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Screen time for Maui
October 13, 2010 - Rick Chatenever
CBS is touting “Hawaii Five-O” as the top new show of the season, suggesting that TV viewers who don’t actually live in Hawaii want to keep their Pearl Harbor, mai tai and coconut-bra fantasies of the place in tact. Viewers who live here might beg to differ.
But the show’s immortal theme song —heard across Mainland college campuses this fall in a competition for marching bands at football halftimes — is undoubtedly music to the ears of Waikiki hoteliers and travel agents booking reservations made under its spell. The song’s lyrics go, “da-da-da-da-da-da, ka-ching, ka-ching …”
In the meantime, a number of other island fantasies are showing up on bigger screens. At the 48th annual New York Film Festival that just wrapped at Lincoln Center, two of the three showpiece movies were filmed, at least in part, in Maui County.
Lahaina’s Front Street provided a key location for Clint Eastwood’s supernatural thriller “Hereafter,” which closed the festival last Sunday.
Its star, Matt Damon, playing a man with a psychic connection to the afterlife, wasn’t in the scenes filmed on Maui last January. But 8-year-old Jessica Griffiths and her mother, Lisa, were among the 75 Maui extras in the three days of filming.
The good news is that you can definitely recognize Front Street, although it’s supposed to be in Indonesia, in the film’s opening scenes. The bad news is that it immediately gets devastated by a tsunami. (That scene, showing young Jessica running for her life next to the film’s star, Cecile De France, has been featured in the trailer for “Hereafter” as well as the TV spots.) The good news is that they created the tsunami in the special effects department; Front Street was still there, last time anyone looked. More good news was that the Warner Bros. production pumped some $4-6 million into the lean local economy.
“Hereafter” is slated for national release Oct. 22.
“The Tempest,” a retelling of Shakespeare’s other-worldly comedy set on a remote, enchanted island, opened the New York Festival Oct. 2.
Directed by Julie Taymor of “Lion King” and “Across the Universe” fame, its all-star cast includes Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounson, Felicity Jones, Ben Whishaw and David Strathairn. Much of the visionary comedy was filmed on Lanai in 2008.
Rather than identifying the settings as Hawaii —which was unknown territory to European audiences in Shakespeare’s time —Taymor and company reportedly use the backgrounds almost as characters in their own right. The striking landscapes are said to complement the spellbinding beings for this magical mystery tour across yet another universe.
“The Tempest” will screen in Honolulu on Oct. 20 and 24 as a showpiece of the 30th Hawaii International Film Festival, opening today through Oct. 24.
Speaking of HIFF, local productions and island filmmakers have made significant inroads into its schedule of more than 200 screenings.
Lahaina contributes an important chapter to “Those Who Came Before: The Musical Journey of Eddie Kamae,” the latest documentary from beloved musician-filmmaker and living Hawaiian treasure.
Co-produced by his wife, Myrna Kamae, and dedicated to Eddie’s longtime collaborator James D. Houston, the Santa Cruz writer who died last year, the film conveys the impression that Eddie is the human equivalent of the taro plant — a strong, resilient, nourishing life form whose roots stretch back to the beginnings of Hawaiian culture in these islands. It screens at 4 p.m. Saturday.
A very different take on island culture will be on view Saturday when the entirely made-on-Maui comedy “Get a Job” has its world premiere at 7:15 p.m. (A repeat screening is set for the following weekend. A gala Maui premiere is in works for sometime later this year as a benefit for the MACC.)
Starring Willie K and Eric Gilliom as an employment counselor and his unemployable client, it’s a throwback to a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis-style romp, with a decided Hawaiian accent and a dynamite music track. A who’s who of the island’s top music stars make cameo appearances, as do lot of your friends and neighbors from Maui.
Written and directed by Maui’s Brian Kohne, it has been a labor of love — and laughs — for all involved, many of whom are heading over for the premiere. (Full disclosure —I’m one of them.)
But now that the film is in the can, the question is, will it play in Peoria? Or in this case, Paia.
“We made the best film we could and look forward to sharing it with the world,” summed up star Gilliom, as Maui’s wiggy dream sets sail for the big time.
• Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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