By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Big Island premiere of the film “Strange Frame: Love & Sax” is tonight at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theater in downtown Hilo.
The animated sci-fi fantasy is directed by Wailea resident GB Hajim, who co-wrote the script with Shelley Doty, and the work was done in East Hawaii. The film, which made its debut in London last May, has been a hit with critics and sci-fi fans at various film festivals worldwide and was named Best Feature at Dragon Con Film Festival in Atlanta, the largest fan-run festival in the world.
“We’ve screened it in London and Ireland; it screens in Australia next month and Zurich,” Hajim said. “It’s screened in six or seven cities across America, and three times in Seattle.”
The story explores the transformative power of love between two women in the 28th century on Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons. The protagonist, Naia, is a feisty young singer-songwriter and indentured slave who falls in love with beautiful saxophonist Parker. The two fight to make it as musicians, as well as for their freedom.
The independent release has been billed as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film. While it’s not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America, if it were, Hajim estimates it “would probably be a hard PG-13.”
“There are sexual things and drug use, but it’s not really violent,” he said. “We might bring our 8-year-old, because we don’t think the sexual themes are that strong, and there’s drug use, but it’s portrayed in a negative light.”
The characters are voiced by a host of well-known actors, including Tim Curry as the villainous Dorlan Mig. Naia is voiced by Tara Strong, while Claudia Black is the voice of Naia. Others in the cast include Michael Dorn, George Takei, Ron Glass, Cree Summer, Dawnn Lewis, plus archival footage featuring the late Lena Horne.
Hajim, who also teaches art at Hawaii Community College, went to the local schools to find artists to train in computer animation and used their talents to help make the film.
“We had about 40 different youth from the islands go through either a full internship or a personal internship,” he said. “Some of them came through the Hui ‘Ana mentorship program, some of them I got directly from the (high) schools, and some came from Hawaii Community College, as well. I’m happy to say that 100 percent of our former interns went on to college and most of them have graduated since then, and I think that says a lot about the inspiration that this mentorship program gives.
“… I kept the production here because I want to build the local capacity for film production. So coming out (to see the film) is not just supporting this individual production, but proving that we don’t have to be Hollywood’s back lot; we can be our own front lot. And I hope this film is a step in that direction.”
Hajim said that while the awards and accolades are great, the response to the film by the viewers has been especially gratifying.
“When I screened the film at DragonCon, there was a question-and-answer session afterwards, the first woman stood up, and she was really young, and she said, ‘I’m a lesbian and you don’t know how much it means to me that you made this film,’” he said. “She was crying and it brought me to tears. “This film gives heroes to people who don’t have their own Luke Skywalker. I think it’s very special that way, yet it works for a general audience, as our awards and accolades have shown.”
Doors and the box office open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 general, $7 students and seniors, $6 stars of the Palace.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.