Maui Film Festival

It's back to the earth and the ocean in Hawaii

If it bleeds, it leads. So goes the mantra of myriad media outfits, websites and — yes — even film fests.
But not the Maui Film Festival. Founder-director Barry Rivers is making sure that this year’s sprocket opera in Hawaii skews to the lighter side and enlivens attendees.

“We’re looking for films that provide solutions,” Rivers says. “It’s really important that for the effort it takes to make this festival happen every year, the effort is expended in the direction of trying to offer an alternative vision for the future.”

That’s why Maui’s 14th installment, per Rivers, is a “tempestuous teenager” stocked with pics that will simultaneously promote creating, as well as trusting in, a better tomorrow. The fest, running June 12-16, will unspool 28 features and 18 shorts from France, Mexico, New Guinea and Australia, among other countries, and will include pics that cover topics ranging from military violence to sustainable communities and honeybee extinction.

Rivers and company received roughly 1,000 submissions this year, and narrowed the haul down to an eclectic mix of pics such as “Muscle Shoals,” “My Awkward Sexual Adventure” and “Big Sur.” Of interest is Joss Whedon’s take on “Much Ado About Nothing,” as well as docu “The Short Game,” which tracks eight wunderkind competitors at the World Championship of Junior Golf.

Fest is set to open with the preem of “Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau,” which profiles one of islands’ most revered surfers and heroes, and “20 Feet From Stardom,” a docu that shines the spotlight on the backup singers who helped shape 20th century pop music.

This year, Maui fetes a stunning troika of actresses: Jessica Chastain (Nova Award), Kirsten Dunst (Pathfinder Award) and Brie Larson (Rising Star Award). Fest will also honor Eddie Aikau, repped by his family, and navigator Nainoa Thompson for their leading personal journeys in service of greater good. “We’ve always talked about honoring luminaries,” Rivers says. “Not just celebrities.”

Many signature events and spots return this year, including Seaside Cinema, a toes-in-the-sand venue that doubles as a “town center.” Additionally, a series of panels will take place at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort’s Mei Court, which Rivers has dubbed the “cinema cathedral.”

Confabs are skedded to cover a behind-the-scenes look at Aikau, the art of making a short and indie pic production, among other topics. Four culinary arts celebrations round out the festivities, including a “hip luau menu” for opening night and other Hawaiian favorites. But whether it’s the food, the tributes or the “psychiatrist” that Rivers calls the vast Pacific Ocean, the founder-director is mainly concerned with broadcasting change.
“More than ever,” he says, “I felt there was a need to step it up this year … and put the festival’s money where its mouth was.”

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