Outtakes: Crowe’s POV deserves aloha

Jun. 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

outtakes mug aug 2014

BY MIKE GORDON / mgordon@staradvertiser.com

If there’s one sure truth in Cameron Crowe’s film “Aloha,” the much-maligned romantic comedy, it’s that it’s difficult to create an authentic story about Hawaii, one that will appeal to national audiences as well those who consider themselves local.

But if you don’t like the story being told, say some in the state’s film community, don’t fault the storyteller for his point of view. Instead, go out and create your own.

It won’t be easy, though.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2004James Sereno.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2004

James Sereno.

Director/producer James Sereno (“Man Up,” “Paradise Broken”) said filmmakers try to create authenticity and while their views may be true to them, they may also be too narrow for others.

“That’s why I have always subscribed to the inside-out point of view,” said Sereno, founder of Kinetic Productions. “I feel the best way to tell our stories is for us to tell them from our point of view. That’s my personal belief.”

Finding a theme with universal appeal is key, he said.

“I am trying to make films from an inside point of view but I am actually trying to speak to everyone,” Sereno said.

Most stories set in Hawaii — and there are a lot of good ones and good writers, too — don’t become films because they have limited appeal, said producer Jason Lau of TalkStory Productions, which helped with the Hawaii-filmed movie “The Tempest” and created a TV series of local stories called “The Short List.”

When Lau pitches a project, he often hears the criticism that a story won’t be understood by people outside Hawaii.

“They have to have some universal thing people can grab onto and feel empathy for,” he said. “All filmmaking is like that.”

But what exactly is a local story? There is no clear definition, Lau said.

“Is a local film made by a local guy or is a local film just a story that takes place in Hawaii but could be made by someone from the outside?” he said. “To me, I think it is probably both.”

Crowe, of course, was an outsider looking in. An Oscar winner for his “Almost Famous” screenplay, he viewed “Aloha” as a love letter to Hawaii. But people took offense with the title (disrespectful of Hawaiian culture) and his casting (too haole).

The film, which stars Hollywood A-listers Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Emma Stone, included local activist Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, who gave a voice to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

In “Aloha,” a down-on-his-luck military contractor returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs — the U.S. space program in Honolulu — and reconnects with a long-ago love while unexpectedly falling for an Air Force pilot.

JOHN BERGER / 2007Gerard Elmore.

JOHN BERGER / 2007

Gerard Elmore.

Michael Andres Palmieri, executive director of Creative Lab Hawaii, which mentors screenwriters, said audiences disappointed with that plot need to remember one important thing: “I can tell you no filmmaker goes in to make a bad story with bad characters but that’s what happens sometimes. If anything, I hope that local artists and filmmakers will take this as an opportunity to really seek to create their own stories to reflect the Hawaii that they know.”

The Creative Lab seeks to develop stories that reflect Hawaii, said Palmieri, a Los Angeles-based producer, writer and instructor with 25 years of experience.

And there are many, many stories, he said.

“The history of Hawaii is so complex and so rich, I don’t think any one filmmaker is going to be able to capture all of it in its totality and certainly not in one film,” he said.

Filmmaker Gerard Elmore, a faculty member at the University of Hawaii’s film school, the Academy for Creative Media, doesn’t think Crowe should be criticized for failing.

“‘Aloha’ is trying to tell a Hollywood story, to get everyone’s attention and get a bit of the culture in there,” Elmore said. “Again, the locals played locals. They were not pretending to be something they aren’t.”

Elmore wants to encourage filmmakers to try and he has an outlet, too: the Ohina Short Film Showcase. The showcase only accepts stories from local filmmakers with local content, said Elmore, who serves as its executive director.

Entries are being accepted through Thursday at ohina.org. The showcase will screen in August.
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Mike Gordon covers film and television in Hawaii for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Email him at mgordon@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter. Read his weekly “Outtakes” column Sundays in the Star-Advertiser.

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