June 09--If there was an award for viewing the most films in a year, Barry Rivers would certainly be a contender.
The founder of the Maui Film Festival figures he watched parts or all of nearly 1,000 movies as he whittled his festival selection to 51 features and shorts. He started last fall and finished last month.
The result left Rivers happy with the festival, which starts its five-day run Wednesday with a screening of the Sam George documentary "Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau."
Rivers has never been prouder of a lineup than the one he has this year.
"It rocks, but it was a real challenge to put together," Rivers said. "It was a lot of work to find the stuff we're putting on the screen."
There was a lot to reject this year. "It seems there are more films being made and fewer good ones," Rivers said. "There are more people who are pressing buttons and think they have something worth looking at. That is not the case. You have to have something to say. The films that have made it through the strainer have something to say."
That will probably weed out a few wannabe filmmakers, but it's a tough business. Rivers, whose festival is in its 14th year, tried to be a little sympathetic -- but not much.
"That is not a statement I make to discourage filmmakers, but to encourage them to find their higher 'angels,'" he said. "They have to have some reason to the thing they are doing other than they want to be a filmmaker."
That said, Rivers won't gush about which films are his favorites. But the lineup includes a range: "The East," an eco-terrorist spy drama starring Alexander Skarsgard; "20 Feet from Stardom," a rock 'n' roll documentary about backup singers; and "Middleton," which stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga as two people who discover they are soulmates even though they are married to other people.
Rivers likes to have films that intersect "smart and heart," as he puts it. Selections that embody that theme include "The Way, Way Back," "The Short Game," "Spinning Plates" and "Unfinished Song."
But Rivers did offer praise for three shorts: "Cavedigger," "The Record Breaker" and "Inocente," which won this year's Academy Award for best documentary short.
"All three films march to the beat of the festival's drummer: the presentation of compassionate vision and life-affirming storytelling," Rivers said.
Among those attending the festival will be Maui-born filmmaker Destin Cretton, who is bringing his prize-winning "Short Term 12" and plans to attend a question-and-answer session. The film was a hit at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and stars Brie Larson, a Maui Film Festival Rising Star honoree.
Honorees are always a part of the festival. Larson will be joined by actresses Kirsten Dunst (the "Spider-Man" series, "Melancholia") and Jessica Chastain, who has received two Academy Award nominations in a row -- this year for "Zero Dark Thirty" and last year for "The Help."
Dunst will receive the Pathfinder Award, and Chastain the Nova Award.
Also being honored will be Hokule'a navigator Nainoa Thompson and lifeguard and big-wave surfer Eddie Aikau. Aikau, who is the focus of the opening-night film, vanished while paddling for help after Hokule'a capsized in 1978.
The festival will screen its films at three locations, including its signature venue, the Celestial Cinema outdoors on the Wailea Gold and Emerald golf courses. Films also will be shown at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului and the Seaside Cinema in Wailea.
For ticket information and a screening schedule, visit www.mauifilmfestival.com.
AND that's a wrap ...
Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. Read his Outtakes Online blog at honolulupulse.com. Reach him at 529-4803 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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