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2018 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Maui Connections

Posted May 1st, 2018 by Visual Communications in Press

By Rick Chatenever on the Maui News

Alice Cooper might have been gleeful to announce “School’s out for summer,” but as another semester of teaching English at the University of Hawaii Maui College draws to an end, I’m feeling a little wistful.

As this column has frequently noted, the younger generation has been showing more signs of hope than some of their role models lately.

UH-MC’s award-winning Institute of Hawaiian Music marked the semester’s end with a free Ho’olaulea on campus Saturday. It featured Na Hokuhanohano winners and nominees, past and present, associated with this program headed by Keola Donaghy.

I arrived late for the concert because of an incorrect start time listed in a local publication. Around my house, that’s what we call “fake news.”

But composer Stephen Fox, a faculty member of UH-MC’s music and psychology departments, filled me in on what I had missed. Among the highlights were performances by Pat Simmons Jr., along with his Doobie Bro/Dad, Pat Simmons; Kanekoa featuring Vince Esquire playing the ukulele as through it were a guitar; and the glistening harmonies of female vocal trio Ahumanu featuring Liz Konohia Morales, Marja Lehua Apisaloma and Kekai Olsen Robinson, he said.

Maui’s multi-Grammy Award winner George Kahumoku Jr., who had launched the institute, shared the bill that also featured fine performances by Pono Murray, Matagi, Anthony Pfluke, Cane Fire, Damien Paiva, Goldawn Won and others.

Under Donaghy’s direction, and with Joel Katz doing the engineering, CDs produced by the program have already won one Hoku Award and are up for another one this year. Donaghy also helped guide Pat Simmons Jr. to two Hoku nominations for his fine EP “This Mountain,” which also made it to the second round of Grammy nominations.

It’s exciting to see — and be a tiny part — of the college’s evolution from its Maui Community College origins, as it plants little seedlings in the arts and humanities that one day may match its established, and stellar, culinary and nursing programs.

Brian Kohne, writer/director of the Maui-made movie hit “Kuleana,” taught a class in storytelling in UH-MC’s Creative Media program this semester, based on the nuts and bolts of getting the movie made, against all odds, and now getting it seen.

“Kuleana” screens at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. When the festival opens Thursday, Brian, film editor Adi Ell-Ad, and stars Moronai Kanekoa, Sonya Balmores and Branscombe Richmond will walk the red carpet at the Directors Guild of America.

It just got held over for its sixth week at the Regal Maui Mall Megaplex, where you procrastinators have no more excuse not to see it.

* * *

“Kuleana” roughly translates as the privilege of responsibility, and kuleana for the planet was the theme of a festive Earth Day Celebration in Kihei on Sunday.

Talk about a time warp. Tie-dye was back in style, reggae and world music set the beat and there was no shortage of crystals, body workers, henna tattoos and healthy things to eat and drink. If you squinted, it could have been mistaken for the first tribal gatherings in the ’60s, when folks started realizing that amidst all our consumer-based holidays, our planetary home deserved a party, too. Something more organic.

Granted, I’ve gotten a little jaded since the early Earth Days. Trying to find a parking place in Kihei’s narrow beachside streets clogged with fossil-fuel-guzzling vehicles made me wonder, what’s wrong with this picture? And South Maui’s counterculture may be graying now, but still feels stuck in amber, unchanged since a lot of us arrived on the island two or three or four decades ago.

But the skepticism faded away watching a parade of kids, many in black martial arts gi, carrying a paper dragon and tossing flowers as they wove through the crowd. Oahu-based singer-guitarist Paul Izak and Africa’s Youssoupha Sidibe were among the artists making the mood mellower as the afternoon went on.

There was time for talk story with three generations of the talented Simmons family — Pat and Pat Jr., mamas Cris and Shine, and 2-year-old Malu counting the days ’til he picks up a guitar himself. And more happy moments seeing Barry Sultanoff, Lorelei Blanchard, Martha Woodbury and Nina Vishnevska.

There were smiling faces on political posters in this election year, and the candidates themselves in their campaign booths. As opposed to the usual hot air or negativity of campaigns, their appearances felt more positive.

Tying their political fates to the healthy future of the island — and the big island we’re all riding in the solar system — felt like a good thing to do.

And not just on Earth Day.

* Rick Chatenever, award-winning former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at [email protected]