Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Movies, movies, movies

HIFF marks three decades of movie festival madness on the island this year

By Gary C.W. Chun


It's a milestone year for the fan-favorite Hawaii International Film Festival. "HIFF 30" marks three decades' worth of unspooling stories for eager Honolulu audiences from around the world, and according to director of programming Anderson Le, there are even new things to look forward to when the fall fest kicks off next week.

Le — who's been with HIFF for 10 of its years — said he was most excited about the Sound x Vision section, which will include not only screenings, but a couple of panels and a live-music showcase downtown as well.

"Myself and (development director) Sarah Honda have been looking to create something that would converge different art forms, and since music is the strongest here in Hawaii, we thought it would make a good platform with film. Sarah and I went to the Tribeca Film Festival in the spring, and we wanted to bring a similar idea that we saw there of combining symposiums with a kind of retreat.

"Sound x Vision breaks down into three parts," he said. "The first part is the traditional film section. Of the five films in the section, I wanted to mention several in particular. One is 'Sound of Noise,' which I saw at Cannes this year. It's kind of like 'Stomp,' where a band of Swedish renegade drummers go head to head with a tone-deaf police investigator. It's a quirky and well-made film.


Where: Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18

When: Thursday through Oct. 24

Cost: $12 general and $10 military, seniors and students

Info: 792-1577 or


"There's also a double feature, 'Dogs in Space' and 'We're Livin' on Dog Food,' that documents the Melbourne, Australia, post-punk scene of the late 1980s. And we're also re-showing 'The Runaways' that will be followed with a conversation with the film's music supervisor, George Drakoulias, about building its soundtrack."

Sound x Vision's remaining parts include a panel discussion about getting original music into film and TV projects, and a special "speed dating" setup where a select group of local bands and composers will able to pitch and gain feedback, at a price, from invited mainland guests.

A combined video and live music showcase, free to the public, will also be held next Saturday night at NextDoor on Hotel Street.

ALSO NEW to the festival this year are a couple of showcases focusing on Persian and European cinema.

"Persian Lens focuses on four films from the Iranian diaspora, and it's funded by the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute. EuroCinema Hawaii is a festival within a festival, with eight titles and its own prizes." Its board of directors includes writer Jefferson Finney; Chris Lee, a movie producer and head of the University of Hawaii's Academy for Creative Media; and Princess Dialta Alliata di Montereale, whose name is attached to EuroCinema Hawaii's awards for best film, director, actor, actress and student film.

Le also pointed out that local and Pacific Rim films will make a particularly notable showing this year.

"In the Made in Hawaii section, we'll prominently show three narrative independent features — 'Ecila,' 'Get a Job' and 'One Kine Day' — that are all different in feel and nature. We're also going to have a seminar on Saturday, Oct. 23, called 'Indie Film Distribution 2.0: Is the Sky Falling for Hawaii Filmmaking?' that will talk about new methods of distribution to get your film out and new ways to monetize.

"And the Pacific Islanders in Communication Pacific Showcase is really strong, continuing the tradition of HIFF being the festival on record for films from the Pacific Rim. Two films that I like from that showcase include New Zealand's 'Boy' and 'Papa Mau: The Wayfinder,' a documentary on master navigator Mau Piailug, who unfortunately passed away this summer.

"Another similar film that is a Halekulani Golden Orchid Award documentary nominee is 'Under a Jarvis Moon,' the untold 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 and map work there."

Le also mentioned some special guests that have been confirmed for this year's HIFF, including "True Blood's" Ryan Kwanten, who will be attending the screening of his Australian feature "Red Hill," and festival favorite Zhang Yimou, who will be accompanied by the young leads of his latest feature, "Under the Hawthorn Tree," Dongyu Zhou and Xiao Dou.

ROGER EBERT, along with his wife, Chaz, will be making his long-anticipated return to the festival, where he'll be busy accepting the Vision in Film award; presenting the screening of his personal pick, the feature "Leaves of Grass," starring Edward Norton as twin brothers; and signing copies of his latest book, a cookbook titled "The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker."

Breakthrough Asian-American actress Nancy Kwan will be on hand to accept this year's Maverick award during the screening of the documentary "To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen's Journey," which tells of her 50 years in film and her influence.

Festival screenings start in earnest on Thursday, and here are Le's personal recommendations (for a complete schedule, go to or pick up a free copy of the festival guide at all L&L Hawaiian Barbecue locations, select Starbucks locations, Best Buy stores in Aiea and on Iwilei Road, and Wahoo's Fish Taco at the corner of Ward and Auahi):

» "Carancho" (7:15 p.m. Thursday and 3 p.m. next Friday): "A fantastic Argentinian film about an ambulance chaser who hangs out in a hospital emergency room that develops a relationship with a drug-addicted doctor and also uncovers a conspiracy. It's a great character drama."

» "Cold Weather" (7 p.m. next Friday and 12:30 p.m. Oct. 16): An indie feature that distinctly captures the flavor of life in Portland, Ore. A slacker moves back in his with more stable sister, tries to win back his girlfriend and thinks he's getting into a mystery involving a missing suitcase filled with cash.

» "Seesaw" (8 p.m. Oct. 15): A Halekulani Golden Orchid Award narrative feature nominee, it's a Japanese independent film shot on digital video that tells of the evolution of a young couple's relationship and how it breaks down. "There are spiritual tropes in this film, which has a very John Cassavetes feel to it because of its improvisatory nature," Le said.

» "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" (5:15 p.m. Oct. 16 and 9:15 p.m. Oct. 17): The latest film from popular Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul ("or just call me 'Joe,'" Le said), it's probably his most accessible movie but still filled with the dreamy and surrealistic scenarious "Joe's" films are known for. A terminally ill man goes back home where, after being visited by the ghost of his dead wife and a Yeti-like creature who is his lost son, he goes into the jungle, working through his past lives.

» "Thomas Mao" (4:30 p.m. Oct. 17): Another narrative feature award nominee, it's the sometimes surrealistic story of a backpack tourist from Germany who stays in a small inn in northern China run by an eccentric owner whom he can't communicate with because of their language differences.

» "The Housemaid" (8:30 p.m. Oct. 17 and 9:15 p.m. Oct. 18): Director Im Sang-soo's re-imagining of a popular 1960s Korean film and a commentary on the bourgeoisie. A young maid, accepting a job into a wealthy household, is seduced by the husband, who finds out the working-class girl is more than his match. "Im is a hot director who did the past festival favorite 'A Good Lawyer's Wife.' He's a master in depicting sexual politics and gender roles in modern society."

» "Machete Maidens Unleashed!" (10:15 p.m. Oct. 18): Part of the always edgy After Dark showcase, this is "a great documentary about the B-movies made in the Philippines during the 1970s and '80s," Le said. "They were mostly exploitation and midnight movies, with Weng Weng prominently featured, a Filipino little person who became a cult hero as a badass James Bond type who wears tuxedoes, knows kung fu and beds hot dames. Not to be missed."

» "The Leopard" (9:30 p.m. Oct. 21, screening at the Honolulu Academy of Arts' Doris Duke Theatre): The only film being shown out of competition as part of EuroCinema Hawaii, it's the restored 35 mm print of Luchino Visconti's sumptuous 1963 film starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon. An aging prince watches his culture and fortune wane in the face of a new generation. The film's restoration funding came from Gucci and Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation.

» "Regeneration" (6:30 p.m. Oct. 21 and 3 p.m. Oct. 23): A Halekulani Golden Orchid Award documentary nominee, "it's about the state of the youth generation of today who is basically apathetic to everything, more so than ever before," Le said. "It's a call to arms, with a round-table discussion and interviews with students combined with the reflections of activists of previous generations."

» "This Movie Is Broken" (7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 and 10:30 p.m. Oct. 23): Part narrative and part concert film, this Sound x Vision entrant is a simple love story about a young man's last chance to win the girl of his dreams by getting her tickets to see her favorite band, Broken Social Scene, in concert.

» "First Love" (4 p.m. Oct. 23 and 11:30 a.m. Oct. 24): Part of the expanded Surf Cinema showcase, "it's like a real-life 'Blue Crush,' but without the boy troubles," Le said. "Three Australian girls who live on a remote island dream of going to Hawaii to become professional surfers, until one of them becomes seriously injured."

» "To Live & Ride in L.A." (8:15 p.m. Oct. 23): Part of the eco-themed Green Screen showcase, a documentary about fixed-gear bike enthusiasts who travel down the busy streets and back alleys on the auto-centric SoCal city.

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