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Surfs up at Maui Film Fest

Hawaiian event still draws auds

Putting on a film festival in paradise should be something of a joy ride, but apparently not in these budget-conscious days. As Barry Rivers, the impresario who founded the Maui Film Festival in 2000, says, times are tough, even where the sun always shines.

“Sponsorship has been a challenge for many film festivals everywhere in the last couple of years, and for us as well,” he says. “So we’ve had to cut back on a couple of venues, but all in all we have 29 features and 22 shorts this year. It’s a size we do feel comfortable at.”

And since the main venue of the 12th annual event is the huge outdoor Celestial Cinema, which they erect every year on the Wailea Golf Course, limited seating isn’t a problem. Neither is power. “We like to say our festival is ‘under the stars, lit by the moon and powered by the sun.’ We power that whole thing with solar power,” Rivers says. “This is the fourth year we have done that, and we take great pride in that.”

The fest, which over the years has drawn everyone from Clint Eastwood to Claire Danes to Maui’s beautiful shores, also takes pride in identifying and honoring up-and-coming film stars. But even that is not so simple.

“You’d be surprised, it isn’t as easy as you’d think to get luminaries — I don’t like the word ‘celebrities’ — to come to Maui for the festival. It’s not like we’re just a 100 miles from L.A. or something,” Rivers says. “It’s a long way to come.”

But he’s succeeded admirably in drawing four hot actors to be honored at this year’s celebration, as well as a film innovator. All will receive special awards during the June 15-19 run of the fest. The four — Megan Fox, Andrew Garfield, Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund — are riding the crest of some very hot careers at the moment, while the fifth, filmmaker Jack McCoy, has pioneered a revolutionary filming technique in his opening-night history of surfing film “A Deeper Shade of Blue.”

“For years I have been sitting behind the waves filming, but I’ve been stationary,” McCoy says. “Now I use a machine called a SeaBob to move through the water. It is basically a battery with a computer in it, powered by a jet engine. It pulls me through the water. It weighs 150 pounds and is extremely dangerous. If I got caught by a wave or anything, I could get crushed. So I use that, and my high-definition camera, to get the action shots from under the water. With the SeaBob, I can do tracking and moving shots. It’s allowed me to get to places I couldn’t before and to do things a lot better.”

And while McCoy counts Paul McCartney as a pal who has offered his new song “Blue Sway” to be used in the movie, the director is a bit worried about receiving his Maui Film Festival Beacon Award the same night Fox is given the Iris Award for her “heartfelt respect for the environment.”

“I’m sure it’s a cruel joke that Barry Rivers has got me with Megan Fox!” McCoy says.

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