Maui Arts & Entertainment

Maui Film Festival: FirstLight Dec. 20, 26, 27

December 15, 2015, 9:28 AM HST
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A panorama of the MACC’s Castle Theater. Photo courtesy of TEDxMaui.

The Maui Film Festival’s 17th annual FirstLight: Academy Screenings on Maui event at the Maui Art and Cultural Center’s Castle Theater is offering three days of award-winning movies on Sunday, Dec. 20, Saturday, Dec. 26 and Sunday, Dec. 27.

While the event may be shorter in duration this year, 18 films will be presented during these three days.

Included among them are a significant number of recently announced Golden Globe and Spirit Award nominees. Spirit Awards are the indie film world’s long-running, pre-Academy Awards held annually in a huge oceanside tent in Santa Monica.

The films being presented at FirstLight aggregated a combined total of more than 30 Golden Globe and Spirit Award and Screen Actors Guild nominations this year.  Among the titles being presented are Anomalisa, Big Short, Where to Invade Next, Embrace of the Serpent and Spotlight and Concussion.

The films’ stars include Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Watts, Meryl Streep, Elizabeth Banks, Patricia Clarkson and many more.


When asked for a brief description of what FirstLight means to Mauians and holiday season, off-island visitors, Maui Film Festival and FirstLight founder and director Barry Rivers said, “Many FirstLight holiday season attendees come the entertainment industry and both make and love films. They know, as do Maui’s film lovers, that big films deserve the big screen, and on Maui, that doesn’t get any better than at Maui’s Movie Palace.”


“FirstLight is where Maui meets Maui each holiday season, and in the midst of the busyness of the holiday season, FirstLight provides a chance for our little ‘sea’ community to ‘see’ cinema, inhale, exhale and remember what matters most compassion, love and tears of sorrow and joy at the state of the world as reflected in the films on this one time only year,” added Rivers.

Complete details including synopses, poster and link’s to each film’s trailer can be viewed online.

FirstLight VIP FastPasses ($48 each) include a total of four admissions that can be used as the pass holder chooses. Single tickers are also available for $16 each. All pass and ticket prices include all MACC fees other than online fees.


Admission to FirstLight is also complimentary to most all major film industry members and a guest.  Details on the festival website.


Maui Film Festival: FirstLight Schedule

Sunday, Dec. 20

LOVE & MERCY (11 a.m.)
John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti star in this unconventional, inspirational and brilliantly cinematic portrait of Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of the Beach Boys. Directed by Bill Pohlad, the Chicago Tribune called it “the best musical biopic in decades.” The San Francisco Chronicle added, “… captures with striking immediacy the unbound power of the artist in his element.” Complemented throughout by the era-defining catalog of Wilson’s music, the film intimately examines the personal voyage and ultimate salvation of an icon whose success came at extraordinary personal cost, yet always managed to infuse lives around the world with its harmony and joy. (PG;120 min). View trailer here.

THE WALK (1 p.m.)
Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and Charlotte Lebon star along with costar and Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley in director Robert Zemeckis’s newest mind-blowing feature film about which the New York Times wrote, “… almost magically, The Walk transforms itself into a beguiling caper movie, full of comic energy and nimble ingenuity.” Twelve people have walked on the moon, but only one man has ever, or will ever, walk in the immense void between the World Trade Center towers. Guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy, and aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, Philippe Petit and his gang overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension, and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan.  Time Magazine raved, “… a visionary high-wire act.” (PG; 123 min). Free for kids 12 and under. View trailer here.

Winner of the Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Best Director Award and Lithuania’s official submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, this easy-on-the-eyes love story is awash with ripe, voluptuous, summertime imagery and brimming with ascending adolescent female sexuality. It’s an appealingly simple, poetically conceived teen coming-of-age tale,” wrote the Hollywood Reporter. Seventeen-year-old Sangailė is fascinated by stunt planes. At a summer aeronautical show near her parents’ lakeside villa, she meets Auste, a local girl of her age who, unlike Sangailė, lives her life to the fullest with creativity and dare. As the two girls become lovers, Sangailė allows Auste to discover her most intimate secret, and finds in her teenage love the only person to truly encourage her to fly. In Lithuanian with English subtitles. (Not rated; 18 and over only; 88 min.) View trailer here.

This feature-length documentary film about celebrated Chef René Redzepi is set against the backdrop of the Copenhagen-based restaurant, NOMA, named “Best Restaurant in the World” in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. How did Redzepi manage to revolutionize the entire world of gastronomy, inventing the alphabet and vocabulary that would infuse newfound pedigree to Nordic cuisine and establish a new edible world while radically changing the image of the modern chef? His story has the feel of a classic fairy tale: the ugly duckling transformed into a majestic swan, who now reigns over the realm of modern gourmet cuisine. We follow him as he fights his way back to the top, reinventing NOMA and reclaiming the title of best restaurant in the world in 2014 for the fourth time. (Unrated; 95 min.) View trailer here.

THE BIG SHORT (7:30 p.m.)
Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling star alongside Marisa Tomei and Selena Gomez in this big-screen adaptation of Michael Lewis’ best-seller, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. Variety raved, “Adam McKay’s financial-crisis comedy turns a dense economics lecture into a hyper-caffeinated postmodern farce.” The story centers on the housing and credit bubble of the 2000s, when four outsiders saw coming what the big banks media, and government refused to—the global collapse of the economy—and cooked up a big idea. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking, where they must question everyone and everything. (Rated R; 130 min.) View trailer here.

Saturday, Dec. 26

From Aardman, the creators of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, comes Shaun the Sheep, which follows Shaun and the Flock’s hilarious adventures in the big city as they search for the missing farmer. New York magazine raved, “… this might look like an exciting, no-nonsense tale for little kids—and it totally is, on one level—but beneath its pitch-perfect simplicity lies great wisdom and beauty.” (Rated PG; 95 min.) Free to kids 12 and under. View trailer here.

Brazil’s official submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the Hollywood Reporter wrote, “… a gleaming cinematic treasure as heartwarming as the film’s final reassuring smile.” A hard-working live-in housekeeper in modern-day Sao Paulo perfectly content to take care of every one of her wealthy employers’ needs, finds her world going sideways when her smart, confident, ambitious and estranged daughter suddenly shows up, refuses to accept the upstairs-downstairs dynamic, and drives everyone to reconsider what ‘family’ really means.” Entertainment Weekly called it “… a nuanced, often funny look at family that is both heartbreaking and hilarious.” In Portuguese with English subtitles. (Rated R; 112 min.) 
View trailer here.

Two-time Academy Award nominee Will Smith and Gugu Mbatha-Raw star in this ripped-from-the-headlines sports thriller about American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist who discovers CTE, a football-related brain trauma disease in a pro football player, and fights against huge odds to drive the story and eventually helps the truth to be known. Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful institutions in the world—the NFL, the only American institution which some have said owns a day of the week. (Rated PG-13; 123 min.)
View trailer here.

SPOTLIGHT (5 p.m.)
“A startlingly emotional experience” raved the Washington Post and “a masterpiece” added USA Today. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery and Liev Schreiber star in director Tom McCarthy’s riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “spotlight” team of reporters delve into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. (Rated R; 128 min.) View trailer here.

The newest documentary from Academy Award winner Michael Moore, creator of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, has been called, “impassioned” and, “his most far-reaching film” by the New York Times. Where to Invade Next is a hilarious and eye-opening call to arms, and also an expansive, rib-tickling, and subversive comedy in which Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits a host of nations to learn how the US could improve its own prospects. Turns out the solutions to America’s most entrenched problems already exist in the world—they’re just waiting to be co-opted. (Rated R; 119 min.) View trailer here.

Hungry for some grownup entertainment? Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley and Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson help each other understand that it’s never too late to begin a new adventure in this feel-good, coming-of-(middle)age comedy about a fiery Manhattan author whose husband has just left her for a younger woman, and a soft-spoken Sikh taxi driver from India on the verge of an arranged marriage. An unlikely friendship awakens them to the joy, humor and love in starting life anew. (Rated R; 105 min.) View trailer here.

Cary Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter star, and Meryl Streep adds a powerful cameo in this story about Maud, a working wife and mother whose life is forever changed when she is secretly recruited to join the UK’s growing suffragette movement. Galvanized by the outlaw fugitive, Emmeline Pankhurst, Maud becomes an activist for the cause alongside women from all walks of life. “Stirring and clear-eyed” … “the best kind of history lesson” wrote the New York Times. “A relevant rabble-rouser that doesn’t bow to formulaic Hollywood storytelling … blazes with a fire that cannot be denied” according to Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine. (Rated PG-13; 106 min.) View trailer here.

TRUMBO (3 p.m.)
“A warm and witty profile in courage” the Boston Globe wrote about this Jay Roach-directed political drama. With great wit and sly humor, Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Louis C.K. and Michael Stuhlbarg star in this savvy cultural/political thriller and true story about the successful career of 1940s Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, the eloquent, witty, Hollywood screenwriter who was the first person to be blacklisted for his political beliefs. (Rated R; 124 min.) View trailer here.

Colombia’s official submission to the Academy Awards for best foreign language film centers on Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and the last survivor of his people, and the two scientists who, over the course of 40 years, build a friendship with him during the last century, all while searching for the sacred and difficult-to-find psychedelic Yakruna plant. The Toronto International Film Festival synopsis raved, “… shot in super 35mm black and white and boasting gorgeous imagery of the Amazon River and jungle, the film transforms the amazon into a living, breathing thing. Nature is as much alive as the vagabonds who journey through, enriching their being via the spiritual qualities of the land and the many sacred prayers and plants encountered.” In Spanish with English subtitles.
(Unrated; 18 and over only; 125 min.) View trailer here.

ANOMALISA (7:30 p.m.)
You know you’re in for something special when critics have raved that a film is “a masterpiece,” “the most human film of the year,” “a rare sliver of transcendence,” “a haunting and complex marvel” and “one of those rare perfect films.” This is a thought-provoking treat for fans of introspective cinema that marks another brilliant and distinctive highlight in Charlie Kaufman’s filmography, which includes Adaptation, Inside John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (Rated R; 18 and over only; 90 min.) View trailer here.

SICARIO (9 p.m.)
Everyone brings their “a-game” in this thriller that Entertainment Weekly calls, “… a brilliant action thriller with the smarts of a message movie.” Denis Villeneuve directs and Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Jeffrey Donovan, Jon Bernthal, Josh Brolin and Victor Garber star in this all-too-true film set in the lawless border area stretching between the US and Mexico, where an idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elite government task force official to aid in the escalating war against drugs. (Rated R; 121 min.) View trailer here.

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