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HIFF award goes to ‘Thor’ director Waititi


    HIFF award-winner Bill Pullman and Tommy Flanagan in a scene from “The Ballad of Lefty Brown.”

The Hawaii International Film Festival, returning for its 37th annual event Nov. 2-19, has announced its award honorees.

New this year is an award presented to Taika Waititi, the director of highly anticipated Hollywood tentpole film “Thor: Ragnarok,” which opens nationwide Nov. 3; Waititi, a Maori director and New Zealander, will receive the inaugural HIFF Pacific Islanders In Communications Trailblazer Award.

The Trailblazer Award is earmarked for a filmmaker of Pacific Islander heritage “who broadens the scope of Pacific Islander stories onto the world stage, producing award winning work in independent and global cinema,” HIFF announced. Waititi, a Maori director, has worked largely in New Zealand, drawing global attention for his dramedy “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (a HIFF film in 2016) and vampire spoof “What We Do In The Shadows” (2014).

“Taika Waititi is a rockstar, plain and simple,” said Anderson Le, HIFF co-director of programming. “A multihyphenate wunderkind.”

BILL PULLMAN has been recognized with the Halekulani Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to an artist in recognition of longstanding dedication to the craft of filmmaking.

“Bill Pullman is one of the greatest character actors, gracing our screens over four decades. He’s done it all, from the Mel Brooks spoof ‘Spaceballs’ to portraying the U.S. President (in ‘Independence Day’),” said HIFF Executive Director Beckie Stocchetti.

Pullman stars as a legendary cowboy’s sidekick who is pushed into the limelight in his latest film, “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” a Gala Presentation at HIFF on Nov. 11 with Pullman in attendance.

MASATO HARADA, a renowned Japanese director, producer and actor, receives the Halekulani Golden Maile Career Achievement Award, recognizing a worldwide acclaim for contributions to filmmaking

“Harada has a long history with HIFF,” said Anna Page, co-director of programming. “We have screened many of his films over the years, from ‘Spellbound’ (1999) to ‘The Emperor in August’ (2015). Mr. Harada’s films are meticulously crafted, and he is able to draw out powerful performances from his actors, including Japanese star Koji Yakusho (HIFF 2012 Career Achievement Award recipient). … His films are also a broad spectrum of genres that are particularly Japanese in culture and feel.”

Harada’s latest film is “Sekigahara,” a historical costume epic that depicts one of the most famous battles in Japanese history. Harada will attend the U.S. premiere on Nov. 9.

SIMON BAKER, an Australian actor and filmmaker, is being presented with the Halekulani Maverick Award, recognizing his “unique and eclectic career trajectory.” Baker has appeared in films including “The Devil Wears Prada,” and is most well known for his TV role as “genius sleuth” Patrick Jane in “The Mentalist.”

Simon’s directorial feature debut “Breath” is based on an award-winning coming-of-age novel, set in 1970s Australia; it is the HIFF Centerpiece Gala, screening on Nov. 8 and again Nov. 11. “It is a stunning, heartfelt film, and we look forward to Simon’s future work as a director,” said Stocchetti.

THE FESTIVAL will also present inaugural Made in Hawaii Feature Film and Short Film awards, sponsored by the Hawaii Film Office.

“HIFF is proud to restructure our competition program to spotlight Hawaii’s unique and important way of life with authentic and entertaining stories,” said Stocchetti.

This year’s honorees will be honored in a formal Awards Gala hosted by Halekulani Corporation, HIFF’s presenting sponsor, on Nov. 10. Other awards presented Nov. 10 will include the NETPAC Award, sponsored by the international Network for the Promotion of Asian-Pacific Cinema, a Short Film Award, and the Audience Choice Award.

HIFF takes place from Nov. 2-12, in Honolulu, with films screening at the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 theaters, and Nov. 16-19 on Kauai and the Big Island. Films from approximately 45 countries across Asia, the Pacific and North America will screen during the festival, with an anticipated 50,000 attendees.

Get more information on films and events at

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