Rainbow Film Fest's come long way since 1989
When you look at the 26 films being shown at this weekend's Rainbow Film Festival, including the acclaimed closing-night "The People I've Slept With," it's amazing to see how far this event has come over the past 21 years.
Created in 1989 by the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, it started with just five video films being shown on Sony Betamax at Hula's Bar & Lei Stand and it was called the Adam Baran Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
Today, it's being held at the Honolulu Academy of Arts' Doris Duke Theatre. Fifteen countries are represented in the rainbow of offerings, including two local films, 13 romance and six documentaries.
The mission has never changed: The screenings are here to educate and raise awareness about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender culture.
Brent Anbe, who directed the short film "Ajumma! Are You Crazy!!!" and is also a festival board member, said last year's festival set an attendance record and this weekend's festival could do the same.
The following are some excerpts from a short Q&A with Anbe.
How does this festival differ from other film festivals?
There is no other program locally like it for this community. It is one of the oldest continuous LGBT film festivals in the United States, and it deals exclusively with films produced by, directed by, and/or starring LGBT people.
What are the expectations this year?
Several thousand people came last year, and we expect this year to have the largest turnout ever because of our push to appeal to a wide array of moviegoers. If you come, you will go away with a deeper appreciation for the struggles that LGBT people have faced in politics and on the streets, as well as let the community in on some of our funniest and most entertaining stories.
Will there be any directors, producers or stars attending this weekend's films?
Lots. Actress Mindy Cohn of "Violet Tendencies," director Yun Suh of "City of Borders," director Arlei Patterson of "The Time of Our Lives," director Robert O'Green, writer/producer Tim Bland and actor Terri Freedman of "A Lower Power," writer Michael Amato, producer Nicholas Downs of "Is It Just Me?" director Elliot Downs of "306," director Jessica Sanders of "George &Brad in Bed," actor Wilson Cruz and director Quentin Lee of "The People I've Slept With."
If you had to pick just three movies to see this weekend, what would they be?
Of particular interest for Hawai'i's audience is the locally produced documentary "The Time of Our Lives," which will stir up nostalgia for many local residents. It features one of Hawaii's popular gay bars of the 1980s — Hamburger Mary's Waikiki, which was a part of the Kuhio Avenue "gayborhood." The film will play as a double feature with the incredible Berlin International Film Festival award-winning documentary "City of Borders."
Another crowd-pleaser will be Saturday's Centerpiece Film, "Is It Just Me?" It's a gay romcom, which is full of heart and a very attractive cast. It premiered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and was the first film to sell out there.
Our closing-night film, the ballsy comedy "The People I've Slept With," will definitely be a hit. It features legendary Hawai'i actor James Shigeta ("Flower Drum Song") and local boy Archie Kao, of "CSI" fame. This film is paired with the hilarious short film "George & Brad in Bed" by Academy Award-nominated director Jessica Sanders. It features George Takei ("Star Trek's" Captain Sulu) and his relationship to his newlywed husband, Brad Altman.
Besides the screenings, what other activities are there to take part in?
Our 21st annual gala event on closing night will be held at Ka Restaurant & Lounge in Ward Centre. Ka will be hosting ono pupu all night, and there will be amazing live entertainment, the festival awards show, drink specials and an opportunity to mix and mingle with our visiting celebrity guests, actors and filmmakers.
Are there films designated more for families, or ones that you probably don't want to take a child to?
Our program is targeted more toward the young adult/adult audience, but like a rainbow, we have films from all colors of the spectrum. Visit www.RainbowFilmFestival.org to view all of the information and trailers on this year's films to see what piques your interest.