Starry Nights

Maui Film Festival shines with A-list lineup in Wailea and Kahului

Actress Sonya Balmores stars in “Kuleana,” screening at 8 p.m. Friday at Celestial Cinema. -- Photo courtesy Maui Film Festival at Wailea

Celestial Cinema screenings start Wednesday and Castle Theater to roll out Saturday

“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore” is one of filmdom’s most memorable lines. It also epitomizes the colorful fantasy world of A-list movie stars, filmmakers and fans who land on Maui every June to take the yellow brick road to glamorous culinary parties and life-affirming films.

“The Maui Film Festival is back for its 18th annual movie extravaganza,” enthuses founder and director Barry Rivers.

“From Wednesday through Sunday, June 25, it’s time once again to celebrate the films and filmmakers from around the globe who inspire us and take us on an exploration of the human mind through the art of cinema, bringing culture, fantasy, and adventure to Wailea and its world-class resorts.”

Celestial Cinema is the main venue on the Wailea Gold and Emerald Course, where you watch films outdoors under Maui’s stellar night sky. Bring a mat or a low-back chair.

Pierce Brosnan will be presented with the Pathfinder Award on Friday before “Kuleana.” -- Photo courtesy Maui Film Festival at Wailea

“Surrounded by the natural beauty of Maui and playing a little cosmic pinball with the universe at screenings is a truly unique way to see the world through new eyes,” Rivers says.

There will also be screenings at Toes in the Sand Cinema on Wailea Beach fronting Four Seasons Resort Maui; as well as at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center’s Castle Theater in Kahului.

Maui Greek Oven in Haiku will be the food vendor at Celestial Cinema; while Consuelo’s Catering of Paia will be at MACC.

Or you may opt for glam food events such as the Taste of Summer on Wednesday at Grand Wailea; the Taste of Chocolate Friday at Four Seasons Resort Maui; and the Taste of Wailea above Celestial Cinema.

“While enjoying great films, the sand between your toes, fantastic food and libation celebrations, you can reconnect with what matters most in life” says Rivers.

Celestial Cinema at Wailea Gold & Emerald Course is the main movie venue. -- Photo courtesy Maui Film Festival at Wailea

“Award ceremonies throughout the festival will honor Connie Britton, Pierce Brosnan, Karen Gillan and Freida Pinto,” he continues. “Each of the tribute nights may include hula, live entertainment and night-sky astronomer Harriett Witt. All tributes will start at 8 p.m. at Celestial Cinema. And then the first movie will begin after the festivities.”

Here are the 2017 selections in chronological order as written and and provided by Rivers. Films at MACC start on Saturday, so they are listed toward the end of the story.

Wednesday at Celestial Cinema

8 p.m. Tribute: Navigator Award will be presented to actress Connie Britton.

“Beatriz at Dinner” follows.

In “Kuleana” by Maui filmmakers Brian Kohne and Stefan Shaefer, the cast includes many recognizable Mauians as Warriors, above. The movie will screen Friday after the 8 p.m. tribute to Pierce Brosnan at Celestial Cinema. -- Photo courtesy Maui Film Festival

Vanity Fair raved that “Salma Hayek is remarkable in this deceptively deep dramedy of manners about the struggle for humanity’s conscience” in the age of Trump and is a smart, powerful, slyly funny and not-to-be-missed tour-deforce.

It is written by Mike White and directed by Miguel Arteta, and co-stars Britton, John Lithgow, Chloe Sevigny, Jay Duplass and Amy Landecker. Pure and simple this film’s DNA is infused with cinematic fireworks! ( R / 96 min.)

10 p.m. “Grand Unified Theory.”

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to fall in love with this fast, funny and inspired dramedy that takes place over one fateful weekend in the thriving-on-chaos family life of a brilliant astrophysicist.

If Canada’s best actors were its stars, people like Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson and Steve Carrell, it’d be No. 1 at the box office right now! ( NR / 103 min.)

Thursday at Celestial Cinema

8 p.m. Shining Star Tribute: Honoree is Freida Pinto.

“The Big Wave Project: A band of Brothers” follows.

Many of the biggest names in the big wave world — Jamie Mitchell, Aaron Gold, Mark Healey, Keala Kennelly, Ryan Hipwood, Andrea Moller, Grant “Twiggy” Baker and Billy Kemper are featured in this, five-years-in-the- making, raw-and-uncensored journey into one of the world’s most exciting challenges: riding the world’s biggest waves. Directed by Tim Boynton, “TBWP” delivers the real deal on all the risk, glory and stoke of big wave surfing. (NR / 98 min.)

10 p.m. “Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story.”

Without exception, “Charged” is the most inspirational film the Maui Film Festival has ever shown. As The Hollywood Reporter’s review raved, it’s, “A true story about the indomitability of the human spirit that will keep audiences mesmerized from start to finish.” Everyone in touch with their humanity will be touched and elevated by this triumphantly vivid and eye-opening life lesson in appreciation. (NR / 86 min.)

Thursday at Toes-in-the-Sand

8 p.m. Short Filmmakers’ Showcase.

This free community event is open to all and 16 shorts will screen. Journey around the world to see the planet through the eyes of filmmakers young and old, yet all wise as their cameras capture 16 stories they had to tell. Great short filmmakers are the future of cinema. Take a ride with for a sneak peek at what will be. Parents take note: Some films are appropriate for kids, some not. Show leads off with kid friendly films first. (NR.)

Friday at Celestial Cinema

8 p.m. Pathfinder Tribute: The Award honoree is Pierce Brosnan.

“Kuleana” follows.

It’s Maui, in 1971. Kahoolawe is being bombed. A renaissance of Hawaiian culture and political activism fills the air and unscrupulous real estate developers are trying to hoodwink local people out of their homes and land. Against this backdrop comes this story of a disabled Vietnam vet who must rediscover the Hawaiian warrior within in order to protect his family, defend their land, and clear his father’s name. From Maui filmmakers Brian Kohne and Stefan Schaefer. (NR / 95 min.)

10 p.m. “Poisoning Paradise”

Executive Producer Pierce Brosnan returns to the festival with this award-winning documentary, co-directed by his wife Keely Shaye Brosnan and Teresa Tico. It encourages audiences to join the international debate about GMOs and pesticides raging around the world. It aims to inspire a conversation about people’s “right to know,” the necessity of “informed consent,” and holding corporations accountable. Live in Hawaii? Breathe its air? This is stuff you need to know. (NR / 60 min.)

11 p.m. “Given.”

Directed by Jessi Bianchi, this is a global adventure that immerses you in the Goodwin family’s quest to embrace the richness and diversity of the planet’s natural and human wonders. “Given” rips you out of your daily grind and makes you question why you are not seeing more of the world while making you want to once again believe in our planet and all the different people who call it home. (NR / 75 min.)

Saturday at Celestial Cinema

8 p.m. Rising Star Tribute: Honoree is Karen Gillan.

“Dean” follows.

Writer/Director/Comedian Demetri Martin stars alongside Academy Award winner Kevin Kline, and costars Gillian Jacobs and Mary Steenburgen in this comedic, heartfelt, cross-country tale about a father and son coming to terms with love, loss and everything in between. Hipster website Collider called DEAN “Hilarious, heartfelt and refreshingly original!” Winner of the Best Narrative Feature at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. (PG-13 / 95 min.)

10 p.m. “Class Rank.”

Bernie is back! Bernard “Bernie” Flannigan that is, in this delicious and supremely satisfying indie comedy slash civics lesson slash pair of teenagers and grandparents falling in love – in age appropriate ways! The film stars Bruce Dern, Kristin Chenoweth, Olivia Holt, and Skyler Gisondo that has been compared to the work of Wes Anderson and John Hughes. Directed by Eric Stoltz. (NR / 103 min.)

Saturday at Castle Theater

3 p.m. “A Family Man.”

Gerard Butler, Alison Brie, Willem Dafoe, Gretchen Mol and Alfred Molina deliver a powerful redemption tale of a corporate headhunter whose life does a “180” after his son gets ill. As his better angels lead him to re-set his priorities, from workaholic to being fully engaged in his life and with his family, as the father, husband and man they all need him to be. Mark Williams directs. (PG-13 / 96 min.)

5 p.m. “The Trip to Spain.”

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reunite with director Michael Winterbottom for another chapter in their hilarious road trip series. This time taking their wit and appetites on a tour through picturesque Spain’s finest fine dining. The Trip to Spain is a delightful road trip comedy that feels like a vacation with old friends. “In addition to calling TTS the ‘the year’s funniest film,’ IndieWire also called it, “The well-done third installment of Michael Winterbottom’s hilarious series cements these movies as the ‘Before Trilogy’ of food porn.” (NR / 112 min.)

7 p.m. “Mantra: Sounds Into Silence.”

This full-length feature documentary about the practice of Kirtan chanting, or Bhakti Yoga, shares the stories of people who are experiencing healing and inner peace by singing mantras together. Through encounters with a variety of leaders of the practice in the West, we discover how performers Deva Premal & Miten, Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Snatam Kaur and MC Yogi came to embrace the practice of Kirtan, and how, over the years, it has transformed their lives. (NR/ 95 min.)

9 p.m. “Fits & Starts.”

Wyatt Cenac and Greta Lee star in writer/director Laura Terruso’s quirky romantic comedy about a struggling writer, whose wife is a hot young literary figure, and who has just released a new masterpiece. When her publisher invites the couple to an artists’ salon at his home in Connecticut, the pair embark on a journey to what-might-be that may, or may not, ultimately set them both free. (NR/ 75 min.)

Sunday, June 25, at Celestial Cinema

8 p.m. is “Proximity.”

Director Taylor Steele delivers this visceral portrait of modern surfing. “Proximity” follows eight of the world’s best surfers — 11-time world champion Kelly Slater and current champ John Florence, big wave icon Shane Dorian and rising star Albee Layer, six-time women’s champ Stephanie Gilmore, activist Dave Rastovich, and style masters Rob Machado and Craig Anderson searching for new waves and deeper understanding in exotic destinations. (NR / 60 min.)

9 p.m. “Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton” screens.

Director Rory Kennedy’s “Take Every Wave” captures the remarkable and unconventional life of legendary big wave surfer Hamilton through the eyes of longtime friends and family. A proven innovator, he pushes conventions to the extreme and reinventing surfing — tow-in surfing and foil boarding –throughout his career. Think you know Laird’s story already? Wanna bet? Either way, seeing “Take Every Wave” will be a moviegoing memory for a lifetime. (NR /118 min.)

11 p.m. is “Fishpeople.”

“A film about the transformative effects of time spent in the ocean — and how we can leave our limitations behind to find deeper meaning in the saltwater wilderness that lies just beyond the shore. From Patagonia and filmmaker Chris Malloy, it features segments on Maui-born and raised spearfisher Kimi Werner, Tahitian surfer and fisherman Matahi Drollet, Aussie surfer Dave Rastovich and more. (NR / 60 min.)

Sunday, June 25, at Castle Theater

3 p.m. “Ram Dass: Going Home” (double feature).

As Eastern mysticism has gone virtually mainstream, we check in with the legendary American writer and spiritual teacher whose 1971 book, “Be Here Now,” arguably launched the still expanding awareness of awareness in the United States. Filmmaker Derek Peck visits Dass at his home in Maui as he reflects on the greatest revelations of his life — truth, love and consciousness. (NR / 21 min.)

“Holy (un)Holy River” follows “Ram Dass.”

Once celebrated for its purity, the Ganges River of India now carries contaminates from its glacial headwaters, where freshly fallen snow contains zinc from industrial emissions. The most beautifully photographed docs of the year examines the paradox of this sacred river — that is both divine and defiled, revered and reviled — and asks the essential question — “Can the Ganges survive?” (NR / 60 min.)

5 p.m. is “Heal.”

“Heal” follows three people on actual high-stakes healing journeys to find out what works and why. We are taken on a scientific and spiritual journey by Dr. Michael Beckwith, Marianne Williamson, Dr. Joseph Dispenza, Deepak Chopra, Anita Moorjani, Dr. Bruce Lipton, Anthony William the “Medical Medium,” Gregg Braden and several others. Discover how changing one’s perceptions can help the body heal itself from any disease. Directed by Kelly Noonan. (NR / 105 min.)

7 p.m. “Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All.”

“Hare Krishna!” (see In the Loop on Page C1, which jumps to story, below, for more details) is a documentary about the life of Srila Prabhupada, the 70-year-old Indian Swami who arrives in America without support or money in the turbulent 1960s. Suddenly thrust into the raging counterculture, he speaks of the world’s real need — a revolution in consciousness. This captures the attention of a generation of youth seeking answers and ignites a worldwide spiritual phenomenon, now known as the Hare Krishna movement. (NR /90 min.)

• For tickets and more you may visit or call 579-9244. For MACC info, call 242-7469, visit or go to the box office.