Maui Film Fest offers outdoor screening venues

World, U.S. premieres to unspool at event

Now in its eighth year, the Maui Film Festival is the rare cine-confab that must work rain insurance into its budget. And with movie venues in Wailea like the Celestial Cinema, SkyDome and Sand Dance, it’s easy to see why.

If drive-ins are practically extinct on the mainland, MFF director-founder Barry Rivers has no problem exploiting the nighttime romance of moviegoing al fresco.

He describes Celestial Cinema as “people sitting on the grass,” whereas a sked of silent films at Sand Dance features “toes in the sand by the ocean” and an astronomer who gives “a tour of the night sky.”

SkyDome brings the audience even closer to the heavens, with its venue located on the roof of the Marriott Resort in Wailea. For those who prefer a more conventional approach to the cinematic experience, the fest also unspools movies at the McCoy and Castle theaters at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului.

In addition to world and American preems, the fest occasionally offers a springboard for Hollywood fare, like “Evan Almighty” and “Waitress,” looking to make a splashy debut in Hawaii.

Given the Maui fest’s locale and innate back-to-nature romance, its no surprise that many films play up the island paradise. Titles like “Hawaii: Message in the Waves,” “Hawaiian Waterfall Prayer” and “Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula” tell it all.

The fest’s mission statement is also very eco-friendly with the emphasis on “life-affirming storytelling” and, more simply put, “movies that matter,” Rivers says. In that regard, more than two dozen docs, many of them with a green message, will be screened this June, and one fest honoree, the Dalai Lama, already received his award, in April.

“The Dalai Lama’s schedule did not permit him to be here in June,” says Rivers.

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