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Kilauea Volcano will play a leading role at the Hawaii International Film Festival

Kilauea Volcano will play a leading role at the Hawaii International Film Festival
"Stoke," a film that uses Hawaii Island's lava fields and volcano to tell its story, will debut at the Hawaii International Film Festival on Nov. 10, (Larkin Pictures)

The Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii Island plays a starring role in the movie “Stoke,” which visitors and locals can see when it debuts at the Hawaii International Film Festival on Nov. 10. The film tells the story of an L.A. tourist and her wannabe guides who go off sightseeing and find themselves mesmerized by the power of Kilauea.

It was shot in 2017, before Kilauea’s violent eruptions and quakes that started May 3 and lasted three months. The plot taps into the experience many travelers feel on a first visit to Hawaii when they encounter nature at its most extreme.

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Caitlin Holcombe plays Jane, a privileged lawyer from L.A., who arrives at Kilauea Volcano on vacation. The lava flow behind the actress is real.; it was filmed in 2017 before the major eruptions this summer.
Caitlin Holcombe plays Jane, a privileged lawyer from L.A., who arrives at Kilauea Volcano on vacation. The lava flow behind the actress is real.; it was filmed in 2017 before the major eruptions this summer. (Larkin Pictures)

“Sometimes they don’t realize they’re coming here to be humbled, but that’s ultimately what happens when they arrive,” said co-director Zoe Eisenberg.

In “Stoke,” the tourist, Jane, goes from Kailua-Kona on the west side of Hawaii Island to the lava fields nearly 100 miles away. The volcano that leaves her awestruck in the movie also provided amazing lava-viewing opportunities in real life last spring.

A river of lava flows to the sea on July 27.
A river of lava flows to the sea on July 27. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Kilauea also destroyed roughly 800 homes, not far from where Eisenberg lives. This led the writer-producer to worry about how locals would react to the film, her fourth.

“We actually did a test screening, specifically inviting residents of Puna,” she said. “Some had lost their homes in the flow. So we invited a lot of people who had been directly impacted by the volcano to see how they would react to it. The reaction was really positive. They were really moved by it because of the way the story mirrors what happened.”

The volcano’s eruptions from May to August lured some tourists to Hawaii Island to witness them firsthand, but far more stayed away. The Hawaii Tourism Authority blamed a 14% drop in visitor arrivals and spending in September on misperceptions about the distance of resort areas of the island from the volcano.

A scientist observes the eruption from Kilauea Volcano's Fissure 8 on July 22.
A scientist observes the eruption from Kilauea Volcano's Fissure 8 on July 22. (U.S. Geological Survey)

“Stoke” will have its first public screening at 8:15 p.m. Nov. 10 with a second showing at noon Nov. 11, both at the Regal Dole Cannery in Honolulu. The movie also will be shown at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at the historic Hilo Palace Theater on Hawaii Island.

In all, over nearly four weeks, more than 185 films from 35 countries will be screened on four islands. Check out the film festival’s schedule, which Includes movies and related events Nov. 8-18 on Oahu, Nov. 15-18 on Kauai, and Nov. 29-Dec. 2 on Hawaii and Maui.

Tickets cost $10 for matinees and $14 for shows starting after 5 p.m. Passes good for all festival events cost $400.

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