MauiFEST Hawaii

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Honolulu Advertiser

Looking at the Big picture
Director's work brings film fests to Maui County

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hana wasn't on the film festival circuit until September 2003 — when Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier set up an outdoor screen on the Hotel Hana-Maui's mini golf course and showed indie films under the stars.

Burgmaier screened "Quattro Noza," "Kiho'alu Keola Beamer" and "Fiji Firewalkers." Grammy winner Paul Horn and Brother Noland performed. Atu, a Fijian, not only gave a warrior dance but also served kava to the audience.

All for free.

It was a huge hit — "absolutely gratifying," Burgmaier tells you.

But entertainment was only part of Burgmaier's altruism. Beginning in Hana, he has worked for the past five years to bring similar film and music festivals to Maui County under the umbrella MauiFEST Hawai'i. Burgmaier created free events that featured indie films and Grammy and Hoku-award winning musicians. He's held them in Hana, Lahaina, and on Moloka'i and Lana'i.

The Lahaina Film Festival, which will feature three world premiere screenings, is set for Aug. 9 at Campbell Park.

"He has a great heart," said Kimi Tempo, whose business, Ohana Con-cierge and Tours, helps with the Moloka'i festival. "He loves to work with people and bring happiness."

The 48-year-old Burgmaier, who has a Maui-based film and TV commercial production company, and an internationally broadcast TV show, "Jazz Alley TV," said he started MauiFEST Hawai'i to bring tourist dollars to "economically depressed areas" of Maui County.

A companion goal of the effort is to showcase Hawaiian music and culture while giving local audiences something they wouldn't normally be able to see.

"I have been going under the radar doing all the stuff we have done," he said. "It's a true grass-roots thing. First off, it's free, and it is always, always a struggle to find sponsors to keep it free. That's our main objective." Tourist draw.

Right from the start, the festivals have been a draw among tourists. The first Hana festival drew more than 600 people, with an estimated 60 percent coming from outside the community, including Honolulu and the Mainland. Burgmaier is convinced the event was an economic boost to Hana, population 709. The hotel was sold out during the screening. Three days later, he says, it was nearly empty.

Last year, the Hana event — now held next to Hana Bay — drew 2,000 people.

Events on Moloka'i always draw 1,000 people. And as the Lahaina festival prepares for its third screening this month, Burgmaier again expects 10,000 people to watch the world premiere of several documentaries, while seated on lawn chairs or blankets at a local park.

"You go to a film festival, it's $30 to $50 to get in, and a lot of times you don't see local families there," he said. "It is a tragedy to me. We really need to be able to share this with everybody."

In addition to celebrating culture and the arts, the Moloka'i festival, now in its fifth year, seeks to raise cancer awareness. Booths are set up by the Moloka'i Cancer Fund and the Moloka'i Community Health Center.

"They don't have anything like that, outdoor movies or anything," Burgmaier said. "That has been enormously welcomed with open arms. They've asked us, 'Can you do this two or three times a year?' If I had some grant money, I would."

MauiFEST operates largely on business sponsorship and, since last year, with a $30,000 grant from Maui County. Each festival costs roughly $20,000, Burgmaier said.

"We just learn to do it on a shoestring," he said. "We get a lot of in-kind support and volunteers and family helping us. It makes it look like a $100,000 production."

The events have become an all-comers opportunity for fundraising by local nonprofit agencies, high school sports teams and community groups.

Ohana Makamae, an East Maui social services agency for families, raised $5,500 when it joined with other groups for a food booth last year. Everything was gone inside of two hours, said Ray Henderson, executive director of the nonprofit agency.

But it's the entertainment that brings out the crowds. Hana has no movie theater, so the festival is a welcome change to the three-hour drive to Wailuku.

"We hear about it for weeks after it's over," Henderson said. "It's probably the highlight of the community every year. We don't see these types of things. We are in the middle of nowhere."
longtime filmmaker

Burgmaier has been a filmmaker, director and producer on Maui for more than 20 years. Although he grew up in Colorado, his family has roots in the 19th-century paniolo or cowboys who worked on Maui and O'ahu.

"My main enterprise is being a filmmaker," he said. "I get calls from all the networks when they want to do shoots over here. The Discovery Channel. National Geographic. PBS. The History Channel."

Burgmaier is the host and creator of "Jazz Alley TV," which he launched on a UHF channel 17 years ago. It can now be seen on the BET Channel and through Voice of America, which gave the show an 80-country audience starting in 2005.

"It's a jazz, blues, world music magazine show," he said. "We travel all over the world to different music festivals. We do interviews with musicians and do sort of a travelogue."

Burgmaier's partner and festival emcee is Henry "Uncle Boy" Kana'e, a 54-year-old radio disc jockey and minister.

More than anything, Burgmaier said, the festivals are popular because they are simple.

"For me, it's about bringing families out, and they can spend time together," he said. "You can bring your children out, your grandma, your mom and dad. All you need is to put a blanket on the grass and sit down and enjoy the music or the films."








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