Categorized | Agriculture, Featured

Big Island expert to appear in ‘The Fruit Hunters’ film

Ken Love and Bill Pullman share durian fruit on the set. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Beittel)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

If you are filming a movie about exotic fruits and one of the locations is the Big Island, you’re going to need Ken Love.

The Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers president served as tour guide and showed off the island’s fanciful fruits during this month’s week-long shoot for ‘The Fruit Hunters.’

Starring actor and fruit activist Bill Pullman, the documentary is based on the book of the same name by Adam Leith Gollner that explores the cultural and historical impacts of fruit and spotlights the passion that fruit ignites in the heart of fanatics around the world.

Chinese-Canadian director Yung Chang – best known for the award-winning ‘Up the Yangtze’ – has taken the crew to a host of locations that span the globe – from Italy to Honduras and from Florida to California.

When the EyeSteelFilm crew met Love this summer at a mango festival in Florida, they made plans to come to the Big Island and even extended their stay several days to better capture the island’s bounty.

Ken Love, Bill Pullman and film crew at farmer Dick Kuehner's orchard. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Beittel)

Filming took place Oct. 21-26 at the West Hawaii culinary school, Dick Kuehner’s orchard near Kealakekua Bay, The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Keauhou Farmers’ Market and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Love said he is always happy to share his knowledge about fruit and is especially delighted the documentary will feature the Big Island.

“This will help ingrain Hawaiian agriculture, especially tropical fruit, to people everywhere,” he said. “This film can highlight some of our hidden resources, not only in terms of fruit we grow but also in terms of what we have like the incredible symbiotic relationships between farmers and chefs; small ‘local only’ and boutique wholesalers. The Big Island doesn’t get a lot of credit for what it does. For example, Chef James Babian at the Four Seasons is buying locally from 160 growers.”

That’s a key ingredient, Love said.

“We just have so much going for us and I want the world to know. I want us to build on it,” he said. “This film is spreading the message.”

Director Yung Chang recalls longing as a boy to someday find durian fruit in his hometown of Toronto, Canada. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Beittel)

Love said he hopes the film will open up the world of fruit to a younger audience that will seek out what is available locally.

“It bothers me that our schools serve tasteless rock-hard apples instead of fresh local fruit that the kids love. My wife sees the waste when she’s teaching and knows what the kids like,” Love said. “They rather have a rambutan or lychee or piece of mango or even jaboticaba than something like an apple or dry peach.”

Love’s appreciation of fruit is shared by actor Bill Pullman, who is in the process of creating a community orchard and kitchen in Los Angeles.

Pullman, who has tended his own patches of land on and off since he was a teenager and currently has a 110-tree orchard in California, said he was eager to learn Hawaii’s history of agriculture and farming.

“I don’t know that much. I’m more of an erratic hobbiest,” Pullman said. “I’ve had disasters. What excites me about Hawaii is the perspective about what it takes to live right off the land. It’s opened up a lot of thoughts about living locally on an island.”

Familiar to movie lovers for his roles in such films as ‘Independence Day,’ ‘While You Were Sleeping’ and ‘Lake Placid,’ Pullman said he was smitten when he read ‘The Fruit Hunters.’

“It’s a densely articulated love story about fruit. It became a meditation for me,” he said. “In a way, it’s outed me. I’m in two worlds – agriculture and film.”

Director Yung Chang is flanked by crewmen Tod Van Dyk and Mark Ellam. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Beittel)

It didn’t take more than one phone call from director Chang for Pullman to commit to the documentary.

“There are cliches of what movie people should be. It’s more the material side of man, but this felt like the ultimate manly endeavor,” he said. “Documentary films have different laws than feature films. Sometimes you don’t know if you are drawn to the film or the film draws you in.”

The timing was serendipitous, Pullman said, as it coincided with a new project in his Los Angeles neighborhood. He and his neighbors are working to buy a small parcel of vacant land on a Hollywood ridgeline, which they will plant and harvest. The produce then will be offered to people in need through a community kitchen.

“I feel kind of anonymous in the agricultural business,” he said. “But I have a great sense of being part of a league of people who enjoy it. It doesn’t feel faddish. I want people to celebrate this. It’s going to be a wild, fantastic trip to bring people into it.”

Pullman said he realizes the community orchard and kitchen project will need help from experts like Love.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge. Ken has been a lightning rod, a gift. He has an incredible interest in it,” Pullman said. “I’m learning so much every day here. I have to put on my hyper-jets just to keep up.”

Filming at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Beittel)

For his part, Love said it always comes back to sharing.

“My thing is to perpetuate the love of fruit. It’s great to have a new friend and to bond over fruit,” he said. “The focus is the fruit, not the movie.”

Still, Love sees the film as a great opportunity to further his work to protect the island’s agricultural legacy and build a solid agricultural community for all crops.

“Hopefully, more people will want to come to the Big Island and that can only help local farmers,” he said. “The bottom line is making farming profitable. That’s essential.”

The film, which has a budget of about $1 million, is set for a theatrical release toward the end of 2012. A special screening in West Hawaii also may be scheduled.

— Find out more:
Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers: www.hawaiitropicalfruitgrowers…

Ken Love talks about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (Photo courtesy of Lynn Beittel)

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