Tuesday, October 6, 2015         


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Roger Ebert: Winner of HIFF's Vision in Film Award

By Elizabeth Kieszkowski


As supporters of innovation in film and longtime friends of the Hawaii International Film Festival, esteemed film critic Roger Ebert and wife Chaz Ebert will receive HIFF's Vision in Film Award tonight before the 5:30 p.m. showing of an "Ebert's Pick" at the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 Theaters.

HIFF executive director Chuck Boller says, "Their visit is, to us, the true highlight of this year's event."

Roger Ebert last visited HIFF in 2005 for the film festival's 25th anniversary.

Tonight's screening features "Leaves of Grass," directed by Tim Blake Nelson, who stars along with Edward Norton, Susan Sarandon and Richard Dreyfuss.


All showings at Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 Theaters in Iwilei:

» "Kings of Pastry" (noon; Eat, Drink, Film): Documentary veterans D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus capture the high-stakes drama behind the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France pastry competition.

» "Echoes of the Rainbow" (3:30 p.m., Asian Showcase: Hong Kong Cinema): "The Soong Sisters" director Alex Law takes a nostalgic and semiautobiographical look at his childhood during the 1960s, as seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old. The period drama was an award winner at the Berlin Film Festival and is Hong Kong's entry into the Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film sweepstakes.

» "Thomas Mao" (4:30 p.m., Halekulani Golden Orchid Award: Narrative Feature Nominees): It's the sometimes surrealistic story of a backpacking tourist from Germany who stays in a small northern China town run by an eccentric owner with whom he can't communicate because of their language differences.

» "Monga" (6 p.m., Gala Presentations): Taiwan's entry for consideration for the Oscar Best Foreign Language Film, it depicts the troubled lives of five young street thugs coming of age in the 1980s as they do battle with rival gangs. (Also screens 3 p.m. tomorrow.)

» "Under a Jarvis Moon" (6 p.m., Halekulani Golden Orchid Award: Documentary Nominees): The little-known story of how the federal government sent a group of mostly Hawaiian men to occupy three coral islands in the South Pacific from 1935 to '42 to do scientific research and map work there. (Also 8:15 p.m. Friday.)

» "Son of Babylon" (6:30 p.m., HGO Award: Narrative Feature Nominees): Another Oscar entry, this Iraqi film tells the story of a willful boy who follows his grandmother in a journey across the country, the elder woman determined to discover the fate of her own missing son, who never returned from the Gulf War.

» "The Housemaid" (8:30 p.m., Asian Showcase: Spotlight on Korea): Festival film programmer Anderson Le likes this new film from the director of past favorite "A Good Lawyer's Wife," Im Sang-soo. An illustration of sexual politics and gender roles, a young maid accepts a job in a wealthy household and is seduced by the husband, who finds out the working-class girl is more than his match. (Also 9:15 p.m. tomorrow.)

Call 792-1577 or visit www.hiff.org.


Star-Advertiser TGIF Editor Elizabeth Kieszkowski interviewed Ebert via e-mail. Ebert lost his voice in 2006 after surgery for jaw cancer. For her appreciation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and other HIFF reports and reviews, go to www.honolulupulse.com.

Question: You seem so "present" in your writings. How do you connect with people to such an extent?

Answer: I suspect it's a matter of two things: 1. I write in the first person. It's me and my opinion. It's subjective. 2. I have a real sense of readers there. My blog is such a help. I read all the comments and respond to some, and that gives me a good feeling for who is reading. Sometimes in writing a sentence I may have a single reader in mind.

Q: On your blog, I came across your discussion about how video games cannot be art because, you argue, the outcome is too malleable. How have social media such as Twitter changed the way we watch movies?

A: I think when we watch a movie we still enjoy entering into the realm of the movie — its time, its place, its independence of us. For me, interactivity, as in video games, would be fatal to a film.

Q: Do you really dislike 3-D film?

A: Mostly. I admired "Avatar" and the new Werner Herzog 3-D film about cave paintings. In general, there is no purpose to 3-D. It is a distraction. The glasses are annoying. The new equipment has been paid for many times over, and it's still used as an excuse for a surcharge.

Q: How are you? Are you happy about the public interest in you and your place on the public stage?

A: I'm feeling fine and very productive. I'd be happier with my public role if I could speak, of course, but thank God I can write. The Internet has been a lifeline.

Q: What is your relationship with the Hawaii International Film Festival? Any thoughts about Hawaii?

A: I love Hawaii. Chaz and I and the grandkids have been for a week on two occasions, apart from the festival. I started attending HIFF when it was (under the wing of the East-West Center). Jeannette (Paulson Hereniko, founding director of HIFF) lured me aboard. Been coming on and off, I'm not sure, maybe 25 years.

Hawaii is a real place. Not the tourist brochures. I've made friends and found my way around on four islands.

Q: What are you excited about seeing this year at the festival?

A: I don't know, because I will discover films when I get there.

Q: What music are you listening to?

A: Right now, this very instant? R. L. Burnside singing "Nothin' Man."

Q: What recent films would you recommend?

A: "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right," "9500 Liberty," "A Small Act," "I Am Love," "Winter's Bone," "Solitary Man," "Mother."

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