Maui Film Festival Fuses Solar-Powered Cinema, Hawaiian Traditions

Randy Jay Braun/Courtesy of Maui Film Festival
Festivalgoers take in films under the stars on the Wailea Gold golf course at the Celestial Cinema.

The annual island event this year will honor Colin Farrell, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Scott Eastwood and Teresa Palmer.

This story first appeared in the June 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Since 2000, film lovers have jetted to Maui for a festival with a toes-in-the-sand vibe and a program that is dedicated to life-affirming storytelling. With opening night approaching, fest founder and director Barry Rivers discussed the highlights of the event in a chat with THR.

What’s the focus of the 2015 lineup?

The program is a bit more of a jewel box than it’s been in previous years. We’ll show two incredible documentaries in our signature solar-powered Celestial Cinema: The Search for Freedom, which captures more than a dozen extreme and adventure sports and features insight from a lot of the early innovators of skateboarding, snowboarding, big-wave surfing and mountain biking, and, following that, we have Racing Extinction from Louie Psihoyos, who won an Academy Award for The Cove. And we’re showing the 1924 silent version of Peter Pan as a free event right on Wailea Beach below the Four Seasons.

Are any selections receiving premieres?

We have the world premiere of The Wave I Ride, about a young woman raised in Maui named Paige Alms, who’s a major-league big-wave rider. She paddled into Jaws, the biggest break on Maui, and just won best big surf performance by a woman in the world.

Every year you recognize a handful of Hollywood actors. How are honorees selected?

For the past few years, we’ve tried to tweak it more toward people in the ascendency of their careers — this time we’re recognizing Adam Driver for delivering revelatory performances as well as Scott Eastwood and Teresa Palmer. We’re still honoring people who have had long careers, like Colin Farrell and Laura Dern this year. But we’re really trying to guess who’s the real deal and who might have a major career up ahead.

Do you meld Hawaiian touches into the festival?

To my knowledge, our trailer is the only one in the world that features the Hawaiian language. We fire it up at the Celestial Cinema — you’re out there and the full moon is rising above that screen and suddenly this thunderously deep chant fills the space. And we always start opening night with an oli chant, a mele song and a hula performance to honor the traditions of indigenous storytelling. That doesn’t happen at every festival, that’s for sure.

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