Maui Connections

Rick Chatenever – July 25, 2017

Lots of news on the Maui filmmaking front these days.

Fresh from its Audience Award at the Maui Film Festival in June, “Kuleana” will have its North American premiere as the opening-night selection at 6 p.m. Aug. 1 at the 23rd annual San Antonio Film Festival.

Written and directed by Brian Kohne and produced by Stefan Schaefer, who also co-stars, the mystery drama set on Maui in the early years of statehood is Maui-made in every respect. It features contributions by hundreds of local folks on both sides of the camera, and in its waves of supporters.

Along with Brian, Dr. James Merrett and executive producer Susan Naylor will attend the Texas festival screening, which will be preceded by hula by a halau whose kumu is from Maui.

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Ken Martinez Burgmaier’s Maui-based Jazz Alley TV recently celebrated its 25th year on broadcast television. It’s the longest running jazz, blues, world and Hawaiian music TV series on the planet, having aired in 80 countries.

Jazz Alley has amassed three Emmy nominations and wins, two Billboard Music awards, 12 Telly Awards, 10 Aurora Film awards and two Pele awards among other distinctions. Its latest TV special on the 2016 Maui Jazz & Blues Festival is viewable at

“2307: Winter’s Dream,” the futuristic sci-fi adventure that Ken co-produced, has gotten a new name, “The Winter Soldier,” by its distributor in the United Kingdom. The film has already picked up prizes at film festivals in the U.S. and Europe, and will soon screen on Sky Cinema.

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Emmy-winning Maui filmmaker Dr. Tom Vendetti and iconic island musician Keola Beamer will attend a free 3-D screening of their “Tibetan Illusion Destroyer” from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 23, hosted by PBS Hawaii at its new Honolulu headquarters at 315 Sand Island Access Road.

Tom and Keola were in a contingent that attended and chronicled the Mani Rimdu Festival high in the Himalayas of Nepal. Spanning several days, the mesmerizing Tibetan Buddhist ritual has monks and performers in colorful costumes destroying illusions created in the human mind that lead to suffering.

Tom filmed in 3-D to add another layer of illusion and Keola scored the film and recorded the soundtrack with musicians in the region. They will participate in a Q&A session following the screening.

The film had its premiere at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in May.

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And then there are the movies we create ourselves and watch in our minds.

I’ve been enjoying lots of that kind since we arrived in California last week for a visit with old friends and four generations of extended family. Besides all the warm fuzziness, and the constant chaos, a family vacation provides a great excuse to act like tourists without the slightest hint of embarrassment.

Case in point, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Destinations like that held no interest during those decades I lived just over the hill in hip Santa Cruz. Priorities change when you become a grandpa. Which is what led my wife, daughter and our young granddaughter and niece to the sprawling mansion described as “Beautiful . . . and Bizarre” in the brochures.

Actually, for all the beauty of the 130-year-old Victorian architecture and manicured gardens, the definitely spooky ambiance could bring out the B-movie scriptwriter in anyone. Talk about a fixer-upper. Construction began in the 1880s converting an eight-room farmhouse into a never-ending remodel for Sarah Winchester, widow of the famed firearm family.

It is said the sounds of hammering and sawing went on 24/7 through the lifetime of the 4-foot-11 heiress, whose eccentricity feels like it increased with the addition of each new room, each new doorway and staircase leading nowhere. One room among the eventual 160 was devoted to seances. One theory is that after losing her one daughter as a young child and her husband at an early age, Sarah was trying to keep the spirits of those killed by “the gun that won the West” at bay by all the construction noise, and the maze of blind corners within the mansion.

As she navigated the corridors leading from one eccentric space to another, it’s easy to imagine the diminutive Sarah, with all the money in the world, unable to escape her loneliness or the unending pain and guilt that came with it.

Haunted or not, the unique mansion, created before electricity and indoor plumbing, withstood earthquakes, the passage of time and other forces of nature as the Santa Clara Valley orchards surrounding it morphed into the modern, paradigm-shifting outline of Silicon Valley.

Watching how all that unfolded would make for a great movie.

* Rick Chatenever, award-winning former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at [email protected]

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