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Maui Film Festival begins Wednesday

Events held virtually and in-person at the MACC

Patagonia Surf ambassador Gerry Lopez will receive the Maui Film Festival’s Visionary Award. The film, “The Yin & Yang of Gerry Lopez,” is premiering at the festival. Photo by Tim Davis

Among the 80 feature films, documentaries, and shorts screening at the 2022 Maui Film Festival, the expansive lineup includes the world premiere of slam poet Kealoha’s brilliant performance work, “The Story of Everything.”

Screening at 8 p.m. on Friday at the Maui Arts Cultural Center’s A&B Amphitheater, “The Story of Everything” is a remarkable multimedia creation story which explores the origins of life, consciousness, and existence, from the big bang to the present using science, poetry, storytelling, movement, music, visual art, special effects, and the Kumulipo chant.

“We are a collective of notes in the jazz scale of humanity united through the song of our breath,” Kealoha announces in the film. “And though we speak in different tongues, we dream the same dreams, connected through our collective experience.”

Told in epic poem format, it’s an extraordinary artistic achievement by Hawaii’s first official Poet Laureate, who will attend the screening.

The genesis of the project began 10 years ago when Kealoha became a parent. “A reoccurring question was that one day this kid is going to ask me where we come from? I started to answer that through the lens of science. The explanation came out as a story, as poetry, and a vision with music and visuals. I fleshed it out to an entire production.”

After taking the stage production on the road, Kealoha was approached by the Engaging The Senses Foundation to transform it into a film.

“The Story of Everything” includes visual art projections by Solomon Enos, music by ukulele virtuoso Taimane, Makana, and the world beat band Quadraphonix, oli presented by Kumu Hula Kau’i Kanaka’ole, and dancing by Jamie Nakama, Jonathan Clarke Sypert, and Jory Horn in collaboration with choreographer Wailana Simcock.

“Solomon Enos created over 100 pieces of art that pushes the story forward,” he explained. “Taimane composed some pieces for the film, and Kau’i Kanaka’ole, who lives in Hana, is chanting the Kumulipo.”

Before he became a poet, Kealoha studied nuclear engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and interned at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He gave the keynote address at MIT in May, honoring the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021.

“It was a process,” he said about his transition from nuclear engineer to acclaimed poet. “I plunged myself into a poetry passion. It became what I do for a living.”

Kealoha hopes that his film “will change the world or at least affect people in a significant way. One element is how can I make his world a better place? Another huge thing we’re trying to do is to bring science creatively to people, to make it accessible.”

An epic tribute to a Honolulu-born surf legend, “The Yin and Yang of Gerry Lopez” explores the evolution of a lifelong yogi who brought surfing to new frontiers. Lopez explains in the film: “Yoga and surfing have been the most significant yin yang balancing act of my entire life.” With dramatic scenes of surfing Oahu’s Pipeline and Bali’s Uluwatu “perfect waves,” it screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Lopez and the film’s director Stacy Peralta, will be honored at the premier.

Another world premier, Kauai-born director Etienne Aurelius’s new feature “KAPO” screens at 8 p.m. Saturday at the festival. A gripping drama, starring Mainei Kinimaka, it tells the story a young Native Hawaiian woman escaping an abusive relationship with a drug addicted boyfriend, who vows deadly revenge.

Heading into the island’s wild highlands, she discovers a mythical creature that guides her back to her ancestral roots. With her spirit restored, she emerges empowered and rejuvenated.

With subtitled Hawaiian and English dialogue, the film contains mature themes and content, and parental guidance is suggested.

Kinimaka is the daughter of big wave surfing legend, Titus Kinimaka. In 2015, she wrote and directed a short film highlighting the issue of domestic violence in her Hawaiian community. Her cousin is actor Jason Momoa.

Aurelius also directed “Pe’ahi,” about a homeless 13-year-old surfer from Maui who forms a friendship with big wave world champion, Kai Lenny. It screens at 8 p.m. Sunday at the MACC.

Among the films available online at the festival’s Virtual Cinema, a new documentary that will resonate on Maui, “The Last Tourist” is a shocking expose that chronicles the ravages of modern global tourism. Hot spots overrun, scenic towns overwhelmed, environmental degradation, animal exploitation, and the negative impact of massive cruise ships. “Tourism can kill a place,” says renowned primatologist Jane Goodall in the film. “A place that was so beautiful can become trashed.”

“KAPU: Sacred Hawaiian Burials” features Hawaiian filmmaker Keoni Kealoha Alvarez and his transformative journey of self-discovery and quest for knowledge of native Hawaiian burial practices. His inspiration came as a young boy, when he discovered an ancient Hawaiian burial cave near his home. “The burial cave has chosen me to be their voice,” Alvarez states in this fascinating film. “I am their guardian and protector.”

“Ka Mo’opuna I Ke Alo, The Grandchild in the Presence” is a short documentary honoring the life and work of Mary Kawena Pukui. Born in 1895, she helped preserve hula kahiko; translated nupepa, mele and oli at the Bishop Museum; and co-authored the “Hawaiian Dictionary.” “Will Hawaii remain Hawaii, without the knowledge of Hawaiian culture?” she asks in the documentary.

“Ola Ka Honua” is an animated short film by the Auwahi Forest Restoration Project. Since 1997, the mission of the project has been to restore and preserve tracts of native forest at Auwahi on Maui. Artist Jili Rose spent two years hand drawing the animation.

The 2022 Maui Film Festival is presented Wednesday through Sunday at the MACC’s A&B Amphitheater and Wednesday through July 31 online at the Virtual Cinema. Each Stardust Pass for the MACC at $36 includes all films and festivities on one night. A five night pass is $160. Advance tickets are available online at www.mauiarts.org. Speed of Light Virtual Cinema screenings cost $12 per film program. More information is available at www.mauifilmfestival.com.

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