Maui Film Festival Goes Virtual with 74 Eclectic Films from Hawaiʻi and Around the World
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The Maui Film Festival went from under the stars to virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But festival director Barry Rivers says that means you can can watch the 21 feature films and 53 short films he personally curated from the comfort of your cozy couch while in your favorite pajamas.
“These are not films you can just see anywhere,” Rivers said. “We feel good we came up with some diamonds in the coalmine that are hard to find.”
The first online version of the festival, called 2020 Speed-of-Light Virtual Cinema, runs through Jan. 3, 2021.
There are four types of program passes, and they are now at discount prices, ranging from $50 for 4 programs to $200 for 30 programs. A program in virtual cinema is one feature film or 3 to 6 short films that total nearly 90 minutes. If someone purchases 30 programs, they can watch all 74 films.
The festival also has just added a $20 pass for one feature film. Go to www.mauifilmfestival.com/ to purchase program passes or for information.
The festival organizers received 625 film submissions from 51 countries. Rivers said he used to have friends help him pick out the films, but now he does it himself to ensure they meet his vision of being upbeat, compassionate, life-affirming or touching. He ultimately chose 74 from 25 countries, including French Polynesia, Taiwan, China, Spain and Brazil.
“The films are eclectic and all over the place,” he said. “But they are so good. I really hope people stretch their cinematic taste a little bit and see some amazing stuff.”
Among the 21 feature films is one from Maui called “Wagon.” The film directed by Makawao resident Aniston “Ana” Eyre, a 2020 King Kekaulike High graduate, tells the story of her family’s cross-country road trip in their 1982 Mercedes G-Wagon that runs on used cooking oil. She shot the film with a borrowed camera.
In early December, “Wagon” was named the winner of the Hawai’i International Film Festival’s audience award for documentary.
Other feature films in the festival include:
- Big Vs Small: a documentary by Minna Dutton about Portuguese big wave surfer Joana Andrade.
- Light Within the Cracks: A documentary that follows the daily lives of young people who struggle to survive, but also fight to overcome their upbringing in the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya
- Show Me What you Got: a film directed by Svetiana Cvetko that features a 30-something threesome exploring their sexuality while traveling from Los Angeles to Italy.
- Whale Island: Oceanic literature author Liao Hung-chi and underwater photographer Ray Chin lead the audience out to the sea and into the water of the island nation of Taiwan, where most people fear the sea.
The virtual festival offers 13 Hawaiʻi short films, batched in three programs. They include:
- Hawaiian Soul: A documentary about 1970s native rights activist and musician George Helm who gains the support of community elders on Maui to aid in the fight of protecting neighboring island Kahoʻolawe from military bombing.
- In Search of Hawaiian Bigfoot: It says to watch out for the fake ending.
- Thirty Eight Minutes: A diverse set of characters re-enact and reflect on the spur of the moment decisions they made during Hawaiiʻs false missile alert.
And there are 40 other short films on a wide variety of topics, including: Unsurfed Afghanistan.
The festival originally was scheduled to be held in locations in Wailea and at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in June 2020. But due to social distancing mandates, the festival was changed to the virtual experience.