The 2012 Maui Film Festival represented its adolescence well this year, celebrating its twelfth birthday with a lineup of more than 40 adventurous, edgy and life-affirming films. The festival also featured a well-oiled corps of committed volunteers, led by Captain Barry Rivers, who confidently handled the helm with first mate and festival co-director, Stella, by his side.
Here are just a few highlights from this year's Maui Film Festival:
To be honored as the recipient of the Maui Film Festival’s Triple Threat Award is “totally exciting and flattering” said actor, writer and director Josh Radnor. “When they asked me back, it was really like a no-brainer. I wanted to come. I would have come even if they hadn’t given me an award, but it’s great nonetheless.”
Josh Radnor (perhaps best known for his role in the TV sitcom, How I Met Your Mother) was the recipient of the inaugural Maui Film Festival Triple Threat Award for writing, directing and starring in Liberal Arts, which was given a pre-release screening on Wednesday, June 13. "I started off in musicals," he joked, "so to me, that ("Triple Threat") means actor, singer, dancer--I can't do one of those: I'll let you guess which one."
To be selected as an award recipient is "totally exciting and flattering," Radnor said. "I feel intensely grateful that he [Maui Film Festival Director Barry Rivers] responded to both my movies and provided such a nice welcome for them. When they asked me back, it was really like a no-brainer. I wanted to come. I would have come even if they hadn't given me an award, but it's great nonetheless."
Radnor has been to Maui four times. When asked about the mission of the festival, he said Rivers "doesn't pay attention whether a movie is a premiere or a world premiere, he doesn't care he just cares about the film, and I love that as a kind of guiding principle, otherwise the film becomes a kind of status symbol rather than 'this is a great film, I think my audience would love this film.'"
Not to mention, Radnor said, "There's no better place to watch a movie in the world than the Celestial Cinema."
Mark Magidson and Ron Fricke
On Friday evening, filmmaker Mark Magidson was presented with the Soul in Cinema Award for artists who--inspired by wonder and fueled by a passionate love of their chosen subject--create movies that matter in a world desperately in need of cinema for the soul. His partner, Ron Fricke, was also honored with a Soul in Cinema Award, but was not present to accept the award. Their film, Samsara, a Sanskrit word for "the ever turning wheel of life" was screened following the awards ceremony. Magidson, who has been to Maui many times and loves to vacation here, said Samsara "explores the wonders of the world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man's spirituality and the human experience and illuminating the links between humanity and the rest of nature."
If that sounds impossible, it's not.
Filmed over a period of nearly five years and in 25 countries, this 99-minute documentary is devoid of any dialogue or descriptive text. As a result, Sansara redefines cinema by causing the viewer to experience a full range of human emotions. The film will be released in August, and it is one that everyone should see.
Other honorees of the 2012 Maui Film Festival included Tom Bonython (Beacon Award), James Marsden (Nova Award) and Elizabeth Banks (Navigator Award)
In addition to the presentation of this year's festival awards, there were a series of panel discussions presented by the Maui Film Festival in order to give audience members an opportunity to hear directly from the filmmakers, directors and actors whose films were featured throughout the five-day event. Of these, there were three panels on Saturday, June 16. The first was billed as an "Intimate Conversation with 2012 Triple Threat Award Honoree Josh Radnor," and as one might expect, the questions were deep and intensely personal--and at times, one felt like a fly on the wall during a private counseling session.
Radnor spoke about his father, an attorney who recently retired, and of his mother, who worked as a teacher before becoming a full-time mom--then eventually returned to the corporate world in an administrative capacity. Radnor recalled the moment he brought his father to tears with his writing, and the unwavering support and encouragement he received from his mother in order to become the artist he is today. He discussed these feelings with the panel moderator, as well as the connection he feels to his on-screen character, Jesse Fisher, in his marvelous film, Liberal Arts.
As a neophyte filmmaker and actor, Radnor said he is well positioned to be a filmmaker, but admitted he has a great deal to learn about the craft of filmmaking. There's no doubt that he will learn it all--and much more.
The second filmmakers panel, "The Soul of Cinema," featured screenwriter and former editor of The Maui News' Maui Scene Rick Chatenever querying a panel of artists, including Magidson (writer, producer, editor, Samsara), Shannon Kring Buset (writer, director, producer, The Beginning), Jeremy Frindel, (director, producer, editor, One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das) and Richard Mans (director and editor, Abiogenesis).
Chatenever, who has been reviewing films for more than 20 years, brought his considerable knowledge to the table, asking probing and insightful questions that, at times, left the panel members speechless. Sometimes the questions were lighthearted, eliciting laughs and smiles from the panelists.
In one exchange, Chatenever asked the panelists to discuss whether we (humanity) were on the verge of real change. Another question probed their reactions to the advances in technology. Mans and Frindel agreed that their films would not have been possible without technological advances. Magidson said that although old technology was used for his film (70 millimeter format), it modern technology that allowed them to transfer the images through the highest resolution scanning process available to the new 4K digital projection format that allows for mesmerizing images of unprecedented clarity.
Buset was the troglodyte of the group, having admitted to recording some of the sound for her film, The Beginning, in a closet at her Wisconsin home.
The final panel discussion of the day was "Xtreme Filmmaking," with a group of "Xtreme" panelists including Tim Bonython (director, cinematographer, Immersion), Brent Deal (director, screenwriter and cinematographer, H2indO) and Jonny Vasic (producer, Minds in the Water). Mike Waltze, the owner of Waltze Productions, moderated the final panel discussion of this year's Maui Film Festival. Walze is no stranger to movie magic as a camera operator, and pioneer of short board windsurfing and big wave tow-in surfing.
If the 2012 Maui Film Festival is any indication, next year's event is sure to be equally incredible, if not more. To learn more about the Maui Film Festival, visit www.mauifilmfestival.com.