Film Fest in Jeopardy

With this year’s Maui County budget recently solidified and funds spread thin, the arts may have been left hanging. A popular event for the past seven years, the Molokai Film Festival is one of the programs in jeopardy. The festival brought in hundreds of residents and visitors, and screened independent, often locally-made films. However, due to budget cuts, organizers do not have enough funding to hold this festival this fall.

“There’s not another Hawaiian free festival like ours,” said co-founder Ken Martinez Burgmaier, news director and producer of Maui Today TV.

What would have been its eighth annual event, the Molokai Film Festival had started with a shared county grant of $20,000, with similar festivals in Hana and Lanai. Burgmaier said they requested $6,300 for Molokai this year, but the festival was left out of the county budget approved last week.

“The cuts were justified in [these] hard economic times,” said County Council Chair Danny Mateo, adding that there were other needs more important.

Burgmaier said the County Council had the option to vote that funding back into the budget, among other items, but did not.

“If the Molokai Community really wants something and thinks it is important, there are other ways for [Mateo] to get funding from the Office of Economic Development,” said Ella Alcon, Mateo’s representative on Molokai.

Burgmaier, however, said his established film festivals are an important cultural asset to small communities.

“One beauty of our [festival] is we try give back to families here, places with no movie theaters,” he said, adding that the money often goes toward bringing in top musicians – from John Cruz to the Makaha Sons to Brother Nolan in the past.

Brett Wagner, who screened his movie “Chief” a few years ago, said he was “eager to have it play as widely and as often in Hawaii as possible.”

The small film fests, including Molokai, gives him “a chance to get the film out to people who would other probably never have heard of it – or not had any easy way of seeing it if they did,” he added.

Local filmmaker Matt Yamashita said it was a shame that the arts-centered, family-friendly event won’t be held again this year. He has screened a few of his films at recent Molokai Film Festivals, often featuring a cast of Molokai personalities.

“Having a local film fest coming to the island is a great venue for getting your work out to the audience that it is intended for,” Yamashita said. “We don’t have a lot of arts exposure here on Molokai – no theater, not an acting theater.”

He added that this festival can be an inspiration to young kids or high school students on Molokai who are interested in media and entertainment.

Burgmaier said he still hopes to throw together a film fest this fall, but wants to continue to hold it free of charge.

“Maybe we can find an angel and not have to deal with politicians who say they support Hawaiian culture and our festivals and then vote against them,” he said.


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