Fave Five Reasons to Catch the Maui Film Festival

Contributing editor Marty Wentzel recaps the Maui Film Festival

By: By Marty Wentzel

Maui Film Festival // (c) 2009 Maui Film Fest

(c) Maui Film Fest

The tenth annual Maui Film Festival at Wailea is coming up -- June 17-21 to be exact -- and for clients who have never attended, now’s the time to check it out. Here are five reasons that I go whenever I can.

The Movies
Some of the Maui Film Festival screenings are distributed nationally, while others are small independent films that clients might never see elsewhere. Either way, the movies selected for each year’s film festival provide an intriguing mix of world premieres (My Big Fat Greek Wedding made its debut here, as did Whale Rider, Garden State, The Illusionist and The Notebook) plus Hollywood features, documentaries and short subjects. Beginning June 1, the complete program will be available for viewing online (www.mauifilmfestival.com).

The Stars
While clients might be lucky enough to rub elbows with the rich and famous at one of the weekend’s many parties and receptions, an even better way to see the celebs is to attend the festival’s intimate filmmakers panels, which cover a range of industry topics. It’s fascinating to see what the glitterati look like close-up and hear what they have to say about their chosen profession. Good star-watching also awaits at the four ceremonies honoring each year’s award recipients. In 2008, they included actors Pierce Brosnan, Felicity Huffman, Virginia Madsen and Dennis Quaid.

The Food
If clients decide to attend the film festival, tell them to deal with the diet later. Many of Hawaii’s top culinarians tantalize the tastebuds at various public events throughout the weekend. Generous sipping and supping await at the opening night twilight reception, Starry Night Moondance and Taste of Chocolate. But my hands-down favorite is the Taste of Wailea, a foodie’s fantasy-come-true with dozens of appetizers, entrees, desserts and wines for sampling. The al fresco locale on a hillside overlooking the sea enhances the experience.

The Setting
Other film festivals (think Cannes and Sundance) may get major headlines, but the Maui Film Festival plays the trump card by having Hawaii as its host culture. It takes advantage of that fact by sweetening the schedule with hula performances, appearances by island songsters and Hawaii-inspired movies. Then there are the outdoor theaters. One screen sits on the sands of Wailea Beach, while another holds forth atop the Wailea Beach Marriott. Best of all is the spectacular Celestial Cinema, a 50-foot-wide screen on the Wailea Resort golf course. Before each viewing, an astronomy expert takes audiences on a dreamy tour of the tropical night sky.

The Packages
Area hotels are doing their part to draw clients to the film festival. Wailea Beach Villas’ Na Hoku-Maui Star package comes with Maui chocolates, sparkling wine, Maui vodka, a fruit basket, Maui cookies, Hawaiian soaps and lotions, a beach bag, $200 shopping card, two Celestial Cinema tickets, two admissions to one VIP event, use of a luxury sedan and three nights in a two-bedroom oceanview villa, for $3,000 (866-901-5201, www.waileabeachvillas.com). The Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa’s four-night Romancing The Stars package, priced from $2,196, comes with spa pampering for two, a four-course dinner, romantic turndown, bottle of champagne and two festival passes (800-888-6100, www.grandwailea.com). Wailea Beach Marriott Resort and Spa’s Celestial package, nightly from $450, includes daily breakfast, two passes to any film screening venue, two passes to all filmmakers panels and two admissions to the Taste of Wailea (800-228-9290, www.waileamarriott.com).