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Maui Connections

It’s holiday season again, which can only mean one thing.

Well, actually it can mean any number of things, but one of them is movies.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Barry and Stella Rivers are launching the 15th annual Maui Film Festival’s FirstLight Academy Screenings in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater.

It begins at 7:30 tonight with “The Theory of Everything,” a romantic drama that has gotten an endorsement from its real-life subject, Stephen Hawking, and early Academy Award buzz for its stars, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

FirstLight resumes Friday with two stellar documentaries. At 5 p.m., “Awake: The Life of Yogananda” screens, followed at 7:30 p.m. by “Antarctica: A Year on Ice.” The Yogananda film was an audience-award winner at last June’s Maui Film Festival at Wailea. Its subject is an inspiring Indian yogi who helped introduce Western minds to Eastern mysticism and spirituality in the 1920s.

An element of magic surrounds yogis’ accomplishments in Western eyes, but as my holy pal in Haiku explains, yogis just have the knowledge that we’re actually souls stuck in human bodies for a while, instead of believing the silly human dance we all do is the ultimate reality.

Speaking of Ram Dass, he will be celebrating his 10th anniversary Thanksgiving Sunday Satsang from 4 to 7 p.m. at Makawao Union Church with Krishna Das, Lei’ohu Ryder, Maydeen Iao and about 400 of their friends. Call 579-9261 to join them.

FirstLight 2014 returns in earnest in December. Since its inception, it has never failed to include each year’s best-picture Oscar winner, plus most of the rest of the year’s best films, despite being programmed months before the Oscar field is even announced. For more details, keep watching www.mauifilmfestival. com.

Then on Dec. 4, Maui filmmaker Brian Kohne will light up the Castle Theater screen with the premiere of his Hawai’i Cinema Showcase. It’s a double feature of two award-winning movies that have the distinction of having been made in the islands. Derick Sebastian will provide live ukulele wizardry before each show.

First up is Keo Woolford’s “The Haumana,” a drama set in the contemporary hula world that has revolutionized distribution patterns for independent films by tapping into halau on the Mainland as well as in Japan and Mexico. It screened in 100 Mainland theaters and is currently the No. 2-selling DVD in Japan. Keo will introduce the film and interact with the audience between screenings and in the afterglow in the Yokouchi Courtyard where other cast and crew members will undoubtedly be on hand.

Then at 7:30 comes the reprise of Brian’s own “Get a Job.” This wacky musical comedy starring Willie K and Eric Gilliom has a warm spot in the hearts of Maui audiences, partly because so many of us had a part, and thereby a sense of ownership, in its creation.

Brian is recently back from Honolulu where he was one of nine invited participants in the Creative Lab at HIFF Writer’s Intensive, a weeklong program designed to workshop stories, heighten the attendees’ screenwriting skills and connect to them to entertainment industry professionals.

Filmmaker Michael Andres Palmieri runs the new program funded by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. It’s the brainchild of former Maui Film Commissioner Georja Skinner.

“It exceeded my expectations,” Brian says of the experience. “Now connected to eight other motivated content creators/screenwriters with connections to the islands, it’s a dream come true for me.”

He just finished the ninth draft of his new film, “Kuleana,” and is working on attracting stars and backing for the $2 million project. The new Hawaii Cinema Showcase is the first in what Brian intends to be an occasional series in 2015. For more details, visit www.to-hawaii.com.

And yet another Maui connection to the reel world of cinema came in recent weeks when Mike Myers’ “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon” picked up the prize for best documentary at the Hollywood Film Awards. My bet is this won’t be the last trophy it wins this awards season.

For those who still prefer authors to filmmakers when it comes to telling stories, Jackie Pias Carlin will read excerpts from her new novel, “Aunty’s Place,” at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Maui Friends of the Library Store in the Queen Ka’ahuhumanu Center. For details, call 205-6911.

Wow, so many talented folks on this tiny island. It’s one more thing to be thankful for. I always thought Thanksgiving should be a daily observance rather than a big, wonderful, once-a-year holiday . . . but then again, it is possible to have it both ways.

Have a good one!

* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary film scriptwriter. Contact him at rickchatenever@gmail.com or 344-9535.

Maui Connections

Upcountry Pool in Pukalani isn’t actually the center of the universe. It just feels that way to me and the friends I run into there almost every day. It’s its own little world, beginning with “Miss Staci” teaching tiny tadpoles in their colorful goggles. The bigger kids arrive after school, along with coach Malcolm Cooper. Pods of silver-haired kupuna are here throughout the day, leaving their canes and walkers at pool’s edge, still swimming after all these years.

Swimming’s good for your health. Everyone knows that. The fact that swimming in county pools is free is another plus, especially now that Rich Landry, Josh Gibbons, Staci Dugan Wood, Darren Quinsaat and the rest of the guards have the water temperature and quality dialed just about perfect.

From the shoulder of Haleakala, the pool presents panoramic south coastal views, divided into diamonds through the chain-link fence. Rainbows happen, clouds roll and dance across the big blue dome above. Slicing through the water up here on top of the world feels like flying, or swimming in the sky.

Dare to be dull is the mantra of lap swimmers everywhere. Since moving to Maui 23 years ago, I’ve covered the distance from here to California and back looking at pool lap lines. Through swim goggles, they look more like the pathway to Nirvana.

One of these weeks I’m going to devote a whole column to a day in the life of the pool. Just listing the regulars – including Lorna Ramone, Glenn Shishido, David and Colleen Welty, Anne Rillero, Dawn Jernaill and Craig Smith – could fill most of the space. Telling what they do in their “other lives” would provide an amazing account of local movers, shakers and creative souls making all sorts of contributions to island life . . . even though most us would rather be swimming.

We’re the wholesome answer to “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White, a bunch of oxyholics, strung out on endorphins. Luckily, our labs are internal, our own bodies are our suppliers, and the drugs are free.

The pool’s decks and locker rooms are also key conduits in the coconut wireless. That’s where Brooks McGuire first told me about his new CD, and gave me a copy as soon as it was done. It’s called “The Road I Never Chose,” and he’s celebrating its release with a free concert from 4 to 6 p.m. Dec. 6 in the Waipuna Chapel Amphitheater in Kula, at the corner of Omaopio Road and Kula Highway.

Brooks is one of those guys who’s usually smiling, whether he’s singing or not. After singing easygoing covers of other people’s music at Cheeseburger in Paradise in Lahaina forever, the album showcases his own material. A hopeful, Christian thread runs through the songs, nicely produced by Joe Beck and Jim Frazier in Nashville.

Musicians Tom Hall, Benny Uyetake, Jamie Gallo, Michael Kennedy, Christopher Hightower, Craig Simecheck, Sonshine Rivers and Joshua Rugg will be backing him in the concert. My guess is it’ll be crowded. Brooks has lots of friends.

* * *

Speaking of new CDs, Maui’s top three perennial Na Hoku Hanohano Award winners have new releases out, conveniently in time for Christmas.

Keali’i Reichel’s new “Kawaiokalena” has the sweep of the vintage radio show “Hawaii Calls,” updated for a new millennium. It stretches from hula ‘auwana to hapa haole, enveloping the wisdom in Keali’i’s songwriting in the soft seduction of his voice. Accompanied by elegant photography and translations in the liner notes, each song broadens the definition of “Hawaiian” to an almost cosmic kind of consciousness from this brilliant artist marking 20 years of making great music.

And the “Amy & Willie K Reunion” has also been cause for celebration, in their new CD and a recent sold-out Castle Theater concert at the MACC. The album shows Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom and Willie K still have that old chemistry together, adding Latin and country accents to their Hawaiian soul. Willie shines as the album producer, too, bringing his brother Kalani Kahaiali’i aboard to enlarge the musical ohana.

In music news elsewhere, Maui filmmaker Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier is recently back from Los Angeles, where he and his Jazz Alley crew filmed the 2014 Thelonius Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition & All-Star Gala Concert. It was a tribute to President Bill Clinton hosted by Kevin Spacey, with movie and music A-listers including Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Goldie Hawn and scores more taking part.

“Living in Maui and working in the TV/film industry here for over two decades, it’s very humbling and an honor to be selected to direct and produce such an incredible film project. Wow!” said Ken.

* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary film scriptwriter. Contact him at rickchatenever@gmail.com or 344-9535.

Maui Connections

Last Tuesday was one for the history books.

One thing we learned is that on this island, fancy mailers aren’t worth the glossy paper they’re printed on. Especially when their slickly produced messages are so cynically manipulative of our hopes and fears.

Losing an election hurts. I imagine spending $8 million to lose that election hurts more – especially when Big Money itself became a key factor in the campaign and set off such a backlash. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems like the money might have been better spent just being a good neighbor, demonstrating that a healthy future for our land and our children is a priority for agribusiness corporate giants, too, and not just the real people of Maui.

While the outcome of the vote was final, the costs and consequences are anything but. The GMO issue will proceed into the courts – who’s going to pay for that? The science of the matter, not to mention the wording of the resolution and the economic repercussions, especially on Molokai, will be sorted out for weeks, months and years to come.

But in a national election tidal wave based on what people were against, not what they were for, it was heartening to be part of what happened on Maui that day. Saying we can’t be bought is a start – let’s see where it goes from here.

One thing about the election that can’t be debated is what a great job Kathy Collins, Jeff King and the rest of the Akaku crew did that night. After watching national election results on CNN all day, the Akaku coverage – produced by Sayble Bissen, directed by Lou Diliberto with Chivo Ching Johnson on both sides of the camera leading color and commentary from Dick Mayer, Zhantell Dudoit and Anu Yagi was smooth and professional, no small feat for a community access station.

The coverage was quick and accurate, laced by a great sense of humor, excitement and good faith in the voting process itself. Most of the candidates showed up at the studio for live interviews in front of the cameras. Put at ease by the interviewers, it was easy to separate the class acts from the politicians. In lots of cases they were one in the same. Other candidates demonstrated that winning isn’t always a matter of who gets the most votes.

*****

Earlier on Election Day, Ron Youngblood reports the Kula Community Center polling place was humming. Helen McCord told him the Kula Botanical Gardens, famous for turning out picture-book Christmas trees, was well into “Our crazy time of year.” She added that Whole Foods was so happy with the sales of trees in Kahului, it decided to buy trees to sell on Oahu.

“It’s about time people figured out that Maui has Christmas trees,” she said.

*****

Early Christmas shopping was on the minds of about 9,000 other folks who descended on the Maui Arts & Cultural Center Saturday for the first Made in Maui County Festival.

Despite rain that came and went all morning, and double-whammy parking challenges adding to the regular Saturday swap meet across the street at UH-Maui College, spirits were high, patience was plentiful and there were lots of smiles under the umbrellas.

Along with all the edible products in the booths covering the MACC’s lawns and walkways, food trucks fed the crowds. Food trucks are so hip since the movie “Chef,” having to wait 30 minutes for your lunch to pop out the window didn’t even dampen spirits. I found a place at a table out of the rain shared by Jerry Durkan and Rochelle Mendoza, along with models Tiara Hasegawa and Maile Magalianes, fresh off the fashion-show runway.

The ubiquitous Kathy Collins – who’s never been known to give a bad performance at anything – was the runway announcer with co-emcee Kamanu Kahaiali’i. Other friends in the crowd included Roland and Tobi Uehara, Jackie Pias Carlin and Cindy Paulos.

Maybe it was the rain, but the experience felt like a cross between shopping and camping out. While the English teacher in me questioned whether it should be “made on” rather than “made in,” the word “County” settled the matter, especially in a whole neighborhood of booths from Molokai.

Hats off to the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Chamber of Commerce, the more than 130 vendors and the more than 9,000 customers for this reminder that the number of high-quality products we produce here is expanding exponentially.

Island residents fall under the category of made-on-Maui products, too. On Saturday that was something to be proud of.

* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary film scriptwriter. Contact him at rickchatenever@gmail.com or 344-9535.

Maui Connections

Two of my sartorial heroes, Tom Sewell and Paul Janes-Brown, don’t really need Halloween. They’re such snazzy dressers, they know how to turn their wardrobes into costumes and wear them whenever they feel like it.

For the rest of us, there’s Oct. 31. While some have a natural flair for fearless self-expression, it’s definitely amateur night for more self-conscious types.

Both varieties of revelers, including those wearing “haole tourist” costumes and others impossible to say if they were in costume or not, were out in droves for the first Rocky Horror Dance Party last Friday in Yokouchi Courtyard at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

Basically the creation of Eric Gilliom in fishnets, the party included a silent showing of the 1975 cult classic “Rocky Horror” film set to DJ Marasco’s house music, followed by a live musical extravaganza with Eric reprising the role of scientist Frank-N-Furter, backed by his sister Amy, scene stealers Dr. Nat and Lia Krieg, and most of the rest of the stellar cast from the ’90s Iao Theater hit. There was nonstop dancing to the Sins of the Flesh band, onstage and off, and unlimited other ways for the audience to get wild and crazy.

Former lifeguard and nurse George McElravy led the way in his own fishnets, wig and devil horns, with wife Evelyn Billington as his suitably devilish escort. Jay April looked good in devil horns, too. Janet Mercer and Patti Hawkins were fashion disasters. The little red lights around their glasses were right in style with other attire that lit up. Sheila McLaughlin went for face paint and glitter.

Who knows how many other friends I saw that night. That’s the point of disguises, right? A feathered Mardi Gras mask out of the dusty Halloween bag in the attic was the extent of my costume, along with a black swimming cap. It did the trick. Few people recognized me. The back of my head usually gives me away, I realized.

Even without Rocky to get the kink out, Halloween is one weird holiday. I used to think it was for kids – especially the youngest trick-or-treaters. They’re out after dark, wearing strange stuff, surrounded by other creatures their size, also wearing strange stuff, going up to strangers’ doors and getting rewarded with candy. A single night that entirely disrupts every single part of their still-forming worldview.

Now it’s for grown-ups, too – the opportunity to step out of character and see what that’s like for a single evening, like a fractured fairy tale. But Mr. Gilliom and company played it to the hilt, putting on a wacky, fun-filled party that people are still talking about.

We’re already marking the 361 days on the calendar until it happens again.

* * *

If the sexual mood was wacky and warped Friday night, it turned raunchy and reckless Saturday with the Maui Comedy Festival’s Aloha Ladies at The Maui Theatre in Lahaina.

The evening reminded me of dirty jokes in high school locker rooms . . . except instead of a bunch of dumb jocks who don’t really get what they’re talking about, these were professional stand-up comediennes who knew all the anatomical details well.

Hosted by VH1’s Michelle Buteau, jeans-clad performers Carmen Lynch, Beth Stelling, Morgan Murphy, Aparna Nancherla and headliner Aisha Tyler demonstrated why the term “better half” no longer pertains to just one wife, but pretty much to an entire gender. From embarrassing confessions to sweeping generalizations – like, success in a long-term relationship can be measured in not wanting to kill your partner in his sleep – the tone was by turns irreverent, shocking, crude and hilarious.

Considering that this ambitious weekend-long festival is in its first year, it’s off to a rollicking good start. Congratulations to Maui’s Paul and Kacky Chamberlain for making it happen.

* * *

Speaking of making things happen, I’m one of the producers of “The Quietest Place on Earth,” a lyrical documentary film about Haleakala Crater that has its world premiere at 7 p.m. Sunday in Castle Theater at the MACC. It’s part of the Arise Film & Music Benefit beginning at 3:30 p.m. for Mental Health Kokua. A number of Maui friends – from Clifford Nae’ole and Keola Beamer to Ram Dass and W.S. Merwin – are involved in the film on both sides of the camera. Visit www.thequietestplaceonearthfilm.com or www.gohawaii.com/maui/events for details.

And speaking of friends, I understand there’s a publication on island that has a staffer reading this column and keeping count of how many times people’s names appear in it. I’m not sure what that has to do with journalism, but it’s sure great publicity. Thanks, eh!

* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary film scriptwriter. Contact him at rickchatenever@gmail.com or 344-9535.

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