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‘The Land of Eb’

<p>“The Land of Eb” will play at the Big Island Film Festival on May 24. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BIFF FOR NHN</p>

“The Land of Eb” will play at the Big Island Film Festival on May 24. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BIFF FOR NHN

When the Eighth Annual Big Island Film Festival kicks off tonight, it begins presentation of 54 new movies from around the world. Eleven were made in Hawaii—seven short films and four feature-length films—including the well-told story, “The Land of Eb,” about the Marshallese coffee-workers’ community in rural South Kona.

“The Land of Eb” (named for a mythical, heaven-like place in Marshallese culture) chronicles the struggles of “Jacob,” a hard-working family patriarch who keeps the homestead together with duct tape and determination. When Jacob learns he has cancer, he decides not to spend their meager resources, but to take a different approach for his children and grandchildren.

“He’s got a big family he’s trying to take care of, and this property he’s trying to pay off,” said filmmaker Andrew Williamson in an interview with Stephen Holt at the Toronto Film Festival. “So he keeps it a secret and he just continues working as his health begins to fail.” Williamson directed the film, and co-wrote the screenplay with John Hill; both are Big Island residents.

“At the same time he’s got this passion for filmmaking,” said Williamson. “And he begins to record the history, why they’re there in Hawaii, what happened to them, how they got there, so his kids and his grandkids know where they come from.”

In the interview, Williamson explained that because the Marshall Islands were used for American nuclear weapons testing in the Cold War of the 1950s, the Marshallese people were given opportunities to come to the U.S., where many live in poverty.

“We heard about this isolated group of people living on the southern tip of island,” said Williamson. “We took a trip down there, met some of them and met one (Jonithen Jackson), who turned out to be the star, and turned out he also had a passion for filmmaking.”

Jackson showed them a 12-foot boom he had fabricated from cast-off materials, and expressed that he wanted to make a movie but he didn’t know how.

“Basically we decided to make a movie together, and he was one of the producers,” said Williamson. Jackson also played Jacob, and many of his family members are in the cast as well.

“The Land of Eb” has already won acclaim at important film festivals, including Hawaii International Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award: Narrative Feature last October. The film has also earned nominations at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival.

The film will be shown at BIFF tomorrow night, May 24, at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii’s Plantation Estate, as the second half of a double-feature with another critically acclaimed film, “Home,” also about the struggles of fatherhood. Movies start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the double feature are $16, $11 kama’aina, available at the door or online at Validated parking, no-host bar, pupus and movie snacks for purchase (no coolers, please). Some chairs provided or bring your own beach chair and a sweater for cool evening temperatures.

BIFF continues through Monday, with day and evening films at The Fairmont Orchid, free family movies at The Shops at Mauna Lani, and exciting social events where movie-lovers can meet and mingle with celebrity guests Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”) and Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”). Final night Best of the Fest includes “Hapa” in concert and the audience-voted best feature and best short of 2013. For complete schedule and ticket information, please visit or call 883-0394.