A Hawaiian Hollywood

Molokai Film Festival premieres local documentary.

By Dan Murphy

The sixth annual Molokai Film Festival debuted in a new setting last weekend at Coffees of Hawaii in Kualapu`u. The festival, previously held at Duke Maliu Park in Kaunakakai, drew hundreds of Molokai residents who were treated to a night of live music and Hawaiian cultural films.

“I wanted the opportunity for all Hawaiian filmmakers to share their work. If you have the courage to make a film, there should be a place to show it,” said Kenny Burgmaier, the co-founded and organizer of the yearly event.

This year’s lineup consisted of 16 Hawaiian films including historical dramas, animations and documentaries. The event was headlined by the world premiere of “Meth on Molokai: Recovering from an Epidemic,” written and directed by Molokai native Matt Yamashita.

“Mostly I was just glad that we could premiere at the film festival because it has been a really big venue and I thought it was a good way for the film to get some general exposure,” Yamashita said.

The film takes an up-close and personal look at the methamphetamine addiction problem on Molokai. Yamashita shows how meth can ruin lives through the stories of four recovered addicts and their family members. Their stories also show that through hard work and love, there is a solution.

“I wanted it to be hopeful in some way,” Yamashita said. “My intention for the film was to re-engage the community and open up a dialogue about where we are with the problem now.”

That dialogue will continue over the next three months as the film will be screened in Maunaloa, Kualapu`u, Kaunakakai and Mana`e. After the showings, hosted by the newly formed Molokai Meth Task Force, the public will have a chance to ask questions and share stories about the ICE epidemic as well as find information about the road to recovery.

Yamashita has done many short documentaries in the past, and also debuted a film at last year’s festival titled “Molokai Return to Pono.”

Other Films
The festival also featured an array of other award-winning films that were warmly received by the crowd. “Chief,” which was accepted to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, told the story of a Samoan chief who finds new hope in Oahu after losing his daughter.  It was back by popular demand after showing at last year’s Molokai festival. There were several animated films, such as “Voyagers” and “The Turtle and the Shark” which put new images to old Hawaiian legends, and a series of documentaries created by Burgmaier and his team of talented native filmmakers. Burgmaier also compiled a short video in memory of his fellow Film Festival co-founder Henry “Uncle Boy” Kana`e who passed away earlier this year.

“I’m sure Uncle Boy is happy right now,” Burgmaier said. “I just want to say a big mahalo to everyone on Molokai who has seen our vision. We kind of planted this seed —  it has just blossomed and been embraced by the whole community.”

The turn-out was smaller this year compared to the 2,000 that showed up for the festival last year when it was held in Kaunakakai.

“Up here it’s not quite as busy, but we are still happy with the location and the attendance,” he said.

Several vendors and Coffees of Hawaii were still able to make money selling food and gifts. A portion of that money will be donated to the Molokai Cancer Association as it has been every other year after the festival.


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