Hawaii European Cinema film festival president Patrick Gey has lured film icon Catherine Deneuve to its red carpet awards gala
Patrick Gey could be the leading man in an international film. The Frenchman is handsome, debonair and charming to the core. Although not an actor, his connection to films is very real.
Cast in an ambitious role, Gey (“jay”) is president of the rebranded Hawaii European Cinema (HEC) film festival, happening in Honolulu Oct. 16-24. As a newly independent event, formerly known as EuroCinema Hawaii, will it earn acclaim?
“It is our hope to win the eyes and hearts of the community,” says Gey.
That shouldn’t be difficult with the stellar events starting this week. Not only are there nine outstanding European films being shown, but also the festival has Europe’s most iconic star, Catherine Deneuve, as special guest.
The 2015 Hawaii European Cinema (HEC) film festival has all the makings of a sellout based on its five-year track record as part of Hawaii
International Film Festival. The popularity of EuroCinema and its accelerated growth gave impetus to the need for independence. It now has its own sponsors, led by Luxury Row, a new board of directors and a vision as a premier cultural event in Hawaii.
“It was the dream of Princess Dialta Alliata di Montereale to establish a Hawaii event that showcases European arts and culture,” Gey explains.
The film festival founder lamented that islanders only associate Europe with high fashion and not the rich heritage of arts and craftsmanship in other fields. To reflect the essence of Europe through films was, in Gey’s view, “brilliant.”
European films previously were screened in private homes for gatherings of 20-30 friends. Those salon showings grew to larger theater venues and eventually integrated into Hawaii International Film Festival.
The organizations outgrew each other and now, with a new identity and structure, HEC aspires to be Cannes of the Pacific with a European accent.
To put charismatic Gey at the helm is smart casting. Monsieur Gey and luxury branding are synonymous.
Gey is general manager of Versace in Hawaii. He was born and raised in Paris, and started his luxury-merchandising career with esteemed couture Christian Dior. His passion for fashion and fine sense of style led him to Europe’s top designers including Boucheron, Fendi and Louis Vuitton.
His entrée to the glitzy world of film celebrities came as a stylist for a French television studio. There, he honed his retail marketing knowledge with the enchantment of show business.
“I’ve always loved fashion,” he says, noting that a film festival draws upon the same glamour, sophistication and creative imagery.
HEC 2015 in its rebirth embraces the best of these creative forces and energies. Yet it wraps the lure and aloha of Hawaii as a marketable signature.
As HEC consultant, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie heralds, “Having a premier international star like Catherine Deneuve accept an invitation to Hawaii makes a bold statement. It is genius.”
This is Deneuve’s first visit to the Islands and, according to Gey, “She is more excited about it than we are.” French understatement.
But Catherine the great is only part of HEC’s allure.
REAL TO REEL
Movie mavens will see nine acclaimed European releases in their Hawaii premieres at Consolidated Theatres Ward 16. All screenings are on weekends and free. Yes, free. (See sidebar.)
Gey, who as a child eagerly awaited Magnum P.I. on Sunday-night TV, lauds American filmmakers’ ability to inspire imagination and fantasy. He contrasts that with European films that tend to be realistic and profound.
“They make you think,” he says.
Among the festival films is Germany’s Victoria, starring Lala Costa and directed by Sebastian Schipper, a thriller shot in one take.
Also, Germay/United Kingdom/Romania’s documentary Chuck Norris vs. Communism looks at cultural isolation and ideological censorship behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s.
HEC vice president and film producer Chris Lee hails the caliber of films as well as the ongoing support the festival offers to young filmmakers as part of its community outreach.
“That is close to my heart,” says Lee, founder of University of Hawaii’s Academy for Creative Media.
CANNES ON KALAKAUA
The culmination of the film festival will be a black-tie awards gala Friday, Oct. 23, 5:30 p.m. to midnight at Victorian-designed Moana Surfrider in Waikiki.
Inspired by the red carpet arrivals and spirit of Cannes Film Festival, HEC will transform Kalakaua Avenue into a dazzling entry for gala guests and celebrities, including Ms. Deneuve.
HEC vice president and director of hospitality Kelly Sanders promises “the quintessential celebration of fine wine, cuisine, culture and films.”
Gey’s wife Marisa will walk the red carpet in a fetching Versace gown. Gey, in his characteristic slicked-back dark hair and black-rim glasses, also will be in Versace formal wear.
Gala tickets cost $150 per person and are available on the HEC website, hawaiieuropeancinema.org.
Lest we wonder about all the foreign sophistication and élan of this occasion, let us reflect on how Europeans influenced Hawaii’s history and diversity.
The 1778 arrival of British navigator Capt. James Cook was Hawaii’s first documented contact with European explorers. After Cook’s visit and the publication of books related to his voyages, the
Hawaiian Islands received many European visitors, seamen and traders.
In 1881, King David Kalakaua left Hawaii on a global trip to study how others ruled. He met many crowned heads of state, including monarchs of Italy, Germany and England. When he built Iolani Place, the only royal palace on American soil today, he furnished it with artifacts from Europe. He obviously possessed Gey’s eye for quality and beauty.
Thus, we add another page to Hawaii’s European cross-cultural script through this year’s HEC film festival. The preparations are done. The filmmakers and theater are braced for a landmark event. All it needs is you, the audience.
Lights, camera, action!
Hawaii European Cinema Films
Friday, Oct. 16:
directed by Roman Polanski, 2:45 p.m.
The Measure of a Man (France), 5:10 p.m.
Macbeth (France/U.K./USA), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 17:
Chuck Norris vs. Communism
(Germany/Romania/UK), 2 p.m.
Victoria (Germany), 4 p.m.
Solitary (U.K.), 7 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 18:
Sworn Virgin (Italy/Switzerland), 3 p.m.
Scusate Se Esisto! (Do You See Me?, Italy) 5 p.m.
The New Girlfriend (France), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 24:
Standing Tall (France)
starring Catherine Deneuve, 2 p.m.
All shows are free and have English subtitles. Available/empty seats at sold-out shows offered to rush-line customers five minutes prior to scheduled screening.
Seat reservations at hawaiieuropeancinema.org. Nominal processing fee.
PHOTOS BY NATHALIE WALKER