debreceni Nyar Egyetem, a Hungarian law school.

School officials expected 25 people at Portnoy's talk on the presidential election. Hundreds showed up, the largest nonmandatory lecture the school had ever seen.

Was it because of Obama? I asked. “;Yes,”; said Portnoy. “;It sure wasn't because of me.”;


Washington and Wear

You have plenty dresses, I said to Raiatea Helm. Nonetheless, Helm is searching for just the right gown to wear when she sings for the new president, at the Hawaii State Society Inaugural Ball this January in D.C.

“;This is bigger than the Grammys, baby,”; said Ms. Helm. “;I need something elegant.”;

Should you be a designer inclined to drape Raiatea elegantly for the occasion, gowns are being vetted by Ralph Malani at the Ala Moana Aveda Salon.


Who Let the Dogs Out?

Prepare yourself for a Dog and Beth Chapman music CD. Seriously.

Worldsound, the Seattle label that distributes Na Leo, Kaukahi and Keali'i Reichel, is inking a deal to record the reality TV stars.

Beth was apparently once a professional singer, Dog's likely to growl spoken tracks. The deal was pulled together by Na Leo's Nalani Choy.


The Samoan Obama

Outrigger's Max Sword was off to American Samoa last Thursday to celebrate the 80th birthday of his mother, Anneliese Halleck-Sword.

He leaves, in his own words, “;saddened and heartbroken.”; A week ago, his hanai brother, Utu Malae, lost a narrow race for governor there.

“;Utu was the Barack Obama of American Samoa, the candidate of change,”; says Sword, who headed up the Utu4Gov absentee ballot drive in Hawaii.

“;Such an important election,”; Sword insists. “;I'm shocked there was no coverage at all in Honolulu.”;


No Cover Charge

Restaurant Row's Ocean Club, which everyone called Oceans, reopens this weekend as Oceans 808. It's run by a new hui of partners - Randy Brunett, Dale Brunett, Gary Derks, Mike Norton and Sam Kaawa. The vast room's been gussied up by colored water walls and a VIP area full of white couches.

At the VIP preview Tuesday, I confided to a hipper-than-I friend that I often didn't see the point of nightclubs.

“;You don't?”; he said. “;Look at that young lady over there.”; She was attractive, in a white dress that was well off the shoulders and barely off the derriere. The dress was so tight you wondered for a moment whether it was fabric or paint.

“;The right to dress like that,”; said my friend. “;That's what our boys in Afghanistan are fighting for.”;


John Heckathorn is editor of Hawaii Magazine and director of integrated media for the aio Group.