The Hawaii International Film Festival has ended its partnership with EuroCinema Hawaii, the so-called "festival within a festival" that brought 59 films to the annual fall event over the last five years.
Patrick Gey, who was named president of the EuroCinema Hawaii Film Festival on Monday, said the decision was a surprise because his organization spent more than $125,000 sponsoring HIFF’s selection of European films during their partnership. Among them were 2012 Oscar winner "The Artist" and this year’s multiple Oscar nominee "The Imitation Game" starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which was screened at the 2014 festival.
"We were on very good terms so we were very surprised, shocked," Gey said Wednesday. "We have had five fabulous years and a great relationship. We never at any time had any reason to believe that this relationship would end."
Gey said EuroCinema organizers were notified in an email Jan. 28 but he had no explanation from HIFF Executive Director Robert Lambeth.
"That was their decision, which we don’t really understand," Gey said. "We had this wonderful relationship. We were able to bring some fabulous movies from Europe."
Lambeth, in a call from the Berlin International Film Festival on Wednesday, said HIFF had been negotiating with EuroCinema organizers since last fall and growth was a key discussion point.
"After four months of discussion, the decision was reached when we realized we could not logistically support what the EuroCinema Film Festival was going to need going forward," Lambeth said.
He said EuroCinema board member Princess Dialta Alliata di Montereale told him in September the partnership might not continue because EuroCinema wanted more support than HIFF could offer.
EuroCinema has grown from eight films in 2010 to a dozen last fall. Additional films are screened at HIFF’s spring showcase, Lambeth said.
HIFF curates the selections, books them and arranges for shipping and screening venues. Lambeth said EuroCinema wanted to add more films and have HIFF handle local ground transportation for its visiting delegates. He could not say how many additional films were discussed.
"It’s an enormous amount of human resources and money," Lambeth said.
EuroCinema earned its nickname because it presented European films that ran as part of the largely Asian- and Pacific-focused HIFF.
EuroCinema hopes to have its own festival in mid-October and continue hosting a red carpet gala at the Moana Surfrider, Gey said.
HIFF is tentatively scheduled for mid-November.