"SuperMensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon" has been delighting audiences and critics on the festival circuit, recently adding the people's choice award at Idaho's Sun Valley Film Festival to its accolades. The Mike Myers-directed comic documentary about Maui's iconic entertainment manager, producer and restaurateur will be one of the opening-night selections when the Maui Film Festival returns to Wailea June 4-8, inaugurating a new open-air venue at the Grand Wailea.
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Shep isn't the only unlikely local movie star on screen these days.
Haiku's Wilfred Souza, who's still winning rodeo belt buckles well into his 70s, is one of the interview subjects in "The Quietest Place on Earth," the documentary I'm currently finishing up with co-producers Tom Vendetti and Robert C. Stone. A preview screening is set for opening night at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua's Celebration of the Arts, May 9-11.
Wilfred joins an eclectic cast of mostly Maui folks, from Clifford Nae'ole and Dr. Gary Greenberg to poet W.S. Merwin, authors Ram Dass and Jill Engledow, musician Keola Beamer and many more. The title refers to a specific location, but the movie journeys to a more metaphoric place where each of us can find tranquility in our hectic lives.
Among its spiritual and artistic voices, Wilfred's the guy who makes his living on horseback. With his cellphone tucked into his jeans, he gallops along the line where Hawaii's proud paniolo past meets the present.
We shot Wilfred's segment on one of those narrow, windy Haiku streets snaking down a hill past houses with vehicles in their yards, big farm equipment behind their gates, and dogs lounging in the road that think a while before getting up to let you drive by.
Turned out, Wilfred owns all the houses on the road - and all the land nearby. His father bought it when Haiku real estate was going for $125 an acre. With raindrops smearing the truck windshield, Wilfred shared glimpses of history as we rode to the meadow to shoot his segment. He talked about his horses. The lucky ones were literally "out to pasture," thanks to one infirmity or another. But most of them, like Wilfred, were still working, often in Haleakala Crater.
We wanted Wilfred to talk about the mountain's silence. It was simple. Silence is what happens when there's no one else around, he said.
There was paniolo poetry in his spare words. "If there are cows, you need cowboys," he said. The horses could sense the peace of the mountain, he went on. When they were in the crater, they weren't in such a hurry to get back to the barn at the end of the day.
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On the other hand, you can make a joyful noise. Paul Janes-Brown reports Maui opera lovers recently gathered at Douglas and Janet Chun's Kula home for a gala glimpse of Hawaii Opera Theater's - some call it HOT - production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado," coming to Maui on June 18. Pamela Andelin Cameron, a Maui member of the HOT board, along with Maui Arts & Cultural Center CEO and President Art Vento, hosted the Bev Gannon-catered evening, with Sandra Florence, Bernard Foong and Walter Bisset, Matt Gurewitsch, Leslie Granat, Anna Wynn, Earl and Sandy Stoner among those getting on board to raise $45,000 for the Maui run of the comic opera.
Also attending were fashion designer Anne Namba, whose costumes will evoke visions of "Hello Kitty," along with HOT Artistic Director Henry Aquino, Executive Director Simon Crookall and Director of Development Elisabeth Case.
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We all sing in different ways. Shannon Wianecki, who has an inimitable way of mixing words and science, says, "I notice that a lot of people go to Baldwin Beach to collect things. Some wade out to collect limu in big mesh bags, mostly wawae'iole, the thick green seaweed known as rat's foot. Others spend hours sifting through shells. Young ladies like heart-shaped pieces of coral. A few guys stroll the beach with metal detectors; one even takes his into the pounding surf to find other people's lost jewelry. Dogs collect perfect throwing sticks, then abandon them to the tide. Not to toot my own horn, but I collect trash. Every day I fill up a bag with tiny bits of plastic. It's amazing how much there is, even on this relatively clean beach. I know it doesn't make even a tiny dent in the massive Pacific Garbage Patch swirling out there in the deep blue. But I think to myself: This piece, this particular piece will not go into the belly of an albatross or petrel. That makes me feel good."
* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and Emmy-nominated scriptwriter. Contact him at email@example.com or 344-9535.