Must-see Maui Film Festival picks for music lovers

Among the new music-themed films and documentaries screening at the 2014 Maui Film Festival, reggae fans will not want to miss “Journey to Jah,” about international reggae stars Gentleman (from Germany) and Alborosie (from Italy) and their love for reggae’s spiritual homeland.

Gentleman (born Tilman Otto) dropped out of school at 16 and traveled to Jamaica to live with a farming family. In time, he teamed with established Jamaican artists like Morgan Heritage, Capleton and Luciano and sold more than a million records.

Inspired by reggae’s conscious roots, Alborosie also dropped out of school and moved to Jamaica, where he was eventually accepted by Trenchtown’s Rasta community.

This unique documentary, shot over seven years, examines the spiritual and political foundations of reggae. Helping unravel some of Jamaica’s paradoxes are Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, singer Jack Radics, dancehall star Richie Stephens, and “Kingstonlogic’s” Terry Lynn. “God lives here, but Satan too,” notes Alborosie.

An Audience Award winner at the Zurich Film Festival, it screens tonight at 10 in Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater. The director is flying in from Germany to attend.

Emmy Award-winning directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson illuminate the joys and struggles of an extraordinary transgender native-Hawaiian teacher, who embodies the ancient mahu tradition in the new documentary, “Kumu Hina,” screening tonight at 6 at Castle. A respected and beloved kumu and cultural scholar at Oahu’s Halau Lokahi charter school, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu opened her unique world to the filmmakers.

“Everyone is a part of the larger whole, and the Hawaiian way of life requires acceptance and aloha for all,” says Hina. The soundtrack includes music by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Keali’i Reichel.

British actress Keira Knightley stars as a singer/songwriter in the charming, new romantic comedy, “Begin Again.” A hit at the Toronto International Film Festival, this musical drama is directed by John Carney, who made the Academy Award-winning musical, “Once.”

Teaming up with a former record executive played by Mark Ruffalo, Knightley’s character embarks on an adventure across New York, recording her songs in alleyways, rooftops, parks and subway stations. The cast also includes Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, The Voice’s CeeLo Green, and rapper Mos Def. It screens Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in McCoy Studio Theater.

Anyone familiar with the music of acclaimed Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian will especially enjoy the crowd-pleasing musical, “God Help the Girl,” screening Saturday at 10 p.m. at the Celestial Cinema.

Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch directs, setting his debut feature in the bohemian fantasia of Glasgow’s West End, where kids routinely break into song and dance.

Influenced by vintage pop movies like the Beatles’ “A Hard Days Night,” this stylish film is elevated by a terrific cast, which includes Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray, who play three misfits drawn together to create pop gems over the course of a languid summer.

A must for jazz fans and all who find delight in truly inspirational stories, “Keep On Keepin’ On” spotlights the remarkable career of jazz giant Clark Terry.

An Audience Award winner at the Tribeca Film Festival, this heartwarming documentary follows Terry, now 93 and in failing health, in his quest to mentor Justin Kauflin, a blind piano prodigy.

One of the most recorded musicians in jazz, whom Dizzy Gillespie once hailed as the greatest trumpet player in history, in later years Terry realized that his greatest joy came from helping young music students achieve their dreams.

A beautiful, poignant film, “Keep On Keepin On” pays tribute to a trumpet player with the “happiest sound in jazz,” mixing vintage clips with contemporary interviews with artists like Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Arturo Sandoval, who all extol his genius. It screens at 3 p.m. Sunday in Castle Theater.

And finally a feel-good romantic comedy from the U.K., “Cuban Fury” employs a fiery Latin soundtrack by Tito Puente, Willie Coln and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra to weave a tale of a former champion salsa dancer seeking to reclaim his mojo on the dance floor and win the heart of his American boss. It screens at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Seaside Cinema.

* The 2014 Maui Film Festival will be held through Sunday. Visit

– Jon Woodhouse