Entering its much anticipated 15th year of award-winning cinema, the 2014 Maui Film Festival announced its updated lineup of honorees, screenings and special events taking place, which kicked off Wednesday and continues through Sunday in Wailea and Kahului. Special entertainment, dining and film events will be held at the following venues: Celestial Cinema located at the Wailea Gold and Emerald Golf Course; the Seaside Cinema Music Cafe & Sunset Lounge at the Grand Wailea; Castle and McCoy Studio theaters at Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului; and the Toes in the Sand Cinema located between the Four Seasons Maui and the Grand Wailea. The festival will offer a full schedule of screenings and special events throughout the Wailea Resort.
Since its inception, the festival has screened more than 550 narrative and documentary feature length and short films from around the world to a diverse audience of industry luminaries, filmmakers, cineastes and movie lovers of all ages.
For details, visit www.mauifilmfestival.com.
Movies are listed in chronological order at each venue.
* "BREATH OF LIFE" - ?Shot in Europe, Scandinavia, North America and Hawaii, this breathtaking documentary explores The Big Question: "Why are modern humans in denial about catastrophes of our own making that could come to pass sooner than we think?" It looks to Hawaiian wisdom and spirituality as a way to turn things around.
* "THUNDERCLOUD" - Two major surf stories interfold here, both of them focused on Fiji's Cloudbreak - the site of an astounding, sometimes annihilating swell that has been off-limits to the world's top-rated surfers since it was discovered in the 1980s. All-star cast includes Hawaii surfers Mark Healey, Shane Dorian, Reef McIntosh, Dave Wassal and Makua Rothman. Kelly Slater and Greg Long join, along with Aussies Joel Parkinson, Laurie Towner, Mick Fanning and Ryan Hipwood.
* "H2MEXICO" - Stand-up paddling was rediscovered here in Hawaii and rapidly went from a quaint hobby to a driving new acrobatic art form. This transformation has been fueled by the manic enthusiasm and laid-back brilliance of many of our surf heroes. And many of those characters dazzle the screen in this SUP odyssey, which is being touted as stand-up's answer to "Endless Summer." Featuring Dave Kalama, Danny Ching, Jamie Mitchell, Chuck Patterson, Connor Baxter, Slater Trout, Dave Boehne, and Talia Decoite plus a special segment with living legend Gerry Lopez.
* "OBVIOUS CHILD" (Preceded by "Things I've Learned About Sex and Dogs") - When her cheating boyfriend dumps her right before Valentine's Day, foul-mouthed standup comic Donna Stern (played by former "Saturday Night Live" cast member and comedienne Jenny Slate) gets sucked into a downward spiral of self-pity. Far from your conventional one-night-stand romantic comedy, this wildly funny film takes a bold and refreshingly honest look at a provocative subject with equal parts of humor and heart.
* "LA BARE" - Take a candid look at life as a male exotic dancer both on and offstage. This wildly engaging documentary marks the directorial debut of Joe Manganiello, last seen in Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike," a fictional film modeled on the men of the club La Bare Dallas. Manganiello is the recipient of the 2014 Maui Film Festival's Triple Threat Award, being presented in-person prior to "La Bare's" screening.
* "CHINESE PUZZLE" (Preceded by "Vong Pak") - Audrey Tautou (Amelie), Romain Duris (L'auberge espagnole) and Cecile de France (Russian Dolls) co-star in this zesty romantic dramedy about a novelist who moves to NYC to be closer to his two children after his wife finds new love in the Big Apple. Variety called the film "witty, sexy fare." Mostly in English. Partly in French and Chinese with English subtitles.
* "GOD HELP THE GIRL" - This winner of a Special Jury Prize at Sundance stars the magnetic Emily Browning ("Pompeii," "Sleeping Beauty"), Olly Alexander ("Le Week-End," "Gulliver's Travels") and Hannah Murray ("Game of Thrones") in a musical charmer set in the dreamy, bohemian fantasia of Glasgow (Scotland's) West End. It's the directorial debut of Stuart Murdoch, lead singer of the acclaimed Scottish band Belle and Sebastian.
* "WORDS AND PICTURES" -Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche smoothly slips into a comedic role in this will-they-or-won't-they romantic comedy that co-stars Academy Award nominee Clive Owen. Turns out, if you add one painter (she teaches art) to one literary star (he teaches English) - Poof! You've got an entertaining chemistry experiment on your hands.
* "THE SKELETON TWINS" - A hit at Sundance, where it garnered wild applause, rave reviews and won the Sundance Screenwriting Award, this irresistible comedic drama stars "Saturday Night Live" alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Haden as estranged twins reunited by adversity, in what critics raved are career-defining roles that brilliantly balance poignant drama and outrageous comedy.
* "MAGIC MEN" - Did you hear the one about the Holocaust survivor, his Hassidic son and the prostitute with the heart of gold? Suffice to say, it may not sound like a story with humor, humanity, forgiveness and love at its core. But that it is. Imagine Zorba the Greek, the exuberant story of a life well lived and without regret, and you'll understand the sparkling diamond at the center of the cinematic experience that is "Magic Men." In English and Hebrew and Greek with English subtitles.
* "FRANK VS. GOD" - A lawyer, whose insurance company refuses to compensate him when his life is turned upside down by a tornado, decides to prove God exists by testing religious leaders from all traditions after his insurance company refuses to compensate him for an "Act of God." "Lost" star and Hawaii resident Henry Ian Cusick co-stars with Ever Carradine in this clever metaphysical comedy.
* "THE GRAND SEDUCTION" - This light-hearted comedy tells the true story of a small seaside town's attempt to convince a cricket-playing, jazz-loving city slicker physician to move to their community so that they can qualify for a lucrative business contract with a new factory willing to bring its economy back to life. Starring the effortlessly charming Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch from television's "Chicago Fire" and Liane Balaban.
* "CUBAN FURY" - Rashida Jones is lusted after by Christopher O'Dowd and Nick Frost (of "Shaun of the Dead" fame) in this smart and hysterically funny charmer about two salsa dancing suitors battling it out on the dance floor, to a fiery Latin soundtrack by salsa legends Tito Puente, Willie Coln and more, in pursuit of the woman of their dreams.
* SHORT FILM SHOWCASE ONE - Visit www.mauifilmfestival.com for full description.
* "KUMU HINA" - The respected and beloved kumu and cultural scholar Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu shares her unique world to illuminate the joys and struggles of an extraordinary transgender native-Hawaiian teacher who embodies the ancient tradition called "mahu." "Everyone is a part of the larger whole, and the Hawaiian way of life requires acceptance and aloha for all," says Hina.
* "X/Y" (Preceded by "Sapere Aude") - The sexy, edgy, smart and richly emotional story follows four young New Yorkers as they struggle with the challenges of intimacy to discover what they truly desire in a relationship. Starring Ryan Piers Williams, America Ferrara, Melanie Diaz and Jon Paul Phillips.
* "JOURNEY TO JAH"(Preceded by "Adrift") - Two of the most prominent stars in reggae today, the German musician gentleman and the Italian-born Alborosie artist both traveled to Jamaica, lured by the island's infectious rhythms and authentic cultural roots. What they found there was a spiritual homeland, an authentic connection to the Rastafarian lifestyle and heartfelt acceptance by Trenchtown's Rasta community. Music, magic and more are in store.
* SHORT FILM SHOWCASE TWO - Visit www.mauifilmfestival.com for full description.
* "EAST SIDE SUSHI" (Preceded by "Fortune House") - Juana (Diana Elizabeth Torres) is no stranger to adversity in life. But she is also a woman intent on using her culinary talents to create a better life for her and her family. Aki (Yutaka Takeuchi) is a master sushi chef at the restaurant where Juana is relegated to the kitchen. Sparks fly. Habanero-hybrid sushi gets made. And life changes beyond everyone's expectations.
* 7:30 P.M. "AWAKE: THE LIFE OF YOGANANDA" (Preceded by "Coda") - Paramahansa Yogananda's autobiography has sold more than 4 million copies in 34 languages. Beatle George Harrison used to hand it out to guests. (George appears often in this film and says that without Yogananda his life would have been a wreck.). The autobiography was the only book Steve Jobs downloaded onto his iPad2. Using a seamless mix of recreations and fascinating true footage, this even-tempered documentary takes its audience through Yogananda's life and all the ways he changed the Western world as the first yoga master to donate his life to non-Hindu humanity.
* "KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON" (Preceded by "Virtuous Virtuell") - A Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award winner that follows jazz giant Clark Terry, whom Dizzy Gillespie once hailed as the greatest trumpet player in history and who played in both the Count Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras and who now, at age 93, is still mentoring young talent. A must-see for jazz fans and all who find delight in truly moving, inspirational life stories.
* "BREATH OF LIFE" (Preceded by "In Passing") - See first entry.
* "ENCODED" - Teahupo'o, Tahiti's most famous and infamous surf spot, reveals its awe-inspiring and soul-shaking magnificence during a massive, code-red High Surf Advisory in 2013. Featuring surfers Mark Matthews, Shane Dorian, Laurie Towner, Alex Gray and Koa Rothman, who puts himself on the map by surfing the biggest wave of the day.
* "WILD AUSTRALIA" - Filmed on location in South Australia (secret spot) and Tasmania (Shipsterns Bluff), this film features surfers Kelly Slater, Mark Matthews, Russell Bierke, Ryan Hipwood, Richie Vass, Jeff Camel, Alex Gray and more. Cinematography by 2012 Maui FIlm Festival Beacon Award winner Tim Bonython.
* "XOXO" - Five accomplished Maui waterwomen, including Talia Decoite and Kelly Potts, give the gift of the healing power of the ocean to an ever-growing group of Maui's underprivileged girls while simultaneously inspiring them to live with passion, meaning and soul.
McCOY STUDIO THEATER
* LONG STORY "SHORTS" - Visit www.mauifilmfestival.com for full description.
* "GABRIELLE" - Winner of 11 top film festival awards and nominated for 12 others, this direct-to-the-heart cinematic jewel that explores the unique subject of the first bloom of sexuality in a young woman with the one-in-10,000 genetic disorder Williams syndrome. A lyrical, beautiful and deeply moving story of first love. In French with English subtitles.
* "BEGIN AGAIN" (Preceded by "The Kiosk") - "Begin Again" stars the always memorable Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley in an enchanting rom-com that has generated early Oscar buzz. Irish writer-director John Carney returns to the musical drama, the genre he reinvented with 2006's Academy Award-winning, "Once." Carney supplements his principal cast with musicians such as Maroon 5's Adam Levine, The Voice's CeeLo Green and rapper Mos Def.
* "THE HEART MACHINE" - "The Newsroom's" John Gallagher Jr. (co-star in last year's "Short Term 12") and "House of Cards'" Kate Lyn Shiel fall in long-distance-Skype-enabled love at first sight, or do they, in this love story-slash-suspense thriller. One of the most interesting silver-screen explorations ever of modern/digital love.
* "IMPOSSIBLE LIGHT" (Preceded by "Overpass Light Brigade" and followed by "XOXO") - Jeremy Ambers' illuminating, riveting documentary follows Internationally renowned artist, Leo Villareal, and his dedicated team as they set out to install 25,000 LED lights on the side of San Francisco's Bay Bridge for an abstract fine art sculpture known as "The Bay Lights." Impossible? Not really!
* "EVEN THOUGH THE WORLD IS BURNING" -?The life and life's work of American poet laureate W.S. Merwin, a remarkable artist who has won almost every major poetry prize and who has worked over three decades to preserve and regenerate native plants and palms at his Haiku home, is explored in this beautiful and soulful doc from Maui filmmaker Stefan Schaefer.
* "TRACKS" - Get ready to immerse yourself in a (based-on-a-true) story that will rock your soul. Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver star. Directed by John Curran and produced by the Academy Award-winning team behind "The King's Speech," this award-winning film is a dazzling adaptation of 27-year-old Robyn Davidson's true account of trekking across 2,000 miles of the Australian desert with only a couple of camels and her faithful hound.
* "SLINGSHOT" - There must be some kind of way outta here" imagined Bob Dylan in his classic anthem, "All Along the Watchtower." Dean Kamen heard the call and has come up with many "ways outta here," thanks to a decades-long series of inventions and breakthroughs that have changed the world. His most recent? "Slingshot" - subject of this doc and the portable "vapor compression distiller" that can provide fresh drinking water to even the most remote, desperate villages on the planet.
* "THE CONSERVATIONISTS" - A documentary featuring the inspirational stories of a number of species conservationists from around the world, all of whom offer an optimistic view of a future where we all must play a role in protecting our planet.
Schedule subject to change. For up-to-date details, contact film festival headquarters at 579-9244; www.mauifilmfestival.com.