August 21st, 2014
It’s a little difficult for me to wrap my mind around the idea that I’ve known Chris Kahunahana for nearly a decade.
But what isn’t hard to believe at all is his story of leaving the nightly grind of running a nightclub in Chinatown and returning to his passion for independent filmmaking.
When Kahunahana opened Nextdoor in 2005 with Miguel Innes and Sergio Goes, the 4,000-square-foot space on Hotel Street had aspirations of being much more than just a bar with (lots of) room to move.
I remember meeting him back then and feeling the excitement he had for what he and his partners rightly saw as the dawn of a new era in the neighborhood.
“Like Hong Kong and Berlin, we’re going to be in line as one of the next cities that provide quality entertainment,” he told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin back then. “Using this space, we want to book everything, not just DJs. We’re going for an eclectic mix. Whatever entertainment is being presented, it will create the space at (Nextdoor).”
Over the next eight years, Kahunahana worked tirelessly to make Nextdoor the destination he dreamed of, despite the departure of Innes as a business partner and Goes’ sudden death in a diving accident in 2008. New partners came and went, but he was the consistent face of the club, doing whatever it took to keep the doors open for his friends and loyal customers.
UPON HIS departure from Nextdoor in 2013, Kahunahana disappeared for a bit to collect himself and reset his focus. While fellow Chinatown entrepreneur Daniel Gray stepped up to take over following the closure of his own spot, SoHo Mixed Media Bar, earlier in the year, Kahunahana was content to lay low for a bit.
He resurfaced a few months later as part of a new artistic collective, 4th World Film, with plans to release a short film called “Lāhainā Noon.” He was also selected to participate as a fellow in this year's Sundance Institute Native Lab, which opened him up to new perspectives on filmmaking and provided the motivation to return home and do some serious work behind the camera.
“I don’t sleep much,” Kahunahana, 43, joked during a phone call on Tuesday. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s cool though. I can’t complain.”
With all the filming complete, “Lāhainā Noon” is more than halfway finished but still needs multiple revisions before 4th World submits it for consideration to the Sundance Film Festival. Kahunahana also hinted at a potential Hawaii premiere during a certain annual fall film festival, but noted any official announcement now would be premature.
“I’d say we’re 75 percent done with 60 percent of the movie,” he said with a laugh. “We shot it all, edited it and stuck a bunch of sound on it. Now we’re taking away and adding more at the same time.
“Luckily with festivals, you submit a rough edit. It doesn’t have to be completely done. We’ll stop working on it when we have to turn it in (for Sundance).”
AS KAHUNAHANA continues to edit his film, 4th World will host a pair of public events in conjunction with a Kickstarter fundraising campaign that launches Thursday and was selected as an official Staff Pick within 10 minutes of being submitted to the site (the campaign had raised nearly $5,000 of its $8,000 goal by noon Thursday).
The first event is an Investors and Filmmakers Cocktail Meet and greet from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Bevy, 661 Auahi Street. Kahunahana and “Lāhainā Noon” assistant director Joseph Pa’ahana will be on hand to discuss the film and screen select scenes, with Grey Goose-hosted cocktails by barman Christian Self and music by DJs Timo and Mr. Nick. Admission is $25; only 50 seats are available.
Starting at 10 p.m. Aug. 28, a Friends of “Lāhainā Noon” party will take place at Manifest, 32 N. Hotel St. Once again, Grey Goose will provide the complimentary drinks, with DJs Delve and SuperCW keeping the party going until 2 a.m. Guests will be able to mingle with the cast and crew, watch behind-the-scenes footage from the film and even hear some of the soundtrack performed live. There’s no cover charge for the party, but donations will be accepted at the door.
“It’s not done yet, so any feedback we get is good and gives us an opportunity to keep working on stuff,” Kahunahana said. “I went into this project just trying to do my film. I’m not trying to do anybody else’s film.
“I’m trying to do something more in a classic filmmaking style. I want to make beautiful pictures and make people think about them. I hope that people walk away and have to think about this film.”
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter and Google+.