Kurosawa's latest delights the eye
By Moon Yun Choi
Special to The Advertiser
Nathan Kurosawa flew in from Los Angeles Thursday night with the rough cut of "The Ride."
Kicking back on the sofa in his home in Hawai'i Kai, Kurosawa says it's the first time he's seen this early version of the film he wrote and directed. It hasn't been color-corrected yet. But despite the rough spots, the cut is a delight to watch.
The film will undergo its world premiere Saturday at Waikiki's Sunset on the Beach event and repeats at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
"The Ride," a movie about a present-day surfer who goes back into time to 1911 Hawai'i, doesn't have the million-dollar production budget of a lush period piece like "The Titanic" or "Somewhere in Time," but the independently produced, homegrown project has heart, with sweet and charming moments and a reverence for great waterman Duke Kahanamoku.
"The Ride" centers on haole surfer boy David, portrayed effectively by Scot Davis. A surfing accident sends David back into time, where he befriends Duke and meets his true love, Lehua.
It's Sean Kaawa's natural performance as Kahanamoku that fully endears the film to viewers.
"I feel at home here," David tells Lehua. Once the cocky surf champ develops feelings for the land and its people, he changes and no longer wants to go back. But of course, there are complications.
Mary Paalani plays Lehua, David's love interest. One sight of this Hawaiian beauty and we know why David wants to stay in 1911 Hawai'i. Kurosawa drew out a competent performance from a still-green actress.
Men cast as beachboys of old Waikiki have real chemistry between them. Weldon Kekauoha is Blackie, one of the original Waikiki beachboys; and Johann Bouit is Caps, one of Duke's closest friends.
Yes, there is some stiffness on display by Hawai'i cast members who are not professional actors, but there's also a sense of sincerity and respect that is appealing throughout this film.
Ethnicity: Japanese. No relation to acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, a director he admires.
Residence: Hawai'i Kai and Los Angeles.
Education: University of Hawaii for two years before transferring to University of California-San Diego, where he received a B.A. in literature and writing with a minor in writing plays. Received M.F.A. in film production from Loyola Marymount University.
Awards: Audience Award for "Kadomatsu," a short film at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 1996; Hale Ki'i'oni'oni Filmmaker Award at the 2003 Cinema Paradise Film Festival, an award given by the Movie Museum.
Fun Fact: Was the 100,000th baby born at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. His parents are Ernest and Sumiye Kurosawa.
"The Ride" screening: 6 p.m. Saturday, Waikiki "Sunset on the Beach," and 8:30 p.m. Nov. 3, Doris Duke Theatre. www.hiff.org