Unlike movies promising mindless escape, the Maui Film Festival has always been about mind expansion. Now in its 12th year, the festival opened Wednesday and continues through Sunday with films, panels, parties and more guaranteed to make attendees more mindful of the planet we share and more appreciative of the joy, fun and lessons it has to offer.
"People are telling me the film program is stronger than ever this year," says the festival's founding director and resident visionary, Barry Rivers. "They can't believe the luminaries who are coming out here this year."
The luminaries he refers to are actress Megan Fox and surfing filmmaker Jack McCoy, who were honored in Wednesday night tributes; actress Olivia Wilde, who will accept the Shining Star Award tonight (Wilde thing); "Tron: Legacy" star Garrett Hedlund, who will have his Shining Star tribute Friday; and Andrew Garfield, co-star of "The Social Network" and soon-to-be star of "Spider-Man," who will accept the male Shining Star Award Saturday.
The Celestial Cinema is the Maui Film Festival’s signature venue in Wailea
The tributes precede each evening's screenings in the Celestial Cinema, the festival's signature venue on Wailea's Gold and Emerald Course. With its breathtaking vistas of land, sea and the nighttime sky, the site rivals whatever's happening on the big screen and provides constant reminders of the "big picture" in which each of us has a role. The festival's other screening venue is the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. Parties and other events take place throughout Wailea. (Dining on Maui)
Filmmakers on the other side of the camera will attend their screenings throughout the next four days and will also participate in a series of three panels from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Versatile Maui entertainer Eric Gilliom will participate in one of the panels in the new role of director of the made-on-Maui short film "Trout Fishing Afghanistan. Another of the panels will be moderated by yours truly.
While the festival gains more Hollywood-style glitz each year, honoring young artists at career-changing moments in their lives, it never strays far from more heady, hopeful, life-affirming themes.
"Create the future," is this year's message, says Rivers. "For the size it is, everything rocks!"
- Rick Chatenever