Reality shows brought attention to isles


POSTED: Thursday, December 31, 2009

For an island in the middle of the ocean, Hawaii gets plenty of attention from Hollywood, and 2009 was no different. The most obvious productions to land on our shores—reality shows—certainly made an impact. Some are best forgotten. Antonio Sabato Jr. emerged from the ocean minimally clothed to find “;love”; based on meaningful criteria that included the shape of a woman's hands and feet in “;My Antonio.”; The series, shot on the Big Island, was like watching a car accident in real time—almost too horrifying to look away.

But some attracted welcome attention to Hawaii. In “;Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,”; host Guy Fieri checked out Poke Stop Mililani Mauka, and in the Travel Channel's “;Man v. Food,”; Adam Richman tackled the massive pancakes at Mac 24-7. Chef Duff Goldman of “;Ace of Cakes”; also brought his pastry crew here to create an edible helicopter to honor deployed military personnel, along with a unique cake full of detailed character figurines to celebrate the 100th episode of “;Lost.”; And Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel's “;Dirty Jobs”; conquered his fears and monitored his foul language while hanging from a rope to clean windows on a South Street high-rise building.

The Maui Film Festival and the Hawaii International Film Festival this year lured an impressive bevy of movies and a few noteworthy stars. Earthy, understated Zooey Deschanel (”;(500 Days of Summer”;) spoke with fans on the beaches of Maui, and Maggie Q (”;Live Free or Die Hard”;) reconnected with local friends from her childhood in Hawaii when she accepted HIFF's Maverick Award and screened “;The Warrior and the Wolf,”; her latest flick out of China.

And who could forget the sturm und drang of “;The Barbarian Princess,”; which also premiered at HIFF and generated controversy for its portrayal of Princess Kaiulani and, of all things, its title? But after multiple sold-out screenings, the furor faded. It turned out that writer/director Marc Forby and star Q'orianka Kilcher (both of whom have local ties), along with veteran actors Barry Pepper and Will Patton, presented a respectable film that will likely appeal to an art house audience well beyond island shores, and inspire people to learn more about Hawaii's history and culture.

The festivals also helped take several local filmmakers to the next level. Brent Anbe's “;Ajumma! Are you Krazy”; satirized the K-drama craze and earned an audience award for Best Short. “;Pidgin: The Voice of Hawaii,”; a film by Marlene Booth, won Best Documentary honors. In addition, HIFF highlighted “;Lost”; with a day of well-attended seminars and a moderated forum with Michael Emerson, who finally won an Emmy in his third nomination for his work on the series; Yunjin Kim; Jorge Garcia; Terry O'Quinn; and writers/producers Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof and Jean Higgins.

With the exception of the massive restructuring (a diplomatic term for demolition) of the Hawaii State Film Office, it was a solid year in Hawaii's entertainment industry, providing a fluid transition into 2010. Perhaps the biggest news for the coming year is the end of “;Lost”;—a production that will be deeply missed, since nearly every location seen in the show has been created and shot on Oahu. Even the cast members have become part of the community. But the team will go out in style at the end of June with an international auction of every set piece, prop and costume used throughout the series.

Contact Katherine Nichols at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).