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Waimea Ocean Film Festival celebrates island culture and ocean experience

Jane Goodall with David Greybeard at Gombe. (PHOTO COPYRIGHT JANE GOODALL INSTITUTE)Buy Photo
Jane Goodall with David Greybeard at Gombe. (PHOTO COPYRIGHT JANE GOODALL INSTITUTE)
“Good Morning Miyazaki” (COURTESY PHOTO)
“Good Morning Miyazaki” (COURTESY PHOTO)
“Good Morning Miyazaki” (COURTESY PHOTO)
“Good Morning Miyazaki” (COURTESY PHOTO)
“Alison’s Adventures Blue Duck Station” (COPYRIGHT PHOTO BY SARAH LEE)Buy Photo
“Alison’s Adventures Blue Duck Station” (COPYRIGHT PHOTO BY SARAH LEE)
“Alison’s Adventures Blue Duck Station” (COPYRIGHT PHOTO BY SARAH LEE)Buy Photo
“Alison’s Adventures Blue Duck Station” (COPYRIGHT PHOTO BY SARAH LEE)

This week the 2014 Waimea Ocean Film Festival returns to Hawaii Island and utilizes the art of filmmaking to inspire a greater awareness of the community’s need to protect and preserve the natural world. The festival brings more than 50 films to the big screen that will engage and educate audiences with an increased awareness of ocean and island culture. Now in its fourth year, the festival offers a combination of film, breakfast talks, filmmaker Q-and-A sessions, activities and art exhibits that run simultaneously from Jan. 2-10 at multiple venues in Waimea, The Fairmont Orchid, and The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

“It’s pretty extraordinary to have such a wealth of content, filmmakers, speakers and artists come together to the island for what is a very rich and dynamic event,” said Tania Howard, executive director of Waimea Ocean Film Festival. “Being able to fully immerse in the program, and circle and try to see everything you would like is very exciting. The true cost of the four-day event pass is really thousands of dollars, and so it’s a unique opportunity to have here to participate in.”

Most of this year’s films will make their premiere debut at the film festival. Many of the films are from Hawaii, though some film selections are from as far away as Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Films fall into three basic categories — ocean experience such as surfing and paddling, ocean environment and island culture. Participants will have the opportunity to begin their day with sunrise yoga on the beach and morning coffee talks prior to film viewing and discussions.

Howard explains how film submission is by invitation only and her search for submissions for the next festival begins immediately after the current festival ends. She begins reading about and researching films that have been winning awards or garnering a lot of attention at other festivals around the world.

“If a film looks like it might be of interest, I request a copy to consider,” said Howard. “I look for films that fit into the general categories of ocean experience, ocean environment, and island culture, and also for some magical spark, or inspirational quality, or for films that tell a story about local history and culture. I also look at how the films work with one another to create an overall fabric that is dynamic and exciting for viewers, with films and content weaving together to create a larger tapestry. Often the threads start to come together on their own.”

“This year, for example, I watched a film that I chose not to show, but it led me to a film by Eddie and Myrna Kamae, Keepers of the Flame, that tells the story of ‘Iolani Luahini, Mary Kawena Pukui and Edith Kanaka’ole. Then, Bird of Paradise was suggested to me, which was choreographed by ‘Iolani Luahini, and now Hula Preservation Society is giving a special tribute to ‘Iolani Luahini and hosting a Breakfast Talk about her. Often content and films weave together over consecutive years as well, so that attendees will start to recognize certain people or topics that appear from one year to the next.”

The festival opens on Jan. 2, with films screening at Kahilu Theatre, HPA Gates, Parker Theatre and The Fairmont Orchid. On Jan. 6, the festival moves to Four Seasons Resort where singer/filmmaker, Eddie Kamae will offer a brief performance following the opening film.

For guests interested in cultural offerings, there will be a presentation by the Hula Preservation Society with discussion by hula kupuna; a showing of the 1951 remake of the 20th Century Fox film Bird of Paradise, with an introduction by local lead Queenie Dowsett; and films by Eddie and Myrna Kamae about the history, culture, and music of the islands.

For those seeking inspiration, the festival welcomes author and speaker Alan Cohen who will host a workshop on “The Hero’s Journey,” as well as National Medal of Arts award recipient and composer Morten Lauridsen, who will perform two pieces alongside the film about his life and work, “Shining Night.”

Thought-provoking films such as “Hot Water,” produced by Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Don Rogers, “GMO OMG”, and “Plastic Paradise” are just a few of the selections that aim to provide insight to viewers into contemporary environmental issues. For those who missed last year’s People’s Choice Winners, “Chasing Ice” and “North of the Sun,” will play again for an encore showing.

For the adventure lovers, the festival offers an adrenaline rush of surf films, as well as presentation and exhibit by 1960’s surf photographer, Tim McCullogh. Local celebrity and HPA graduate Alison Teal premieres the first two episodes in her series Alison’s Adventures: “Blue Duck Station” and “The Lost Island of the Firewalkers”.

Artsy film lovers will enjoy “The Crash Reel,” directed by Academy Award-nominated director Lucy Walker, (“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”). Her new film is currently under consideration for an Academy Award nomination and will have its Hawaii premiere at the festival.

Emmy nominated news contributor and lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy, M. Sanjayan, will be on hand to share a sneak preview of the James Cameron series, “The Years of Living Dangerously,” which will air this April on Showtime.

The Fairmont Orchid will host the surf-themed, opening night reception on Jan. 2 that will launch the 50th anniversary tour of “The Endless Summer.” Surf attire is optional, having a good time is required. Screening of the film follows the 6:30 p.m. reception in the newly renovated Lehua Theatre.

Also on Jan. 2, the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea will host the Voyager Exhibit: Hokule’a World Wide Voyage by Na Kalai Wa’a. The exhibit blessing and opening will begin at 4 p.m. and the display will be open through Jan. 5. Interactive displays detail life as a voyager aboard a canoe, interactive voyage map, and information on the voyaging canoe, Hikianalia. The canoe is equipped with a solar electric engine — a modern vessel operated by traditional wisdom.

On Jan. 5, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel will host “The Taste of the Island,” which will feature the culinary creations of many of the island’s top chefs. The closing night reception is on Jan. 10 at the Four Seasons Hoku Amphitheatre and will include film, music, and island fare.

“Rather then being about any particular films, the festival is about the overall experience — hearing from fellow festival attendees that such and such film or speaker is not to be missed, and being able to go off and see it,” said Howard. “Having the filmmakers and speakers here is perhaps the most exciting part of the event. Films with Q-an-As and the Breakfast Talks and presentations are always a highlight.”

The festival is designed as an overall experience for the attendee, with films and speakers related to one another. The festival operates on a pass system for attendees. For example, the Waimea Film Pass provides access to all film and presentation blocks from Jan. 2-5, as well as breakfast talks and any scheduled morning activities during that time such as sunrise yoga on the beach and paddling canoe lessons. The Waimea 6-punch pass provides access to six films or presentation blocks during the same period, and also the morning activities and breakfast talks. There are similar passes for the time the festival plays at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Remaining seats are available for individual purhcase 15 minutes before each showing, but the festival really is designed around people having a pass and fully engaging in related talks and activities.

For more information and for the full schedule, visit the festival website at