Seeing Stars

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Story by Rita Goldman

celestial cinemaMaybe it’s because so many celebrities make Maui their home. You never know when you’ll run into Woody Harrelson at Mana Foods, or Willie Nelson jamming at Charley’s. Or maybe it’s just the live-and-let-live attitude this island engenders.

Whatever the reason, “people here are respectful of luminaries,” says Barry Rivers. The director of the Maui Film Festival thinks that’s why so many stars say yes when he invites them to the festival. “They’re here for a good time, and feel so comfortable on Maui that they mingle with the crowd much more than they’re expected to.

“Joan Allen and Patricia Clarkson attended nearly every event when they were here,” Rivers recalls. “They danced at our parties like it was their high school homecoming.

“Clint Eastwood walked up with beach chairs for his wife and himself, bought tickets for the Celestial Cinema, and sat down with the crowd to enjoy the double feature. And when a sideways rainstorm let loose during our tribute to Pierce Brosnan, he stayed in the pouring rain so that every audience member who had a question would have a one-on-one exchange with him.”

While we can’t guaranteed a close encounter of the celebrity kind, your chances improve dramatically when you purchase Festival passes that let you attend special events like the Taste of Wailea, the Taste of Chocolate, and our personal favorite, the new Soirée at Spago, hosted by Maui No Ka ‘Oi Magazine on Saturday, June 18.

Or simply come for the movies at what is arguably the world’s most gorgeous outdoor theater.

If you caught any of the screenings at FirstLight, the Maui Film Festival’s winter incarnation, and later saw how many of those movies made it to the Oscars, you believe Barry Rivers when he says he’s developed some impressive industry contacts in the twenty-five years since he himself was a filmmaker and a member of the advisory board of the U.S. Film & Video Festival—the precursor to Sundance.

“I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of those people,” he says, from studios to independent producers. When they have a promising film, “they give me a heads-up.” Rivers views nearly a thousand films before selecting the four dozen or so that will make it to the Maui Film Festival. He must be doing something right. Recently The Los Angeles Times called the Maui Film Festival “Hawai‘i’s answer to Sundance.”

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