×

Lights… camera… music!

Maui Film Festival screens six films with song in their soul

Movie poster from “Pavarotti” directed by Ron Howard. Photo courtesy MFF

After creating an acclaimed documentary on The Beatles, Oscar-winning Director Ron Howard has now made a powerful portrait of legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Screening at the 20th annual Maui Film Festival at Wailea’s Celestial Cinema on Saturday at 10 p.m., “Pavarotti” includes never-before-seen footage to help create an intimate portrait of the most beloved opera singer of all time.

“Pavarotti’s larger-than-life personality shines in almost every scene,” praised The New York Times. “The singer’s optimism is contagious, and his schoolboy-like wonder is jubilant.”

Pavarotti remains one of the best-selling recording artists in history with more than 100 million records sold. As a live performer, more than 1.3 billion people tuned in to watch a performance of The Three Tenors [Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras] in 1994, and over his career Pavarotti entertained more than 10 million people in 60 countries. He headlined shows alongside Bono, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and other music icons.

Howard earned a Grammy Award for “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years,” which covered their live performances from their days at Liverpool’s Cavern Club to their final concert in San Francisco in 1966.

“I didn’t know that much about opera, but always found Pavarotti a charismatic figure, whom I’d met in the ’80s,” Howard told Deadline. “Like with many people, he was my introduction to opera as something that was accessible, moving and emotional. When he led the Three Tenors, the popularity was unprecedented; for a few years, they were as big an act and sold as many or more records as Prince, Elton John or the Rolling Stones.”

Still of The Byrds from “Echo in the Canyon.” Photo courtesy Greenwich Entertainment

Among the stars interviewed in the documentary, U2’s Bono praises: “The reason why he is great is that he lived those songs. The mistakes you’ve made, the hopes, the desires, all come crashing into the performance.”

*****

The influential mid-60s music scene of Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon is highlighted in the documentary, “Echo in the Canyon,” screening at the Celestial Cinema on Sunday at 10 p.m.

The film celebrates the explosion of popular music, as folk went electric and The Byrds, the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and the Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the California Sound.

Featuring interviews by Jakob Dylan of many luminaries, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Michelle Phillips, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Roger McGuinn and Jackson Browne all talk about that time and the music they created, while contemporary musicians they influenced — such as Tom Petty (in his very last film interview), Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Regina Spektor and Norah Jones — all add insight.

Jakob Dylan (left) and Tom Petty in “Echo in the Canyon.” Photo courtesy Greenwich Entertainment

“It was like an open ticket to a studio, a record, to everything,” says Wilson.

“It was an incredible environment for a musician to be in,” adds Nash.

“California was like this legendary paradise,” says Petty.

“The music that came out of the Laurel Canyon scene was inspiring to my generation of songwriters,” explains Dylan, who is the film’s executive producer. “There is no doubt that the songs we explore in this film are as powerful today as they were in 1965.”

” ‘Echo in the Canyon’ deftly captures the diversity of influences that launched groundbreaking bands like The Byrds, the Mamas & the Papas and Buffalo Springfield to international acclaim,” praised the Hollywood Reporter.

“A music documentary up there with the greats,” lauded Film Threat.

Former music journalist and record producer Andrew Slater directed the film. As producer of the Wallflowers’ album, “Breach,” Slater had already developed a collaborative relationship with Dylan. When the musician began work on an album covering songs by a variety of original folk rock bands, titled “Echo in the Canyon,” the two realized they could create a more comprehensive project.

Music in the doc includes an array of classics by the original artists or cover versions performed by Dylan and his collaborators.

“Laurel Canyon became this heavenly place,” Clapton recalls, while Starr notes that he “fell in love” with the creative music scene.

A soundtrack album with covers of many prominent songs of the era performed by many contemporary artists including Clapton, Stills and Neil Young, will be released at the end of this month. A performance of the Mamas & the Papas’ “Go Where You Wanna Go,” with Dylan and Jade Castrinos, was released in April.

Jessie Buckley stars in “Wild Rose” screening at 8 tonight at the Celestial Cinema in Wailea. Photo courtesy Maui Film Festival

Other cover songs include:

Buffalo Springfield’s “Questions,” performed by Dylan, Stills and Clapton; The Byrds’ “You Showed Me,” performed by Cat Power; and the Beach Boys’ “In My Room,” performed by Fiona Apple.

*****

“A star is born? More like a supernova,” raved London’s Time Out about Irish actress/musician Jessie Buckley, who stars as Rose-Lynn in the movie “Wild Rose,” screening tonight at 8 at the Celestial Cinema. “Buckley is sensational. She burns up the screen, whether singing or not. You will cheer. You will cry.”

Just released from prison, Rose-Lynn is a young working-class mother of two children living in Glasgow, Scotland, who dreams of becoming a country star.

“This British comedy/musical leaves you wanting not just more of her voice but more of her essence,” praised the London Evening Standard.

The Guardian hailed the film as, “a raw, Brit-country version of ‘A Star Is Born,’ shot through with ‘Full Monty-style’ underdog pathos, with a kick-ass performance at the centre.”

The soundtrack features original material sung by and co-composed by the Irish star, alongside covers by Buckley of classics from the likes of Emmylou Harris, Hank Snow and Wynonna Judd.

The acclaimed actress just costarred in HBO’s remarkable five-part miniseries, “Chernobyl,” about the catastrophic nuclear disaster. Upcoming she will be seen in “The Voyage of Doctor Doolittle” with Rami Malek and Robert Downey Jr., and “Judy,” the Judy Garland biopic, starring Renee Zellweger.

*****

In “Gay Chorus Deep South,” Tim Seelig, a former minister who was ousted from the Southern Baptist Church in Texas when he came out at the age of 35, leads 300 singers of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus on a week-long bus tour of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas. Confronting a resurgence of faith-based anti-LGBTQ laws brought about during the Trump era, they are joined by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, bringing a message of music, love and acceptance to communities often on the frontlines against intolerance.

“Gay Chorus Deep South” screens on Friday at 5 p.m. in the Castle Theater at Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului.

“It’s the music that does most of the work here, transcending talking points as it brings people out to see the SFGMC (and Oakland Interfaith Choir) in action,” praised a Variety review. “The doc alternates between what’s onstage and shots of the audience, where one can practically imagine minds being changed.”

A Hollywood Reporter review noted that the powerful documentary is a “very intriguing and timely drama about a divided America.”

*****

A new documentary on Maui’s legendary spiritual teacher Ram Dass, “Becoming Nobody,” screens on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Castle Theater. Historic clips of Ram Dass are interwoven with an illuminating conversation with musician/Director Jamie Catto, who was a founding member of the British electronica band, Faithless.

After leaving Faithless, Catto co-formed 1 Giant Leap, which traveled the world with a digital video camera and a laptop recording numerous vocalists and musicians. One Giant Leap’s Grammy-nominated debut video included REM’s Michael Stipe, Brian Eno, Michael Franti and Ram Das. The follow-up, “What About Me?” included slack key guitar by Led Kaapana. Bono has praised Catto as, “a genius film-maker.”

*****

Musicians including Franti, Alanis Morissette, Moby and DJ Spooky, plus Maui’s Shep Gordon, are featured in the new documentary, “WeRiseUP The Movie,” screening on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the Castle Theater.

Exploring how we can collectively create a world that works for everyone, prominent thought, social, political and business leaders — including The Dalai Lama and United Nations’ Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed — are interviewed.

“With the world in the midst of a tremendous period of transition, current models of success aren’t sustainable to support the future that is quickly emerging,” says Director Michael Shaun Conaway. “The film is designed to significantly impact the definition of social responsibility, and to generate new discourses that incite personal, cultural and global change.”

• The 20th annual Maui Film Festival is presented today through Sunday in Wailea at the Celestial Cinema and at the MACC’s Castle Theater. Celestial Cinema single tickets are $24. On Sunday, singles tickets for kids 12 and younger are $10 at Celestial Cinema. Castle Theater $15 for single tickets or $54 for the MACC Pass of four tickets. For single tickets and passes, visit www.mauifilmfestival.com or call 579-9244. In-person tickets and passes are available at Whole Foods — Kahului, The Shops at Wailea kiosk and the MACC box office.