Maui Film Festival FirstLight looms large at MACC

Pair movies with CandleLight Cafe for ‘date night’ of dinner-and-show

Saoirse Ronan faces the challenges of adolescence in first-time director Greta Gerwig’s critically acclaimed coming-of-age film “Lady Bird.” Photo courtesy A24

Maui Film Festival’s 19th annual FirstLight: Academy Screenings on Maui returns to Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater in Kahului to loom larger than life for four evenings. Opening night is Wednesday, followed by centerpiece screenings Dec. 23 and 26 and closing night films Dec. 27.

Opening Night films include “Downsizing” starring Matt Damon at 5 p.m. and “Lady Bird” starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe at 8 p.m.

“For the first time in many years, all of the FirstLight screenings will be films not previously released on Maui or available on BluRay, DVD or in any other way,” says festival director Barry Rivers.

“This is a jewel-box event with big, fat stars,” continues Rivers, who could barely hold back his excitement when sharing the news. “And there will be a special surprise screening at 5 p.m. Dec. 23 that the festival is not able to share the title of just yet.”

Silver-screen luminaries lighting up additional nights will include Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy in “Breathe”; Christian Bale, Rosamond Pike, Ben Foster and Timothee Chalamet in “Hostiles”; Margot Robbie, Allison Janney and Bobby Cannavale in “I, Tonya”; and Jessica Chastain, Kevin Costner and Idris Elba in “Molly’s Game,” and “All The Money in the World” on Dec. 23.

Matt Damon gets small in Director Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing.” Photo Paramount Pictures

The CandleLight Cafe will be glowing with passionate magenta and purple lighting for FirstLight patrons to enjoy deep-diving conversations into films, hear chill music, enjoy meals, sip organic wines, craft beers, cocktails, coffee, tea and delight in dessert. It’s the place for “flirting and falling in love,” says Rivers.

You may purchase a VIP FastPass with entry to four films for $12 per film ($48 for the pass), which can be shared with family and friends. Single tickets are $14 for adults; $10 for teens ages 13 to 16 for PG & PG-13 films; and free for kids 12 and younger. Guild members of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also get in for free.

For more details, visit

5 p.m. Wednesday

“DOWNSIZING” NR, 1:35 minutes. Comedy and science fiction.

Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig star in Alexander Payne’s science-fiction comedy about humans who get miniaturized to shrink their daily dose of stress and help save the planet. Variety called it “A rare thing” and a “resonant crowd pleaser for grown-ups.” The Hollywood Reporter added “Captivating, funny” and “impossible to anticipate where it’s headed, this is a deeply humane film.”

8 p.m. Wednesday

“LADY BIRD” R, 94 minutes. Drama.

Indie icon Greta Gerwig directs her first feature. Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalfe Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet star in the warm, quirky exploration of a young woman’s coming-of-age flowering. It’s a record for the most 100 percent critic reviews on Village Voice says it captures the “transition from adolescence to dawning adulthood in ways sentimental without being saccharine and emotional without being contrived, as it reveals life as it’s actually lived.”