Maui Connections

“Ho’omau,” produced by award-winning Maui filmmaker and event producer Ken Martinez Burgmaier, just won the Best Short Film Award at the 2019 Made in Hawaii Film Festival on the Big Island. The award was presented June 2 at the Hilo Palace Theater.

Directed by Kenji Doughty, “Ho’omau” will be part of the short film showcase beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, when the festival moves to the Aloha Theater in Kona.

The award capped an exciting Big Island weekend for Ken, whose eighth annual Big Island Jazz & Blues Fest drew standing-room-only crowds at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Kona Coast, winning raves from the audience and lots of media coverage. The festival features beaucoup award-winning talent from New Orleans providing the jazz, blues, roots, Cajun and zydeco sounds, but Benny Uyetake — an inspiring Kalama Intermediate School teacher as well as a great player himself — was part of the lineup, adding Maui seasoning to all that Louisiana cooking.

Ken reports that he’s already at work on the Maui Jazz & Blues Festival 2019.

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Elsewhere on the filmmaking front, my Emmy-winning pal and sometimes collaborator Dr. Tom Vendetti reports that his recent sold-out concert and film event in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s McCoy Theater featuring Nawang Khechog with special guest Keola Beamer had audience members still talking about it days later.

The mesmerizing concert featuring Keola and Moanalani Beamer and visiting Tibetan flautist and composer Khechog combined the Hawaiian and Tibetan cultures, resulting in a unique feeling of “aloha,” Tom says.

The event included the world premiere of Nawang’s film, “Sound of Tibet and Peace,” and one of the concert’s goals was to raise money to get it distributed nationally on PBS. Tom was recently told that the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA), a professional association serving public television licensees and educational entities in all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, will distribute the film. PBS Hawaii will air it at 8 p.m. June 29.

Tom’s new film, “Tibetan Illusion Destroyer,” was also picked up by NETA and will be offered to all the PBS stations in October. This is Tom’s 11th film to date that has been distributed nationally by PBS affiliates, starting with “Journey Inside Tibet,” narrated by another Maui guy, Kris Kristofferson, more than 20 years ago.

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Of course the really big movie story this week is the 2019 Maui Film Festival, cranking up the lights, camera and action for its 20th anniversary season Wednesday through Sunday at the Wailea Resort, and Friday through Sunday in Castle Theater at the MACC.

This will be only the second time I’ve missed the festival over its first two decades. Not to worry — The Maui News will be providing great coverage once again from a trio of talented reporters a lot closer in age than I am to most of the celebrities they’ll be interviewing. My amigo on the star beat, photographer Matthew Thayer, will provide the great images that turn the paper’s front page into its own kind of movie each year.

Festival founder and director Barry Rivers has assembled one of the strongest film lineups in years guided by the principle, “Movies Made for Humans . . . And Made by Humans.” What a concept.

Barry has described the festival as the place where Maui meets the world, and vice versa. “Becoming Nobody,” a new documentary about renowned and beloved Haiku spiritual teacher Ram Dass, will open the soulful, thought-provoking Castle Theater selections Friday. Saturday’s Filmmaker Panels are always high points, fueled by the energy of artists still in the labor-of-love phases of their careers.

And the tributes to the honorees, many bringing their new films to the festival’s signature Celestial Cinema on the Wailea Gold & Emerald Golf Course, promise unique glimpses into the hearts and minds of these talented souls who make their livings in the larger-than-life business:

Wednesday: Nova Award honoree Paul Rudd, followed by Visionary Award recipient Louie Schwartzberg, premiering his “Fantastic Fungi . . . The Magic Beneath Us.”

Thursday: Gina Rodriguez will accept the Navigator Award.

Friday: Joe Manganiello will accept the Shooting Star Award from his wife, Sofia Vergara; followed by the Rising Star tribute to Maya Erskine. After the tributes, “Bottom of the 9th” starring Manganiello and Vergara will have its world premiere; followed by “Plus One” starring Erskine.

Saturday: Awkwafina will receive the Shining Star Award, followed by a screening of her new film “The Farewell.”

Sunday: Olivia Wilde will accept the Lights! Camera! Passion! Award, honoring her work as a director.

Cue the action for the 2019 festival, the one with the strong heart, deep soul and 20/20 vision!

* Rick Chatenever, award-winning columnist and former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at rickchatenever@gmail.com.