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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 24, 2005

Film fest ready to roll in Chinatown

Advertiser library photo

Cinema Paradise co-founder Sergio Goes and his partners plan further events at their downtown venue.

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer


The Cinema Paradise film festival, celebrating its fourth year, has a new home downtown called Next Door, at 43 N. Hotel St.

Cinema Paradise photos

The Devil's Miner

Shinju Elegy

Up Against All

The Prisoner of the Iron Bars

Sorceress of the New Piano

Favela Rising

The annual independent film festival opens today at Next Door, on Hotel Street.

9 a.m., Hotel Street.

Smith's Union Bar already claimed a dozen boisterous barflies, giving new meaning to the phrase "breakfast of champions." Thirtyninehotel was locked up after a Thursday night of live reggae. Audible hammering and drilling escaped from behind the locked doors of Indigo co-owner Dave Stewart's yet-to-open Bar 35.

And right next door to all of it was the Cinema Paradise independent film festival's new home, Next Door. Inside, festival co-founders Sergio Goes and Chris Kahunahana were operating on little-to-no sleep since the previous day's sunrise and — no offense, dudes — really looked the part.

After two years at the now-defunct Art House at Restaurant Row and one at the Varsity Twins, Goes and Kahunahana have found permanent digs for Cinema Paradise ... and then some. The eight-day film festival opens today in what both hope by the end of the year will be a retro-mod, state-of-the-art urban cinema and music lounge. In Chinatown.

But more on those plans later.

Last week, 43 N. Hotel St. was still a 4,000-square-foot mess of construction equipment, lumber, wires, piping, and panes of glass. Goes and Kahunahana, however, had no doubt that by today, Next Door would be ready to unspool a few films, host some after-hours music and serve up cocktails and art.

"One of the main reasons I liked this place was the height," said Goes, running his eyes up the immense warehouse-sized room's stunning 30-foot red brick walls. "It was raw, but there was no other building like it. It looked like a Brooklyn warehouse. And it couldn't have been more perfect for what we want this to be."

"It's got character. It has an urban feel," finished Kahunahana. "And our festival has always been an urban one."

Back to the 'hood

Cinema Paradise's downtown roots reach deep. Filmmaker/photographer Goes and music promoter Kahunahana co-founded the Honolulu Underground Film Festival, which ran from 1995 to 1997.

"We've always liked the neighborhood. And we wanted to bring this festival back to the neighborhood," said Kahunahana. "The Underground Film Festival was here. (Cinema Paradise's) office has been here for three years."

What wasn't there, however, was any immediate need for Cinema Paradise to consider a permanent downtown home. That changed earlier this year, when Consolidated Theatres informed Goes that the Varsity Twins would no longer be available for rental.

Goes and Kahunahana did not want Cinema Paradise fighting to get its groove back in a multiplex again. So inspiration struck when longtime friend Miguel Innis returned to Hawai'i, looking to start up an entertainment venture after a decade away running a successful Las Vegas booking agency.

"Instead of us doing something separately and finding spaces for that, we figured, 'Why not just work together?' " said Kahunahana.

Before next door

"The last business that was here was called World Of Amusement Video, which was kind of a peep booth, porn video type of thing," said Goes, describing a portion of the shuttered-since-1995 43 N. Hotel's colorful past. Before that, a massage parlor and swing club The Anchor Bar called the space home.

Next Door construction began in mid-April, shortly after the partners signed a 15-year-lease on the space. A crew of about 20 volunteer artists and friends — fortunately, the group includes an architect, electrician, plumber and builder — has been working day and night on Next Door ever since to ready it for Cinema Paradise.

The festival film count this year will be smaller than in years past — about 40 full-length features and short films.

"We downsized this year because of the task of putting this place together, and because we only have one screen as opposed to the two we've had in the past," explained Goes. "So we really hand-picked each film carefully. And we're super proud of every single feature and documentary we're showing."

In another nod to Cinema Paradise's Honolulu Underground Film Festival roots, a number of evening screenings at Next Door will be complemented with live performances.

"Favela Rising," a documentary infused with Rio De Janeiro street music, will be followed by Brazilian percussionist Carlinhos do Pandeiro and son Ted de Oliveira mixing live performance with samba, hip-hop and electronica.

"Sorceress of the New Piano" will conclude with a live performance by the film's Singapore-born, New York-based subject, Margaret Leng Tan.

"Last year, we did parties at Indigo or at the W (Honolulu), where you had to commute from the theater to where the performance would be," said Goes. "Now, you'll just be here and we can make that flow continue. ... You'll be able to enjoy some wine and a cocktail, and enjoy a comfortable seat."

Lights, camera, action

Goes and Kahunahana promised Next Door would be more than ready for tonight's Cinema Paradise opening. Two 15-foot concrete bars and a raised ground-floor lounge were under construction when we stopped by. Brand-new "modern-design" furniture, the room's light fixtures and a few industrial elements meant to complement the venue's warehouse feel were set for installation this week. But Next Door won't be finished.

Scheduled for construction post-Paradise is a large mezzanine with a VIP room, lounge, offices, projection room and seating overlooking ground-floor activities. A state-of-the-art sound and digital projection system is being custom-designed for the space.

The partners estimate spending more than $300,000 of their own money on the project before it is completed (hopefully, by New Year's Eve). With DJ events and film screenings already booked for the summer and fall, Next Door will remain open as much as its final stages of construction allow.

"We lose a lot of chances to show stuff that we really like because by the time Cinema Paradise happens, they've already been released commercially or gone off the radar," said Goes. "Now we'll have the chance to keep that going all year."

Said Kahunahana, of the music plans for Next Door, "We're going to have Hawaiian music shows, great DJ nights and live performances ... a lot of independent bands, classical music and jazz musicians. Even (Mainland) acts who might want to perform in a more intimate, cozy, more personal space."

Next Door's completion will also leave the partners more time to concentrate on a bigger, badder Cinema Paradise for 2006. They envision more participating downtown venues and a return to more screens and more films for the festival's fifth anniversary next year.

Asked what Chinatown goings-on made him hopeful Next Door would succeed, Goes broke into a wide grin.

"I think what's not going on is what makes me hopeful."

Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8005.

• • •

Cinema Paradise


  • 6 p.m. Opening celebration
  • 7:30 p.m. "Butterfly," 129 minutes, preceded by "The Natural Route," 12 minutes
  • 10 p.m. Opening-night party featuring J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science


  • Noon-5 p.m. Free youth media workshop
  • 4 p.m. Animation/shorts program, 111 minutes
  • 6 p.m. "Up Against All," 95 minutes, preceded by "Winter Sea," 25 minutes
  • 8:30 p.m. "Favela Rising," 78 minutes, preceded by "Palindrome," 11 minutes
  • 10 p.m. Concert featuring Carlinhos do Pandeiro and Ted de Oliveira


  • Noon-6 p.m. B-Boy Reunion
  • Noon-10:30 p.m. at The Arts at Marks Garage: "West of Tracks," 556 minutes
  • 6 p.m. "Little Peace of Mine," 56 minutes, preceded by "Stolen Lives," 20 minutes
  • 8:30 p.m. "Riker's High," 90 minutes, preceded by "Sling Shot Hip Hop," 10 minutes
  • 10 p.m. Nocturnal Sound Crew


  • 6 p.m. "Punk: Attitude," 90 minutes, preceded by "Evaporations," 15 minutes
  • 8:30 p.m. "Who Cares — The Duane Peters Story," 60 minutes, preceded by "Fire," 30 minutes
  • 10 p.m. Akane surf/skate fashion show, featuring local bands X-Factor and Swampa ZZ


  • 6 p.m. "The Prisoner of the Iron Bars," 124 minutes, preceded by "Curupira," 13 minutes
  • 8:30 p.m. "The Devil's Miner," 82 minutes, preceded by "Silent Years," 12 minutes


  • 6 p.m. "Sund@y Seoul," 72 minutes, preceded by "Serious Fitness," 26 minutes
  • 8:30 p.m. "Shinju Elegy," 109 minutes, preceded by "Blue," 25 minutes


  • 6 p.m. "Mauna Kea — Temple Under Siege," 70 minutes, preceded by "Rolling Down Like Pele," 5 minutes
  • 8:30 p.m. "Sorceress of the New Piano," 92 minutes, preceded by "Solitude," 9 minutes
  • 10 p.m. Margaret Leng Tan in concert

July 1

  • 6 p.m. Awards ceremony
  • 8:30 p.m. Free closing party featuring DJ Coop D'ville