Everything about this film festival, held in various locations in Wailea on Maui, HI, is perfectly executed.
The Celestial Cinema is a sight to behold; run on solar energy, projected on the big screen while patrons lay on the golf course grass like a modern-day environmental drive-in, with beautiful and inspiring pre-film activities (Hawaiian blessings, award ceremonies, tributes, touching speeches, interviews, an amazing tour of the night sky by astronomer Harriet Witt), and films (short, feature, documentary, musical, comedy, drama) worthy of such a venue. This year at the Celestial Cinema I attended Wednesday's opening night Shining Star award ceremony, tribute film package to, and interview (conducted by E!'s Marc Malkin) with Zac Efron. I also attended Thursday's Beacon Award ceremony and interview with surf filmmaker Taylor Steele, followed by his new film "Castles in the Sky".
On the way out of the Thursday Celestial Cinema screening, I ran into Taylor Steele and talked briefly about the event, his films, and this website. Here is his portroid (please look him and his works up if you are unfamiliar with either):
|Taylor Steele, recipient of the Beacon Award at the Maui Film Festival 2010|
Another facet of the festival is the decadent parties. They have the Opening Twilight Reception, Starry Night Moondance, the Taste of Chocolate, and the Taste of Wailea. All these events are set in amazing hotels and venues (Four Seasons Maui, or Hotel Wailea, or Tommy Bahama Tropical Cafe, or at the Wailea Gold and Emerald Golf Course) and have incredible food choices and an environment of great beauty. The Wednesday night Opening Twilight Reception boasted Zac Efron in attendance, and that he was. He arrived and departed surrounded by an entourage of festival staff. I observed him at this (and the Taste of Chocolate) party taking photos with and taking time to talk to fans. He was there with his brother, Dylan, and both seemed to be having a fantastic time. Also in attendance at the Opening Twilight Reception were Malin Akerman, her husband Roberto Zincone, Josh Radnor, and festival founder Barry Rivers. On Friday night, I attended the Taste of Chocolate event at the Four Seasons Maui. This event is truly a spectacle of chocolate delights. After indulging in many of the offered desserts, I had the chance to talk to Malin Akerman and Roberto Zincone (we talked about her participation in the Funny or Die series "Hold Up" and how fun it was to work with all those hilarious people (many of whom appear on portroids.com)), Zac Efron and Dylan Efron (we discussed our mutual admiration for Thomas Lennon), and Taika Waititi (discussed his interview at Sundance on The Sound of Young America and his film "Boy" which was screening at the festival).
|Malin Akerman at the 2010 Maui Film Festival Taste of Chocolate event at Four Seasons Maui|
|Taika Waititi at the 2010 Maui Film Festival Taste of Chocolate event at Four Seasons Maui|
I highly recommend that, if you're able, you attend the Maui Film Festival in future years. All the films and filmmaker panels are reasonably priced and easily affordable ($10 to $20 typically). The parties and higher level passes are a bit more expensive, but, if you have any disposable income, they are well worth it.
Throughout the festival I had such pleasant interactions with dozens of volunteers and festival staff who served as the face and heart of the overall event. It has always been my experience, in my nearly seven years of attending festivals and taking portroids, that one of the most rewarding aspects is engaging in discussions and working in cooperation with the people behind the scenes. Some of my favorite festivals, the ones I return to year after year, are the ones where a mutual level of respect is felt between staff (at all levels) and patrons. This is seen at Starz Denver Film Festival, SF Sketchfest, Vail Film Festival, Bumbershoot, Tribeca Film Festival, New Yorker Festival, StarFest, HBO's US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen (before it became defunct), and I hope at San Diego Comic-Con (which I will be attending as press for the first time this year). I regret to say that my overall feelings regarding my participation at the 2010 Maui Film Festival were tainted by interactions I had with a number of people high in the ranks of the festival organization. I was personally treated with disregard, condescension, and complete unprofessionalism. It was shocking. So, while I will continue to praise the event overall and recommend it to any film fans, I will not be attending again myself. Better to use my time and money in more deserving ways.
I am ever grateful to the staff and festival guests whose kind attention, unsparingly spread to all who looked for such response, was given. They were beyond reproach. Thank you.
Onwards to Comic-Con!