Rare, Unseen Footage to be Unveiled at Upcoming Hawaiian Film Festival
How filmmaker Ann Marie Kirk found the missing piece to her film puzzle, online Museum theater showcases quality and quirky films throughout the year.
Editor Note’s: Through our partnership with the Honolulu Museum of Art, HONOLULU Magazine publishes a monthly blog written by Lesa Griffith, the museum’s communications director and a talented Hawaii writer on arts, culture and food.
Photos: Courtesy of Honolulu Museum of Art
From groundbreaking Hawai‘i films to Bollywood and even an Austrian western, the Doris Duke Theatre serves an eclectic array of cinema.
The Honolulu Museum of Art started showing films in 1938—when it screened selections that it borrowed from the Museum of Modern Art. Today, the museum’s Doris Duke Theatre has a full-fledged film program, with monthly film festivals such as the popular Bollywood Film Festival and Honolulu Surf Film Festival; ballet, opera, and drama on screen; and great indie selections (like the current Bird People). Film curator Abbie Algar makes sure that Honolulu has a place to see the kind of high-quality and offbeat cinema that gets short shrift in the multiplexes. Forget short shrift, they get no shrift.
Opening on Friday is the fourth ‘Ōiwi Film Festival, a showcase that the museum launched as a way for Hawaiian filmmakers to share their native voices and visions. In the diverse lineup is Ann Marie Kirk’s documentary The Hawaiian Room, about the Hotel Lexington’s famed nightspot in New York—again.
When Kirk’s film opened the 2012 ‘Ōiwi Film Festival, it was missing a key element—actual footage of a Hawaiian Room performance. Last year, Kirk stumbled upon what she was looking for online, held a Kickstarter campaign to pay for the pricey rights, and was able to finally complete the film as she envisioned it.
That final cut screens at this year’s ‘Ōiwi Film Festival, which opens this Friday and runs through Nov. 13. Made with invaluable support from the Hula Preservation Society, the film is a fascinating look at the club—and the people—that put Polynesia in the spotlight for 29 years, starting in 1937.
Kirk, who also is a co-founder of the film festival, was doing online research and came across a film promoting New York City tourism. “I was watching and there it was—I almost fell of my chair. I sent the link to Keau George, who is also doing research on the film, and she said, ‘That’s the Hawaiian Room.’ It’s a treasure, tucked away in some promotional travel film.” She also uncovered an early 1950s episode of the Steve Allen Show that featured Hawaiian Room performers.
Acquiring rights to footage isn’t cheap, and Kirk started a Kickstarter campaign in January to pay for it. She raised $22,000 for the two pieces of footage.
Three weeks ago Kirk held the completed film’s premiere in New York City. “I wanted to make sure that the dancers on the Mainland who are still living could see it,” she says. Hawaiian Room alums traveled to Manhattan from across the country. It was a moving reunion.
“Making a film takes over your whole life,” says Kirk. “After more than two years, the film is complete. Now I can move on to other things.”
The Hawaiian Room screens: Saturday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.; Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 1p.m.; and Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Other notable films in the festival lineup
A documentary on kākau uhi master Keone Nunes, and former NextDoor proprietor Chris Kahunahana’s short Lahaina Noon. Plus, for the first time, the festival teams up with the PA‘I Foundation’s Mo‘olelo Storytelling Festival, Nov. 14-16.
Coming up: Films that should be on your radar
Berlin & Beyond Honolulu, Nov. 21-23
This festival of the best in new German-language cinema, put together by the Goethe Institut San Francisco, includes Diplomacy, the new film from New German Cinema master Volker Schlondorff, and The Dark Valley, an Austrian western!
The Films of James Ivory, Ismail Merchant and Prawer Jhabvala, Nov. 30-Dec. 5: Producer James Ivory himself kicks off this series of films he and his storied partners made in India, like the seminal Shakespeare Wallah and The Delhi Way.
Lesa Griffith is director of communications at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Born in Honolulu, one of her early seminal art experiences was at the Honolulu Museum of Art, when on a field trip her high school art history teacher pointed out that the ermine cape in Whistler’s Portrait of Lady Meux was not just a cape—it was visual signage leading viewers’ eyes through the painting.