Festival features films, fun and fantasy

Thursday, May 5th, 2011
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Most of us love the movies: date nights, big screen, popcorn, coming attractions.

But for some, the idea of a “film festival” conjures up images of dark little rooms and intense foreign films with subtitles, or incomprehensible “art films” that seem most appreciated by serious people dressed in black and sunglasses. In reality, film festivals are a lot of fun, especially in Hawaii, where the style, spirit and subject matter are as colorful and eclectic as the island itself.

Big Island Film Festival (BIFF) — taking place May 11-15 at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii and The Shops at Mauna Lani — is a prime example. Named in the “25 Coolest Film Festivals” by Moviemaker magazine, the festival is packed with 63 films from Hawaii and around the world, celebrity guests, receptions and social events, filmmaking workshops and a closing-night concert starring “Wild Hawaiian” Henry Kapono.

This year, women are in the spotlight as the 6th Annual BIFF honors Sarah Wayne Callies (“The Walking Dead”), and Kristina Anapau (“Black Swan”), both celebrated stars, both appearing in person, and both with Hawaii ties.

Callies grew up in Honolulu, where her parents are professors at University of Hawaii, Manoa. She currently stars as Lori Grimes on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” based on the popular comic book of the same name. Past television credits include her role as Dr. Sara Tancredi on Fox’s popular “Prison Break,” as well as appearances on “Queens Supreme,” “Tarzan,” “House,” “NUMB3RS,” “Law and Order: SVU” and many more.

From Hilo, Anapau grew up studying classical ballet, began her professional acting career on TV at age 16, and last year starred opposite Oscar-winning Natalie Portman in “Black Swan.” Television credits include “House,” “Monk,” “CSI: NY,” “Without A Trace,” “General Hospital,” and “Knight Rider.”

In 2006 Anapau appeared in Self Medicated, winner of over 35 International film awards, including BIFF’s Best Feature, and today she stars in a new short drama “Verdict” screening Wednesday, May 11 at The Shops at Mauna Lani (free)

More special guests include previous BIFF Golden Honu Award winners David Winning (“Todd & the Book of Pure Evil”) and screenwriter Ron Osborn (“Duckman”), along with producer Naketha Mattocks, and, from “Hawaii Five-0,” Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Angela Laprete and partner William “Chico” Powell. Laprete and Powell will meet Big Island audiences at a live “insider” Q&A with Big Island Film Commissioner John Mason Center Stage at The Shops at Mauna Lani, Thursday, May 12 from 6-7 p.m.

A true professional, Laprete has worked on Emmy award-winning television shows and independent films and major blockbusters including “ER,” “Blue Crush,” “Godzilla,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “The Tempest” and the Hawaii/U.K. co-produced independent feature film, “Princess Kaiulani.” She is currently production supervisor on “Hawaii Five-0.” (And Big Islanders may remember her son, Aidan Laprete Powell, 9, who recently wowed audiences at the Waikoloa Beach Resort ‘Ukulele Festival with Roy Sakuma.)

With Powell, their company cre808films recently produced “One Kine Day” and “Lychee Thieves,” circulating the film festival market now, and are in development with “The Tattoo,” based on the award-winning book by Chris McKinney. Powell has been production accountant for many projects over the last 10 years including “Hawaii Five-0,” “Lost” and “The Tempest.” He was recently Production Supervisor on “Soul Surfer” and Line Producer on “Princess Kaiulani.”

With so much to choose from, where do you start? One option is the free opening night program at The Shops at Mauna Lani, Wednesday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m., a chance to welcome the filmmakers and celebrities up close and personal. Free BIFF 2011 programs will be available to help choose which films and activities are most intriguing, from Thursday through Sunday, in a wide range of prices starting from $7 for individual films and $25 for passes. Outdoor venues have lawn seating and BIFF suggests beach chairs and a sweater; no coolers please.

After the introductions Wednesday, BIFF screens a sampler of short films, and for the next three nights (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) free family films will be shown in this location. One of many highlights is “Sweet Little Lies,” screening Saturday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. It follows two fearless kids who steal a car and blaze to Vegas in search of a real dad-tangling themselves more and more in trouble along the way.

While the free family films are playing at The Shops at Mauna Lani, more grown-up fare is showing at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii Plantation Estate. These movies would be rated up to R and provide a wide variety for fans of just about every genre (free parking).

Zombies are well represented, including a musical, “The Dead Inside,” as well as David Winning’s “Todd & the Book of Pure Evil-Rock & Roll Zombies Know Best.” There’s a fair amount of murder (or so it seems), some of which is quite humorous, as in “The Drummond Will,” set in the U.K. countryside. “Queen of the Lot,” set in the elite mansion of a “royal” Hollywood family, stars Tanna Frederick as a wanna-be diva with a house arrest ankle bracelet and Noah Wyle (Dr. Carter from “ER”) as her boyfriend’s very appealing brother. Outrageous comedies include “Uncle Melvin’s Apartment” starring comedian Mitchell Walters-who toured with Sam Kinison as one of the “Outlaws of Comedy.”

“Get a Job,” filmed on Maui, has an all-star lineup of top Hawaii entertainers including Willie K, Eric Gilliom, Augie T, Jake Shimabukuro, Carolyn Omine, Slam Poet Kealoha, Ernie Cruz, Jr., Amy Hanaiali’i, Mick Fleetwood, Pat Simmons, Charles Kaupu, Willie Nelson, and Henry Kapono and more. “Get a Job” screens Thursday, May 12 at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii Plantation Estate, 7:30 p.m.

“I came to the conclusion that it was easier to write, produce and direct a film called “Get a Job,” than to actually get a job,” said filmmaker Brian Kohne. “I had been producing ‘Barefoot Natives’ (Willie K and Eric Gilliom) for a long time, so the relationship as director and performer was long-established. ‘Get a Job’ was really tailored not just for these performers, but the characters are those we developed… It’s the story of how the Barefoot Natives came to meet.”

Will there be a sequel? “Yes, ‘Get Another Job,’ about their trying to make a go of it in the music industry,” said Kohne. “Six years of meeting and forging relationships with all these gifted artists I respect so deeply-hopefully it is just the beginning.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled to share ‘Get a Job’ with the Big Island audience, and I’m looking forward to seeing the other features and the lineup of shorts,” said Kohne. “I’m really excited about networking with folks on the Big Island. It’s kind of a cultural exchange-an opportunity for filmmakers in Hawaii to make friends and share with others from outside the state.”

Whatever films you choose to see, be sure and pick up a ballot and vote for your favorites. “Audience Choice” winners will be screened during Best of the Fest Sunday, May 15 following Henry Kapono in concert.

Complete schedule and individual event tickets are available online at www.BigIslandFilmFestival.com. Call 883-0394 for more information and film passes.

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