Hawaii International Film Festival executive director Robert Lambeth confirmed Wednesday that he will leave his post in 2017 to move to California and care for his ailing mother.
“My experience with HIFF has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Lambeth said by phone from Los Angeles. “It’s been challenging in all the right and fun ways. We have very solid plans for the future.”
Lambeth, 49, returned to HIFF in 2012 as the organization’s first deputy director after serving as a volunteer and neighbor island film coordinator in the 1990s. He replaced longtime HIFF board member Chuck Boller in 2014 when it was announced Boller would focus primarily on fundraising for the festival as director emeritus.
During the nearly three years with Lambeth at the helm, HIFF expanded its community outreach initiatives on Oahu — including the launch of Ebert’s Young Writers Program for the Arts in 2015 and Courtyard Cinema at Ward Village in 2013 — and made a return to the neighbor islands with new programming on Hawaii island and Kauai. Lambeth also ended a five-year partnership with EuroCinema Hawaii in 2015.
“I had three main objectives,” Lambeth said of his tenure as executive director. “One was to see HIFF through the recession, and my finance background certainly helped. We’ve also been able to really focus on supporting young filmmakers through our initiatives. And there’s our return to the neighbor islands; we have a very supportive community in Hilo and Kailua-Kona. And once the new theater gets built in Kailua on the north shore of Kauai, I fully expect HIFF to be there.
“By no means am I done with my vision, but I’m very pleased with what we’ve been able to achieve in such a short period of time.”
Lambeth said he will remain with HIFF through May, at which time he expects the festival’s executive board to have selected a replacement. While HIFF isn’t ready to announce its succession plans just yet, he said potential applicants have already expressed interest in the job.
“There’s a strong strategic transition plan already in place,” Lambeth said. “It’s not going to be hard to find someone who would like to take the reigns of HIFF and run with it. It will take the right individual to take HIFF to the next level and I’m confident we’re going to find someone.”
This year’s festival, which features 177 films from 41 countries and 19 world premiere screenings, will take place on Oahu from Nov. 3 through Nov. 13 before heading to Hawaii island and Kauai from Nov. 17 through Nov. 20. Visit hiff.org for more information.