The first film ever copyrighted was a five-second clip called Fred Ott’s Sneeze. And that’s all it was: a grainy image of a guy (Fred Ott, an employee of inventor Thomas Edison) sneezing. That was 1894. Flash forward 116 years and movie magic has advanced to a point–IMAX, 3-D, high-def home theater systems–that would have left 19th century moviegoers in a state of apoplectic shock. Yet for all the technological advances, many Hollywood blockbusters haven’t progressed too far past Fred Ott’s Sneeze in the plot department.
Thankfully, there are filmmakers who embrace script, character and nuanced narrative, making movies that entertain, enthrall and even enlighten. Each year, the Maui Film Festival brings a collection of these cinematic gems to our isolated isle, giving local film buffs a chance to revel in the eclectic wonders of this incredible storytelling medium, while also partaking in food, entertainment and a night under the South Maui stars. This year’s MFF slate is perhaps the most diverse in the festival’s history, a mix of genres that truly offers something for everyone–sneeze enthusiasts possibly excepted.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16
Waste Land (6pm, Castle Theater) The world’s largest garbage heap–in Rio De Janeiro–is the staging ground for this award-winning doc. Thankfully not presented in smell-o-vision. Plays with Poi Dogs, an acclaimed 12-minute short from Maui-bred filmmaker Joel Moffett. NR, 90 min.
Cancer to Capricorn: The Path of the Modern Gypsy (8pm, Castle Theater) World-class surfers traverse the titular Tropics in search of epic waves. Thankfully has nothing to do with astrology. Plays with Green, a sparsely edited, dialogue-free 48-minute doc about the beautiful, threatened forests of Borneo. NR, 44 min.
Bran Nue Dae (8pm, Celestial Cinema) An Australian musical comedy inspired by both Hollywood and Aboriginal culture. Shrimps, barbies and Paul Hogan not included. PG, 88 min.
Home (10pm, Celestial Cinema) If a balmy Maui evening isn’t enough to make you appreciate nature, try this: an hour-and-a-half of stunning aerial footage, culled from three years of shooting in 54 countries. A message about our imperiled planet is mixed in, but the eye candy makes it go down easier. NR, 78 min.
THURSDAY, JUNE 17
Tapped (5pm, Castle theater) Are you drinking bottled water? Stop! So says this doc, which explores how Americans have been sold on the idea that their tap water is full of poison, and how big corporate plastic bottle makers might actually be ensuring this is true by pumping toxins into the ground. Still thirsty? NR, 76 min.
Ho’okele Wa’a (7pm Castle Theater) A Maui-made doc about some local enviro movers and shakers and the good, essential work they’re doing. Stars Charlie Jencks and Everett Dowling. Just kidding. Plays with Green. NR, 57 min.
Castles in the Sky (8pm, Celestial Cinema) Funny/thrilling surf doc follows a crew of characters from Africa to Vietnam to India to…Iceland? Plays with Birthright, a moving 6-minute short about a paralyzed man rekindling his relationship with the ocean. NR, 124 min.
Sex Magic: Manifesting Maya (9pm, Castle Theater) Leave the keiki at home for this exploration of tantric sex and all its in- and out-of-the bedroom complications. NR, 80 min.
Rock Steady: The Roots of Reggae (10pm, Celestial Cinema) Old footage and new are melded in this doc/concert film that traces the genesis of Jamaica’s most successful (musical) export. Plays with Birthright. NR, 98 min.
FRIDAY, JUNE 18
Blood Into Wine (4pm, Castle Theater) You may know Maynard James Keenan–the subject of this singular character doc–as the prog rocker who’s played with Tool and A Perfect Circle. What you may not know is that he’s also a winemaker, growing grapes in the harsh-yet-fertile deserts of Arizona. And he doesn’t even drink. Seriously. NR, 100 min.
Queen of the Sun (6pm, Castle Theater) Like so many things, we never appreciated bees until they started disappearing. This doc, which explores the pollen-spreading insects and their plight, has been generating a lot of buzz. Sorry. NR, 83 min.
Hana Surf Girls (8pm, Castle Theater) Bucolic East Maui takes center stage in this self-explanatory yet wholly revealing doc starring Monyca Byrne Wickey and Lipoa Kahaleuahi. NR, 83 min.
Nowhere Boy (8pm, Celestial Cinema) Biopic about the misspent youth of a Liverpool lad named John Lennon who grew up to form some band. Plays with The Happiest Man Alive, a 14-minute short about a dude who stabs himself in the chest before work. And you thought your job was lousy. R, 98 min.
Norman (10pm, Celestial Cinema) A high school kid fights angst and loneliness, unaware, apparently, that he’s in the company of every other high school kid ever. Plays with The Happiest Man Alive. NR, 120 min.
The Freebie (11:45pm, Celestial Cinema) A seemingly happy marriage runs off the rails in this searingly honest, partially improvised drama. A date film only for very secure couples. R, 80 min.
SATURDAY, JUNE 19
The Tillman Story (4pm, Castle Theater) When Pat Tillman left a lucrative NFL career to go fight in Afghanistan, it seemed like a recruiting poster come to life. Then came his death from “friendly fire” and the ensuing cover-up. Now comes this documentary, which goes in search of answers. NR, 94 min.
The Concert (6pm, Castle Theater) European export about an orchestral reunion that packs more intrigue than you’d imagine. Plays with the sensually stunning French short Malban. NR, 119 min.
Sympathy Delicious (8pm, Castle Theater) An understandably bitter, paraplegic LA DJ reaches for salvation. Whellchair-bound Christopher Thornton wrote the script and stars; co-stars include Mark Ruffalo, Orlando Bloom and Juliette Lewis. Plays with Urs, a 10-minute animated short from Germany. NR, 100 min.
Happy Thank You More Please (8pm, Celestial Cinema) A New York lothario has his life turned upside down in this quick-witted comedy. Like a Woody Allen flick, except the “lothario” bit. Plays with God of Love, an 18-minute short about a dart-throwing lounge singer. NR, 100 min.
Cherry (10pm, Celestial Cinema) A virginal teen simultaneously embarks on his college and sexual educations. So yeah, it’s that kind of cherry. Plays with God of Love. NR, 99 min.
SUNDAY, JUNE 20
442 (1:30pm, Castle Theater) The mostly untold story of the Japanese-American unit that withstood heavy casualties and exhibited remarkable bravery in WWII, even as their families were placed in internment camps back home. (The 442nd, and specifically Sen. Dan Inouye, were the subject of a recent MauiTime feature.) In English and Japanese with English subtitles. NR, 97 min.
This Way of Life (4pm, Castle Theater) Doc contrasts the stunning beauty of New Zealand with the harsh lives of its subjects, who make Frodo look like a pansy. Plays with the surreal animated short Sam’s Hot Dogs. NR, 84 min.
Cyrus (8pm, Castle Theater) Your classic tale of boy (John C. Reilly) meets girl (Marisa Tomei) and girl’s strange adult son (Jonah Hill). Weirdest love triangle ever. R, 97 min.
Boy (8pm, Celestial Cinema) A Maori youth chooses two questionable role models–Michael Jackson and his absent father–in this quirky-but-heartfelt New Zealand export. NR, 87 min.
Last Paradise (10pm, Celestial Cinema) Another New Zealand flick, this one composed of four decades of footage featuring extreme sport pioneers doing their thing in extremely unspoiled surroundings. Plays with Stones, a 20-minute short from Hawaii filmmaker Ty Sanga.