Forget the paparazzi. Leave the entourage in LA. The Maui Film Maui Film Festival, which returns June 17 to 21 for its 10th season in Wailea and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, isn't about tabloid versions of fame and glory. Our homegrown cinema celebration with its toes in the sand and its head in the heavens, is more about honoring film artists who are real and friendly.
In fact, when the festival presents this year's Maverick Award, it will feel less like Hollywood than a backyard homecoming, since the recipient is the island's favorite next-door icon,Willie Nelson.
The legendary singer-songwriter and sometimes movie actor's "biography is as long as his hair," says Festival Director Barry Rivers. In addition to the music and the movies, Rivers points to Nelson's pioneering work championing alternative energy, his activism for causes ranging from world peace to family farms and besides, the 76-year-old artist "is a Maui guy. He's a guru to people about how to live a life well, and he really participates in the community.
"We have been trying to get him forever," Rivers went on, noting that the festival's mid-June time slot is also prime summer music tour season. This year, the stars aligned.
Willie's ceremony will coincide with a 10 p.m. Celestial Cinema screening Friday, June 19, of "One Peace at a Time." Willie is one of the contributors to this documentary by his pal Turk Pipkin, who teamed up with him to write "The Tao of Willie."
Fellow honoree, Nova Award recipient Zooey Deschanel, is at the other end of the fame spectrum. Although she's not quite a household name - yet - chances are you've seen the the 29-year-old actress in one of the quirky, adorable, distinctive roles in her lengthy filmography.
She has shared the screen with folks like Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Jim Carrey, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker in hits like "Elf" and "Yes Man," award contenders like "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," kids' flicks like "Surf's Up" or "Bridge to Teribithia" and cult classics like "Almost Famous " or "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." The list goes on and on. She sings, too.
She will accept the award in a free 8 p.m. ceremony Thursday, June 18, by the water's edge at the SandDance Theater.
The festival will also premiere "(500) Days of Summer," an offbeat romantic comedy in which Zooey stars as the romance-resistent Summer. It will screen at 7:30 p.m. on the festival's final night, Sunday, June 21, in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater.
For the little bit of glitz the festival brings to Maui every year at this time, it chooses its award recipients, along with its film lineup, more on the basis of the humanity we all share.
With his trademark flair for metaphors, Rivers sums up this year's event as "life - no drama. For five days, you can take a break from that."
The current economy has made this festival especially challenging, he noted. For openers, it has taken its toll on the "mini-major" divisions of studios producing many of the independent productions showcased in festivals.
"It's a virtually unrecogniable landscape," he says of the industry. "There are fewer studios to get work from. We had to get out the picks and shovels for a cinematic archaeological dig. But we found a lot of beautiful films."
"This year has more heart than ever before - and it has never been short of that," he concludes. "It's less a showcase of films that will eventually be seen by people, and more of a journey of discovery than it's ever been before."
* Rick Chatenever will be on vacation through July 6. After that, he can be contacted at email@example.com.