HIFF 1994

14th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival

November 4-17, 1994

Award Winners

First Hawaiian Bank Golden Maile Award for Best Narrative
Director: He Ping

First Hawaiian Bank Golden Maile Award for Best Documentary
Director: Gianfranco Rosi

Hawaii Film & Videomaker Award
Producer & Co-Director: Tom Coffman
Co-Director: Robert Bates

Special Jury Awards

Kodak Vision Award for Cinematography

1994 Program Book Cover

Opening Night

Director: Zhang Yimou
USA/Hong Kong/China 1994

World Premieres

International Premieres

1994 Festival Trailer

The 14 year old Hawai’i International Film Festival appears to be a permanent institution in Hawai’i. Yet the Festival exists this year only because Hawai’i’s people generously helped to redefine the non-profit organization.

After the November 1993 Festival and the NETPAC (Network for the International Promotion of Asian Cinema) international conference, Festival received international (and local) acclaim for its accomplishments. It appeared that we indeed had proven ourselves once and for all.

For example, the Ford Foundation matched an allocation we received from the 1993 Legislature so that the Festival could conduct an 11-city Mainland tour of the “Best of the Hawai’i International Film Festival” during the spring of 1994. We programmed movies in the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Asia Museum in San Francisco, the Anthology Film Archives in New York City and showcased Hawai’i and Asia-made films in Los Angeles and Century City to appreciative crowds. We not only promoted cultural understanding among the people of the Mainland about Asia, Pacific and Hawai’i through films, we also, thanks to a performing arts grant from Rockefeller, were able to feature the charismatic charm of Auntie Irmgard Farden Aluli and Puamana in hula, song and storytelling along with Meleanna Meyer’s film, PUAMANA. And we demonstrated the Festival’s cultural and visual educational project on CD-ROM and laser disc to crowds of enthusiastic educators throughout America. The Festival demonstrated to educators and leading communication leaders that Hawai’i can lead the way in creating multicultural educational tools utilizing the new technologies. Those of us who participated in the Mainland tour know that we strengthened Hawai’i’s important multicultural role in culture, arts and filmmaking.

Ironically, while 22 million people all over the world were reading about the enormous success of the Festival and the tour, in the closing hours of the 1994 session, the state Legislature cut the Festival’s funding by 60 percent from what it was last year. A few months later, the Festival’s founding institution, the East-West Center, cut their 13-year cash contribution to zero. These two decisions accounted for the fact that by the start of summer we had a serious financial problem and the 1994 Festival was in jeopardy.

This is the first time the public has heard about the cuts because the board and staff of the Festival made a deliberate decision not to go public and complain. Instead we decided to reinvent ourselves and let the public know only after we could also tell them that we have a dynamite 1994 Festival in place for them to enjoy. Now we can do just that.

We refocused and downsized, knowing exactly what we wanted to retain: To present culturally significant films from Asia, the Pacific and North America for the masses of people in Hawai’i. We were bullish in protecting the Festival’s year-round educational program for Hawai’i’s secondary school students. We wanted to remain on top of examining the impact of the new technologies because we firmly believe Hawai’i’s role in the international community is wedded to the new opportunities in the superhighways.

We decided to present a somewhat smaller Festival with fewer films, but to enforce even higher standards of selection. We call it “only the best”. We selected less than one-tenth of all the films submitted to us, and invited only one-third of the number of international filmmakers and press people as we did last year. Alas, because the state Legislature cut out all the money funding our efforts to attract tourists, we eliminated all packaging and promoting of tourism surrounding the Festival.

We desperately wanted to keep the Festival free to al the people – not only for philosophical reasons, but also for practical reasons. If we even charge $2.00 a ticket, we have to print, inventory and distribute thousands of tickets statewide, pay film rentals, royalties and taxes and hire bookkeepers and box office managers. In the last analysis, the option of charging a nominal fee per ticket did not prove to be cost effective.

So we revamped the HIFF Ohana, a film society where the more you contribute to the Festival the more tickets and invitations to special events you get. HIFF Ohana members also get first choice of Festival movie tickets by receiving the Festival schedule and program guide first, with the ability to order their tickets by mail. We still offer free tickets to those willing to take their chances on getting a ticket the day of the screenings. And sites screening documentaries, for the most part, are still free and do not require tickets.

Roger and Chaz Ebert responded immediately, not only by contributing cash to become HIFF Ohana benefactors, but volunteering to be honorary co-chairmen of the HIFF Ohana – even agreeing to visit Maui to help build the HIFF Ohana there.

The community responded beyond our wildest dreams. By summer’s end, we sold out of HIFF Ohana memberships and had to add a second tier. Organized by Puchi Romig and Robin Craver, HIFF Ohana board members came into our offices and filed, answered phones, wrote letters, prepared mass mailings and produced a stunning September party recognizing the work of actor Jason Scott Lee.

During the summer of 1994, the board of directors organized their first Development Committee. Under the inspirational leadership of Art Gordon and Don Carroll, board members Jack Tsui, Dick Schaller and Vi Loo raised more money from private corporations and foundations than ever before in our 14-year history. At the same time the city and county of Honolulu and the County of Maui increased their financial support, ensuring and strengthening the film screening programs within their entities. And, thanks to Oceanic Cablevision, we created a Pay-Per-View segment of the Festival for people who want to see great movies from Asia and the Pacific in the comfort of their living room on cable television. If this is well received by the public, this may become a permanent attraction.

We also gained a nurturing step-father – the staff and principals of Ogilvy & Mather. They became our landlords and confidante extraordinaire as we marketed the Festival’s new direction to the people of Hawai’i and the international film community.

The collaboration between just ordinary folks from Hawai’i and Festival organizers has been successful – and lots of fun.

Although we cannot count on consistent major government subsidies in Hawai’i, we can and must always count on our freedom to select and screen films presenting a minority viewpoint that invites debate and, hopefully, understanding. Freedom to select films that reflect our own society – even if the images reflected upset us. For example, this year, with the notable exception of films from India, many of the films seem to have a tough edge to them, featuring distant characters who often turn violent. Personally, I am uncomfortable watching images of violence, but I have nevertheless programmed them. I recognize this trend in 1994 produced films may just be a wake-up call to what is happening all around us. Courageous filmmakers have the power to turn us around if we will but pay attention.

Although film festivals throughout America are guaranteed freedom to screen films offering all points of view, few film festivals in America are so widely embraced by the generosity and response of the people they serve as has been the 14th Hawai’i International Film Festival. The board, the HIFF Ohana, the corporate sponsors and foundations, the volunteers, the audiences – and the taxpayers of Hawai’i – have made the 14th film festival a reality.

We are humbled by and grateful for the outpouring of support from Hawai’i’s people. Now it is our privilege to give you a truly People’s Film Festival – the 1994 Hawai’i International Film Festival – which shines like a brilliant diamond and is ready once more for your participation. Mahalo a nui, Hawai’i. Enjoy.

Jeannette Paulson,
Festival Co-founder and Director