Talking story at the Big Island Film Festival 2012

Thursday, May 17th, 2012
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It’s all about the story at the Seventh Annual Big Island Film Festival, Memorial Day weekend, at The Fairmont Orchid and The Shops at Mauna Lani in Waikoloa. Featuring 57 films from Hawaii and around the world, with a focus on the narrative film, BIFF offers a taste of film festival glamour in a friendly, island style.

“When I grew up watching movies, the storytelling was what I liked,” said executive director Leo Sears of Waikoloa, who created BIFF with wife Jan. “I remember watching ‘Tarzan’ and ‘Jungle Boy’ movies in small towns with screens set up outside. In a way, we’ve come full circle. Now we’re watching movies in Hawaii outside under the stars.”

The Sears’ attended the Maui Film Festival in 2002 and struck up a conversation with Marilyn Killeri, who was then the film commissioner.

“I asked her, ‘Why don’t we have something like this on the Big Island?’” said Sears, “and she said ‘It takes somebody to make it happen.’”

The couple decided to take on the challenge. Now in its seventh year, BIFF welcomes about 2,000 people to watch movies, attend workshops on filmmaking and screenwriting, and enjoy food and wine with celebrities and film industry professionals from near and far.

Stories dominate BIFF—sad and funny, intense, inspiring, and romantic. This year, made-in-Hawaii narrative films include Dominik Walczuk’s “Subjective Expressions,” which already winning acclaim and awards. The film is set predominantly at the Hilo Palace Theatre and features music by Medicine for the People. “Giant Monsters Attack Hawaii” is a Godzilla-type romp as told by the monster, and “The Potstickers” follows the plot of three young men to crash a party and meet a girl. Others include: “Byte-Sized,” “A Finger, Two Dots Then Me,” “Dancing Freak,” “Flat” and “Viti.” (See below for film descriptions.)

A packed schedule of films and social events is spread over the festival’s five days, with a wide range of entertainment and prices—from free admission to some events and $5 kamaaina tickets for two-hour film blocks, up to all-inclusive passes for $400.

During the day, films are shown indoors at the Fairmont Orchid amphitheatre. Frequently, filmmakers and some cast members will be on hand to comment and answer questions from the audience. Moviegoers are asked to rate each film they see and votes are tallied to determine the “Audience Choice” winners of Best Feature and Best Short. Two Audience Choice films will be re-shown on May 28 at the “Best of the Fest” event.

In the evening, family films are screened for free at The Shops at Mauna Lani Center Stage. Films with more adult themes and language are shown at The Fairmont Orchid outdoor Plantation Estate. Food and beverages are available at both venues, by popular demand, and beach chairs or blankets are permitted, but not coolers.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself pointing at the screen and saying “Isn’t that…?” Celebrity actors support independent films and enrich the experience. For example, Billy Boyd (“Lord of the Rings”) stars in “Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy” based on the novel by the author of “Trainspotting.” With Boyd are Adam Sinclair (“National Lampoon”) and Kristin Kreuk (“Smallville.”)

Other stars appear in “Searching for Sonny” (Masi Oka, from “Hawaii Five-0”) and “Pork… a short film” (David Denman, from “The Office”). Q‘oriana Kilcher, who played “Princess Kaiulani,” is member of the “Shouting Secrets” family, and Academy Award-winner Eric Roberts stars in the Italian thriller “Silver Case.” You’ll also hear the voices of Christopher Lloyd and Kathy Bates in the animated film, “Cadaver.”

Audiences have several opportunities to meet celebrities at social events. Special guests David James Elliott (“JAG”) and Eloise Mumford (“The River”) will attend receptions and salutes in their honor on Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, a new “Meet the Stars” gala on Friday welcomes Elliott and Mumford, workshop instructors Jen Grisanti of NBC and Brian Kohne, whose Maui film “Get A Job” won audience-choice last year, as well as other film community notables from Hawaii and beyond. Advance ticket purchase is required for social functions and is available online or at the hotel’s Concierge Desk.

Hawaii’s own stars appear as well, when for the first time BIFF presents two exceptional documentaries. The Beamer family plans to join in Thursday’s world premier of “Aunty Nona Beamer—Malama Ko Aloha—Keep Your Love.” And Chris Luedi will proudly attend Sunday’s showing of “Family of the Waa.” Luedi, who is regional vice president and general manager of The Fairmont Orchid, was one of the paddlers who participated in the 1,750-mile voyage around the Hawaiian archipelago, portrayed in the film. (See related story)

BIFF wraps up on May 28 with “Best of the Fest,” featuring the Big Island’s own “Kohala” in concert, a silent auction for Tripler Army Medical Center’s Fisher House, fundraiser for the Hawaii Food Basket and a special showing of the Audience Choice Best Feature and Best Short.

The 2012 Big Island Film Festival will fill the holiday weekend with entertainment to make you laugh, to make your heart pound and to inspire the storyteller in all of us. For complete schedule of events and ticket information, plus a sneak preview of some films and full menus for the social functions, visit, visit the BIFF Facebook page or call 883-0394.

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