The Maui Film Festival launches its 11th season Wednesday with its head in the stars, its heart on its sleeve and its feet firmly and conscientiously planted on the planet.
Continuing for five days and nights through June 20, its more than 35 screenings are divided between its signature outdoor Celestial Cinema in Wailea, and the big Castle Theater screen at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
This year's films strike a balance between compassionate and thought-provoking, mixing tender comedies of first love with heart-hitting documentaries. True to its tradition, there are cinematic celebrations of surfing and music-making as well.
Kyle Gallner stars with Brittany Robertson (left) and Laura Allen in a tender story of first love, “Cherry.”
Aaron Johnson plays a young John Lennon in “Nowhere Boy.”
On the celebrity front, teen heartthrob Zac Efron and surfing auteur Taylor Steele will be honored in awards tributes, presented for the first time this year in the Celestial Cinema, where cameras will provide close-ups visible throughout the majestic amphitheater.
For more on the festival, check out the stories throughout this issue and next week's Maui Scene.
Here are the synopses of this year's films, as provided by the festival.
Festival Tributes at Celestial Cinema
New in 2010! Live in-person tributes at the Celestial Cinema with the Q&A projected on the big screen. Shining Star Tribute to Zac Efron (Wednesday, 8 p.m.) and Beacon Award Tribute to Taylor Steele (Thursday, June 17, 8 p.m.)
Celestial Cinema Luminaries
Other industry luminaries in attendance with their films at this year's Celestial Cinema include Justin Chambers ("Grey's Anatomy"), who will appear at the world premiere of "The Happiest Man Alive" prior to the John Lennon biopic "Nowhere Boy" (Friday, June 18, 8 p.m.); Dan Byrd ("Cougar Town"), who will appear prior to the world premiere of "Norman" (Friday, June 18, 10 p.m.); Josh Radnor ("How I Met Your Mother") director/star and co-star Malin Ackerman ("Watchmen") will appear (Saturday June 19, 8 p.m.) at the Hawaii premiere of "happythankyoumoreplease"; and Taika Waititi, who will appear prior to the Hawaii premiere of "BOY" (Sunday, June 20, 8 p.m.)
Visit the Festival's Facebook page for updates.
Always one of the highlights of each festival, Saturday's panels will again feature many of the filmmakers with work in the festival addressing both their IQs and EQs approach to the work being presented. At press time, among others, the directors and/or producers of "Sex Magic: Manifesting Maya," "Cherry," "Boy," "Queen of the Sun," "Waste Land," "Castles in the Sky," "442 - Live with Honor, Die with Dignity," "Hana Surf Girls"and "Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae" are scheduled to participate. Visit www.MauiFilmFestival. com for updates. (Mei Court - Wailea Marriott, Saturday, June 20 at 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 2 p.m.)
This year's Maui Film Festival again has an embarrassment of riches on display in its short film program. They include the Hawaiian language (with English subtitles) film "Stones," the astonishing "The Butterfly Circus" and "God of Love" among many others.
This year's short films are synopsized in the festival's 2010 eBook and the online filmguide, available at www.MauiFilmFes tival.com.
- Rick Chatenever
"442 Live with Honor, Die with Dignity" Castle Theater, Sunday, June 20, 1:30 p.m.
Conventional wisdom holds that war is hell. What words then best describe fighting two wars simultaneously? For the "Go For Broke" AJAs who fought so valiantly to liberate Hitler's concentration camps in Europe during World War II, while a fearful and prejudiced U.S. government wrongfully interned many West Coast Japanese-Americans-those words turned out to be "true patriotism."
"Blood Into Wine" Castle Theater, Friday, June 18, 4 p.m.
A buddy tale about multiplatinum recording artist Maynard James Keenan of the bands Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, and his winemaking mentor Eric Glomski. It delivers an inside look at the ups and downs of one man's unswerving passion and the celebration of the hard-won success of Arizona Stronghold winery.
"BOY" Celestial Cinema, Saturday, June 19, 8 p.m.
You don't have to be a Maori and you don't have to be a kid to get caught heart-and-soul by this wacky, endearing comedy set among the native people in the rural coastal community of Waihau, New Zealand. This hilarious charmer, from Academy Award-nominated creative powerhouse Taika Waititi, lit up the Sundance Film Festival and won Best Feature at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival.
"Bran Nue Dae" Celestial Cinema, Wednesday, 8 p.m.
Rocking the Australian continent, with its upbeat contemporary storyline and its abundance of thrilling production numbers rooted in Hollywood rock, blues and traditional Aborigine culture, this musical comedy is the picture perfect "Brand New Day" opening-night Celestial Cinema premiere. Filmed amidst the incredible scenery of the northwest Australian coastline, as lensed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie ("The Lord of the Rings"), this Audience Award-winning charmer is an exceptionally bright, feel-good, family-friendly experience for all, and a perfect film to follow the Festival's Zac Efron Shining Star tribute.
"Cancer to Capricorn - The Path of the Modern Gypsy" Castle Theater, Wednesday, 8 p.m.
As gorgeous as Victoria's Secret models, an endless parade of waves in Micronesia, Australia, the Mentawaiis Islands, Mexico (Puerto Escondido), El Salvador, Indonesia and Bali, - ridden by surfers including Alana Blanchard, Mick Fanning, Rob Machado, Tonino Benson, Nick Rozsa, Mike Losness, Ben Bougeois, Paul Fisher, Jay "Bottle" Thompson, Sean Moody and Chris Waring - will fill the Castle Theater's big screen.
"Castles in the Sky" Celestial Cinema, Thursday, June 17, 8 p.m.
The greatest surf films will thrill anyone who watches them, even (or especially) people who have never seen a wave in their lives. With "Castles in the Sky," filmmaker Taylor Steele has hit a high point in his career of making films in that universally fascinating category. Using Google Earth to scout out the locations - Iceland, Vietnam, Africa, Peru and India shown in this film - shot with RED digital cinema cameras and featuring Jordy Smith, Dane Reynolds, Rob Machado and Dave Rastovich among others, this is a film every bit as much about pioneering as the wonder and joy of surfing. Preceded by the Festival's Beacon Award Tribute to Taylor Steele.
"Cherry" Celestial Cinema, Saturday, June 19, 10 p.m.
Take a smart but naive college freshman and send him tubing down the rapids of sexual initiation riding a wacky inner tube. Whether or not he can do that as an Ivy-League freshman is the fundamental question, especially once he gets entwined in the life of a "hot" older woman and her spitfire 14-year-old daughter. Adolescence is hilarious when it happens to someone else, and this film explores that serio-comic territory in the manner of recent poignant coming-of-age surprises such as "Juno" and "Lars and the Real Girl." Starring Kyle Gallner, Laura Allen and Britt Robertson.
"The Concert" Castle Theater, Saturday, June 19, 6 p.m.
Filmmaker Radu Mihaileanu ("Train of Life") has assembled all the ingredients for his comic stew of romance, revenge, and slapstick culture-clash between uncouth Eastern Europeans and high-toned Parisians. A big hit across the Euro fest world, this hilarious French fable delivers the most emotionally rousing climax that cinema has seen in years, the laughter and tears abetted by a full orchestral performance of Tchaikovsky's sensational Violin Concerto. In French with English subtitles.
"Cyrus" Castle Theater, Sunday, 8 p.m.
With John's social life at a standstill and his ex-wife about to get remarried, a down-on- his-luck divorcee finally meets the woman of his dreams, only to discover she has another man in her life - her son. Written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, the iconoclastic filmmaking team behind Sundance Film Festival favorite "The Puffy Chair," co-starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener, "Cyrus" takes an insightful, funny look at love and family in contemporary Los Angeles.
"The Freebie" Celestial Cinema, Friday, June 18, 11:45 p.m.
Writer/director Katie Aselton stars alongside Dax Shepard in this finely crafted story of a marriage. Aselton sums it up: "In this age of couples therapy and over-analyzing and uber self-awareness, could a couple be stupid enough (or progressive enough) to think that they could take a night off from their seven-year relationship, sleep with someone else, and then come back to each other better partners than they were before?"
"Green" Castle Theater, Wednesday, 8 p.m. and Thursday, June 17, 5 p.m.
You are the witness. For long luxurious passages you see and listen to the primeval forest - the mists and the huge birds, the wart hogs and giant lizards and the improvised wailing of life in the trees. Particularly the orangutans. This film lets you look and look into the face and experience the soul of an orangutan, one of our closest relations in the natural world. It's like going to church without the church.
"Hana Surf Girls" Castle Theater, Friday, June 18, 8 p.m.
Gutsy, genuine, and natural beauties in the authentic island way, Hana's own Lipoa Kahaleuahi and Monica Byrne Wickey are featured in this colorful surf documentary that is almost as much about life in remote East Maui - the friendship of kids who grow up together out there, surfing at Koki and Hamoa, and experiencing various rites of passage, in a world that even today remains remote, nature-soaked, and truly one-of-a-kind-as it is the world of the sport they love.
"happythankyoumoreplease" Celestial Cinema, Saturday, June 19, 8 p.m.
Malin Akerman, Tony Hale, Zoe Kazan and Kate Mara co-star alongside writer/director Josh Radnor in this hilarious and complex New York City-saturated comedy about everything that can go wrong (and right) in relationships. The plot works at the core of a network of heavy-duty love stories, all of them probing new territory in a tipped and tumultuous world.New York? Wit? Relationships?Sound like Woody Allen for the 21st century? It's definitely mining that same hilarious and complex ore.Winner of the 2010 Sundance Festival's Audience Award.
"Home" Celestial Cinema, Wednesday, 10 p.m.
The words, so poetic.The images, so stunning.The message, so accessible to any human being. Humanity's genius lies in its appreciation of its own natural weaknesses. So we have trained animals and built devices to extend our limited powers.What we haven't done is faced the truth about life on earth as it is brilliantly summarized here. Don't leave this film early!The story rises to a rousing cry of hope! Complimentary admission to the 10 p.m. show of this film.
"Ho'okele Wa'a: Turning the Canoe" Castle Theater, Thursday, June 17, 5 p.m.
The rest of the planetary surface may be getting ground into dust, but we in Hawaii have the opportunity to stand our ground and let the mountains live. We could make Maui self-sustaining. We could take the long view.This Maui-made documentary provides a vision for making that possible.
"Last Paradise: Extreme Pioneers Explore Mystical Lands" Celestial Cinema, Sunday, June 20, 10 p.m.
New Zealand's "extreme sports pioneers and innovators" in surfing, skateboarding, wakeboarding, bungee jumping, hang-gliding and more are featured in Clive Neeson's 45-year quest for adrenaline and paradise.And, man oh man, does he ever find it-in the primal '70s surf magnets in Petacalco, Spain, Portugal, Bali and, of course, New Zealand.As the film's opener states: "Our childhood playgrounds shape our dreams."
"Norman" Celestial Cinema, Friday, June 18, 10 p.m.
What happens when life's most special and most challenging moments become the DNA double helix of anyone's life?In Norman's case - a quirky, intelligent high school student whose one impulsive act makes him the focus of the school's attention - it wins him both his first kiss and the affections of a radiantly beautiful classmate, all while his loving, single-parent father faces his own mortality.This brilliant script explores it all with compassion, insight and ultimately triumph over adversity.Starring Adam Goldberg, Dan Byrd, Emily Vancamp and Academy Award nominee Richard Jenkins.
"Nowhere Boy" Celestial Cinema, Friday, June 18, 8 p.m.
Imagine John Lennon's childhood. Liverpool 1955: a smart and troubled 15-year-old is hungry for experience.In a family full of secrets and yearning for a normal family, John escapes into the new and exciting world of rock 'n' roll where his fledgling genius finds a kindred spirit in the teenage Paul McCartney - and an icon explodes into the world. Directed by Sam Taylor Wood and starring Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff, Thomas Sangster and David Threlfall.
"Queen of the Sun" Castle Theater, Friday, June 18, 6 p.m.
When explorers opened the tomb of Tutankhamen, they found a pot of honey that still held the vitality of pollen, which is the captured energy of sunlight. For 10,000 years bees and we have depended on each other.Humans traditionally revered bees as sacred nurturers of life's fertility.But when we industrialize bees - as this documentary illustrates - they collapse.Where's the hope?It's revealed in this amazing documentary.
"Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae" Celestial Cinema, Thursday, June 17, 10 p.m.
What "Buena Vista Social Club" did for Cuban and Latin music and "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" did for soul and R&B, this extraordinary musical documentary does for reggae, probably the most popular music on the planet.It features a reunion concert, archival footage, Jamaican travelogue - we experience sessions at Tuff Gong Studios and travel to island locations that profoundly influenced the music - some brilliant, exciting studio work by still-living foundational "Rocksteady" musicians and an exclusive interview with Rita Marley about the first time she made love to Bob Marley.
"Sex Magic: Manifesting Maya" Castle Theater, Thursday, June 17, 9 p.m.
Is it possible for polyamorous shamans and sexual voyagers to find true love?And if they do, what then?How does that fit into their "polyamorous" world? The drama - or perhaps comedy - around such a provocative dilemma creates the storyline that runs through this thorough and quite explicit documentary. Towhat degree they succeed in this magic transformation is pretty much left up to the viewer of this even-handed, objective documentary.One thing's for sure-there will be a lot to talk about afterward. Screening open only to those over 18 years of age.ID may be required.
Special Surprise Castle Theater Screening Castle Theater, Sunday, June 20, 6 p.m.
We're so exited! We just can't hide it! But we have to! Until we can go public with it. Sign up for the Festival's newsletter at www.MauiFilmFestival.com or check out the Maui Film Festival Facebook page for updates.
"Sympathy for Delicious" Castle Theater, Saturday, June 19, 8 p.m.
Orlando Bloom, Laura Linney and Juliette Lewis co-star alongside first-time director Mark Ruffalo and screenwriter Christopher Thornton -who plays Delicious D, a turntable wizard living in his car near LA's skid row - who discovers that he has the power to heal others, but not himself, with the laying on of hands.How should he use this gift?In selfless service, or to acquire fame and all the goodies that come with it?Powerful, transformative, challenging.This first-of-a-kind drama of tough redemption cuts to the very core of the festival's commitment to the presentation of compassionate cinematic vision.It won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize at Sundance 2010.
"Tapped" Castle Theater, Thursday, June 17, 7 p.m.
Comedians from George Carlin to Jim Gaffigan have mocked bottled water - the entire notion.For a while the running joke was that "Evian" is "naive" spelled backwards.According to this whistle-blowing documentary, big corporations (Pepsi, Nestl) are actually bottling municipal water, in one-step-forwad, two-steps-back bottles, and selling it back to the populace at 1,000 times the price, making $11 billion profit.What's really going on here?
"This Way of Life" Castle Theater, Sunday, June 20, 4 p.m.
By contemporary standards, this New Zealand family has nothing -except the wilderness, horses, abundant love, the bounty of the land, a mountain-man father, a Maori mother, and a string of joyful healthy kids - going for it. "What do I do for a living?" says Peter Karena, the father, a white man who was adopted and raised by Maoris. "I live for a living." If that notion draws you to it, this film will stun you with its subtlety, honesty and heart.
"Tillman Story" Castle Theater, Saturday, June 19, 4 p.m.
True courage is the courage to tell the truth. Most children know that, but a lot of adults let themselves forget it.That message permeates this documentary about the death of Army Ranger Corporal, and former pro football standout, Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.At first the military authorities proclaimed Tillman a hero.But the dogged pursuit of the truth by Tillman's mother, Dannie, gradually exposed one of the biggest scams of the so-called War on Terror.It is uplifting to witness the crash of falsehood against the staunch dignity of her quest for the truth.Nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2010.
"Waste Land" Castle Theater, Wednesday, 6 p.m.
If jaded filmgoers forget the magnificent power of film to illuminate the human heart, to reveal the dignity of the downtrodden, and to renew one's compassion for all humankind, this is the film they need to watch - a visually astonishing documentary shot on and above the world's largest trash pile.The result is a mesmerizing study of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.No wonder, then, that "Waste Land" took the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at Sundance 2010.
More information is available at the festival website: www.mauifilmfestival.com.