Going Straight To Rainbow Film Fest

Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker in a scene from ‘Cloudburst’. Photo from Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival

They are opposites in every way. One is rough, gruff and bullish. The other softer … and legally blind. They’ve been together for 31 years and now they want to make the ultimate commitment. And here’s the twist: They are lesbians, desperate to marry before they die. But that’s not legal in the United States, so they break out of their nursing home and make a run for it – to Canada.

That’s the basis for the movie Cloudburst – the featured film on opening night of the 23rd annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival. It stars a couple of acting heavyweights, Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck, Steel Magnolias) and Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot). It’s a comedy, it’s a romance, and the fact that these women are lesbians matters. It matters a lot, because their plight illustrates a universal truth: Love transcends all.

Brent Anbe, 32, is the Rainbow Festival director and he’s got a message for you. You are welcome no matter where you stand on the Kinsey Scale of sexual identity. The Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival isn’t just for the LGBT community. It’s for all people – gay, straight and everyone in between – who love movies.

Of course, most of the films are gay-centric, but the themes are about love, life and relationships. Like all good films, they strive to celebrate insight, adventure and diversity. They have heroes and villains, characters you’ll identify with and characters you’ll hate. In the end, the films delve into what brings us together, not what sets us apart.

“That’s another thing we’re trying to do with the festival,” says Anbe. “Earlier on it was insulated, just for LGBT. Now there are fresh new stories with a new generation of filmmakers. New story lines, not just the typical boy-meets-boy story line or coming out of the closet, because there has been progression in that. These are stories that have not been told. I think they’re very refreshing.”

Along with viewing the feature films and full-length documentaries, you’ll be able to meet and mingle with directors, writers and actors, and take part in several workshops. There’s also a sneak peek at a local documentary called The Glades Project in the short films portion of the festival, playfully called Fruit Punch. People of a certain age will remember The Glades, a club in old Chinatown that was home to the most beautiful mahus in the Islands, including the infamous Prince Hanalei with his twirling tassels. It was gender-bending drag culture at its best. The discovery of this colorful part of Honolulu history surprised and delighted Anbe.

“There’s actual footage of inside The Glades show lounge. That was before my generation, and for me to know that that already existed, it was very eye-opening for me. I kinda feel like it’s conservative here in Hawaii, but that was happening in the ’60s and ’70s.”

Anbe has high hopes for what is essentially a small, four-day boutique film festival. He’d like to see it grow into a destination festival some day, one that draws filmmakers and viewers from all over the world. But that takes more in the way of resources than the small volunteer staff he has available right now. So he’s happy with what they are accomplishing.

“We do give the community here in Hawaii the opportunity to see films they would not normally have access to,” he says.

Anbe’s biggest hope is that the Rainbow Film Festival will help integrate the straight and LGBT communities by presenting stories and themes that everyone can identify with. It’s a matter, he says, of breaking down barriers.

“You don’t know what you don’t see. When you do see things on screen you realize that’s no big deal, or, I can relate to that. You can relate to the emotions and feelings.” No labels, please, Anbe says. It’s not a matter of being gay or being straight. “It’s being human.”

The 23rd annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival runs from May 31 to June 3 at Doris Duke Theatre. For trailers and additional information, go to hglcf.org.