Freestyle: Life’s a rainbow, with films to match

May. 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

A meadow in Big Sur. The natural beauty of this place made my soul soar.

A photo from my vacation: a meadow in Big Sur. The natural beauty of this place made my soul soar. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)


Aloha, friends! Hope you’re still checking in on me after I was off-island last week. I wrote my blog of two weeks ago from a motel room on the Monterey coast, on my way to a trip in Big Sur that was incredible, inspiring, even life-changing in its beauty.

Vacations can remind you to stop, look, breathe — and if the cliffs, high, oceanside meadows, redwood forests and crashing surf of Big Sur don’t do that, I don’t know what will.

Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival

» Where: Honolulu Museum of Art’s Doris Duke Theatre and Luce Pavilion Courtyard
» When: Thursday, May 31- June 3
» Cost: Single tickets $10; 9 students ($15 for Opening and Closing Night films); Film Pass, $80; VIP Pass, $130, includes all films with priority access and admission to the Opening Night Gala.
» Info:, 447-0577

Like the cliffs of Big Sur, the towering talent of a film actor and visual wonders of a brilliantly constructed film can slow down time, and levitate our spirits. That’s what I’m hoping for in “Cloudburst,” the opening night film of the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, an event that I can fully recommend for its sense of fun and timely, typically light-hearted programming.

“Cloudburst” was filmed in Nova Scotia, and stars two Oscar-winning actors, Olympia Dukakis (“Moonstruck”) and Brenda Fricker (“My Left Foot”), as longtime lesbian partners who are separated by relatives who won’t recognize their relationship when Fricke’s character goes into a nursing home. With no legal standing to protect them, the couple goes on the lam, heading to Canada to marry so that they will not be kept apart.

The subject is uber-timely right now, with President Obama’s recent announcement that he supports gay marriage. The film, a comedy with dramatic themes, could open some minds.

The Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival is certainly gay-centric (and typically has plenty of sex on its mind), but it’s a kick for anyone with an open mind and good sense of humor.

I went to the fest a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed spotlight film “The People I’ve Slept With,” Quentin Lee’s romp about a (heterosexual) promiscuous woman who finds herself pregnant and, with the help of her gay best friend, must figure out which of the many men she’s been with is the baby-daddy.

Lee has a new movie coming out, “White Frog,” that is more serious: It stars Booboo Stewart (“Twilight”) as a young man with Asperger’s. One of the pleasures of film festivals is getting to know the work of directors who are on their way up.

Another bonus of the festival in 2010 was meeting “Slept With” star Wilson Cruz and director Lee. Mindy Cohn (Natalie from “The Facts of Life”) was also there, radiating kindness. I enjoyed a short heart to heart with her, and left the closing night event feeling as if we were friends. She was a sweetheart!

This year, the top film on my list is “Cloudburst.” Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker are incredibly talented. In the Rainbow Times, reviewer Romeo San Vicente said, “Think Thelma and Louise only with two women who have kissed more than once.” Sounds like a recommendation to me!

MANY ACTORS and directors involved with films screening at the HRFF will be on hand during the event. One of them is Keo Woolford, an actor and director, who is presenting his short film, “Lunchtime.” Woolford stars in the short as a teacher who provides safe haven to a kid being bullied. This is another film that is being presented in Hawaii just as the topic — bullying — becomes a national preoccupation

A scene from the short film "Lunchtime," with Keo Woolford, right. (Courtesy photo)

A scene from the short film "Lunchtime," with Keo Woolford, right. (Courtesy photo)

Woolford, whom I interviewed for an upcoming TGIF story on the film festival, speaks with the lilting cadence of a kamaaina, and he is a Hawaii boy. After pursuing a singing and acting career on the West Coast, he is again living in Hawaii, though he flies out often to work. You may recognize him as “Detective Chan” from the first episode of Season Two (last year) for “Hawaii Five-0.” He’s also co-producer of “Nā Kamalei: Men of Hula” and a member of kumu hula Robert Cazimero’s Hālau Nā Kamalei O Lililehua; and is deep in post-production for a new full-length film, “The Haumana,” which is also set in the world of hula. “The Haumana” (which translates as “The Student,” Woolford says) was adapted from Woolford’s one-man show, “I Land”; Woolford, who began his career in entertainment as member of the boy band Brownskin, and moved to the Mainland intending to be a musician, is writing music for the soundtrack.

An intriguing side-note about Woolford; he’s been in L.A. directing a stage production of “Three Year Swim Club,” written by Oahu’s Lee Tonouchi and originally produced by Honolulu Theatre for Youth. Pidgin-speaking swimmers who rise to Olympic caliber by training in Maui’s sugar-cane irrigation canals are the inspiring stars of this show; in Woolford’s presentation, hula represents swimming.

During our interview, Woolford said he’d like to see the play become a film. Keep your eye out for that. Woolford also said he’d love to return to the set of “Hawaii Five-0.” “It was just such a blast to work on,” he said. (His character is still alive, so that’s not out of the realm of possibility!)

CLOSING NIGHT film for the HRFF this time around is German film “Men to Kiss.” At first, I thought it didn’t sound especially appealing because of the synopsis — a repressed banker, Ernst, and his party-time lover, Tobias, are conned by a crazy woman friend from the party-boy’s past. But film’s appeal is in its execution, and the trailer for “Men to Kiss” reveals it to have a madcap feel, slick, skin-revealing look and blatantly twisted sexuality that are the true attractions. This film from Berlin looks primed to rock and sock audiences with commanding style. I plan to see it.

Frank Christian Marx, actor and co-writer of "Men to Kiss." (Courtesy photo)

Frank Christian Marx, actor and co-writer of "Men to Kiss." (Courtesy photo)

As a bonus, “Men to Kiss” co-writer and actor Frank Christian Marx (he plays Ernst) will attend the festival and screening. It turns out that Marx is a “big fan” of Hawaii-born Bette Midler, according to festival director Brent Anbe, and he’s always wanted to come to the Islands.

“Visiting Hawaii has been a dream of mine since I was a little child,” Marx told the HRFF. One of his tour stops in Honolulu will be Radford High, Midler’s alma mater.

Aloha, mate — your dream is coming true!

Get a festival pass for the HRFF, $80 for all the films and $130 for a VIP pass that includes the Opening Night Gala — the place to meet the guest actors and directors, and enjoy festival entertainment — here. Word to the wise: “Cloudburst” has sold out at previous film fest screenings, and won several awards, including Audience Award at the Atlantic Film Festival; if you want to see it, you may want to get tickets now.

Related Video (Adult content):

Roll Call:

» Craving some more hits of the color, energy and power in the art of Pow Wow Hawaii, 2012? Cable-access channel OC 16 program “Think Tech” zooms in on “Powwow in Kakaako” with a tour of the Kakaako street murals, and interviews with Powwow coordinator Jasper Wong and some of the Hawaii and international artists who painted them. Screening this week: Tuesday, 2:30 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Saturday, 12 a.m. (that’s the end of the night on Friday as I look at it) and 11 a.m.

» Well, this is sudden, to me at least: Gnarwhal is playing a last show, as frontwoman Erica Westly is moving to San Francisco. I talked to Westly in April, as the band was releasing its new EP. At that time, she talked about the band’s great chemistry and said the only thing that would break the band up was someone leaving the island. Sadly, that’s happening now.

Gnarwhal has been an anchor for the underground scene in Honolulu for a few years now, and their revved-up presence will be missed. (Read my 2010 piece on the band and the indie music scene here.)

Join Honolulu’s cutting-edge indie bands Gnarwhal, Hell Caminos, Dead Dead Millies, Harshist and DJs Jet Boy/Jet Girl for one last blow-out, 10 p.m. Thursday at Mercury Bar, 1154 Fort St. Mall (at Chaplain Lane). It’s free for those 21 and over.

» Something new for the Modern Honolulu: It’s hosting a Mele Mei music showcase with Pimpbot and The Throwdowns.

Na Hoku nominees The Throwdowns, from Maui, play a Mele Mei show at the Modern Honolulu on Saturday. (Courtesy photo)

Na Hoku nominees The Throwdowns, from Maui, play a Mele Mei show at the Modern Honolulu on Saturday. (Courtesy photo)

Mele Mei has been a month-long celebration of Hawaii’s music, leading up to the Na Hoku Hano Hano Music Festival this Friday through Sunday, May 25-27. On Sunday, the Na Hoku Hano Hano Awards ceremony takes place, and this year’s musical honorees will be revealed. Non-profits joining in the effort are the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, Pakele Foundation, Archimedes Hawai’i – Kukila Project, Maiki Aiu Foundation, Ka Lei Papahi O Kakuhihewa and the Hawai’i Academy of Recording Arts, sponsoring workshops and concerts by Na Hoku nominees, as well as the big award ceremony.

The organization’s goal is to keep Hawaiian music, and music made in Hawaii, in the public eye, and to cultivate local venues for the music. According to organizers, the number of tourist venues in Hawaii that present live Hawaiian music has declined — and they hope to reverse that pattern.

The Throwdowns and Pimpbot are two of Hawaii’s most together bands, with plenty of stage and touring experience. This should be a dynamic show in a posh outdoor setting. I last talked to Erin Smith of The Throwdowns in February, when she told me that she planned to spend the month of March recording new music with producers from Arcade Fire in Montreal. Bet she came back fired up with new ideas. Can’t wait to see what happens!

Check it out: Mele Mei’s “Island Rock Pool Party,” with Pimpbot and The Throwdowns on the Sunrise Pool Deck of the Modern Honolulu, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, May 26. Tickets are $25, and you can reserve by phone at 943-5800.

Special room rates are available too: The Modern Honolulu is offering a package, with room rates starting at $179, including tickets to the “Island Rock Pool Party,” VIP access to the Sunset Pool and Sun Suite for the first 50 guests, discounted daily valet parking and free admission for two to Addiction Nightclub. Link to the deal here.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is TGIF Editor at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

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