HIFF 1995

15th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival

November 3-16, 1995

Award Winners

First Hawaiian Bank Golden Maile Award for Best Narrative
Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien

First Hawaiian Bank Golden Maile Award for Best Documentary
Director: Vincent Monnikendam

Hawaii Film & Videomaker Award
Director: Eddie Kamae

Special Jury Award
RICE PEOPLE – Rithy Panh
THE SQUARE – Zhang Yuan/Duan Jinchuan

Kodak Vision Award for Cinematography

Vision in Film

1995 Program Book Cover

Opening Night

Director: Ann Hui
Hong Kong 1995

World Premieres

United States Premieres

1995 Festival Trailer


The windows of the world were opened a little wider when movies were invented by the Lemelle Bothers one hundred years ago. We are celebrating the glorious history of film during the 1995 Hawaii International Film Festival in several ways. Starting in the fall, the Festival co-sponsored classes on American and Asian film history with the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Hawai’i. We have brought some of the world’s leading experts on these subjects to Hawai’i. From London, Tony Rayns, international film critic for Sight and Sound; Tokyo-based film critic Donald Richie, and New Delhi’s Aruna Vasudev, editor of Cinemaya, Asia’s foremost film journal. Hawai’i residents have had a rare opportunity to hear these three authorities as well as learn the insights of Patricia King Hanson, American film historian and author associated with the American Film Institute. Ms. Hanson will also host a screening of the classic 1915 recently-preserved silent film, THE CHEAT starring Sessue Hayakawa, at noon on Sunday, November 5 at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

15 Years in Hawai’i

Fifteen years ago, a small handful of people believed that a Film Festival could survive in Hawai’i. There were ten times as many cynics as there were believers. It was the people of Hawai’i who were intrigued by the Festival’s concept: “When Strangers Meet”, and welcomed an opportunity to see movies from Asia and the Pacific made by people from that area. Films were selected that would bring people together in discussion about the cultural significance of the films, rather than debating the artistic or technical aspects. In 1981, four films were shown at the Varsity Theater – all for free: COMING HOME from USA; GIAJIN from Brazil; ROMANCE ON LU SHON MOUNTAIN from China; and SONS FOR THE RETURN HOME from New Zealand. The East-West Center sponsored the Festival by giving Dr. Tom Jackson and me a salary for four months to organize it – but no money for operating costs. On hindsight it was a blessing that Tom and I were forced to go out to the community searching for volunteers and funding. We met Art Gordon who loved the concept and gave the Festival the Varsity – for free; Gordon Henschall donated rooms at the Hyatt Regency; Jack and Marie Lord gave us their active support and a check for $5,000 becoming our first HIFF ‘Ohana members; the Hawai’i Committee for the Humanities gave us a grant for $33,000 to pay for after-film discussions, a publication and film shipping costs; Hollywood Producer Alan Carr and his Australian friend Olivia Newton-John organized a “sold-out” fundraiser for the Festival at Sea Life Park; and extraordinary volunteers took care of the logistics. 15 years later the Festival still exists because Hawai’i’s private businesses, government agencies, foundations, volunteers and individual cash contributions contribute to make this once-a-year miracle repeat year after year.

Although the East-West Center ceased major support in 1990 and sponsorship of the Festival in 1994, the Festival as an independent non-profit organization has remained true to its founding mission: To promote cultural understanding among the people of Asia, the Pacific and North America through the presentation of outstanding movies from the area. I believe that this clear focus is what is responsible for the Festival distinguishing itself throughout the world. There are hundreds of film festivals in the world today. But Hawai’i has the only one where films from Asia, Pacific and North America are selected for cultural significance – and shown for FREE!

Fifteen years ago, on the first day of the Festival, there were lines around the Varsity Theater block. Ordinary people -not necessarily film buffs- but 3,500 grass-root people from all walks of life who came to the Varsity Theater to see movies they couldn’t see anywhere else. We predict over 50,000 people will come to 24 locations throughout Hawai’i fifteen years later.

The Zhang Yimou Retrospective

One of the highlights in the Festival’s fifteen year history came in 1985 when two young filmmakers from People’s Republic of China flew in for the Festival. it was their first airplane trip to an international festival outside of China. One we honored as recipient of the prestigious Eastman Kodak Cinematography Award for this brilliant original cinematic style demonstrated in the film, THE YELLOW EARTH. The other filmmaker from China was the film’s director, Chen Kaige. The young gifted cinematographer was Zhang Yimou. THE YELLOW EARTH won the Hawai’i International Film Festival’s Award for Best Film of 1985.

In 1988, Zhang Yimou came back to Hawai’i. This time he attended the Festival as the lead actor in a Xian film studio produced film, OLD WELL. Later the Berlin International Film Festival would award him Best Leading Actor for his role in OLD WELL. Hawai’i audiences loved the film and embraced the multi-talented actor.

The Festival files still have Zhang Yimou’s speech notes, written in Chinese, on cinematography that he gave in 1985. We have photos from both early appearances showing a young, unassuming and appreciative “fifth generation” filmmaker. Today he is a distinguished and accomplished director whose work is known and honored throughout the world. (The Jury Prize in Cannes and the Golden Bear at the Berlin Festival to name just two awards.) He creates film in consensus with his crews and actors. He knows how to make his visual vision burst in color and images that play over and over in the viewer’s mind. He presents the truth about life in China through storytelling about ordinary yet extraordinary people. He has redefined what the world thinks of when they think of films made in China. He has made an impact upon the entire hundred year old history of movie-making. If film historians were to name the great directors alive in the world today, he would surely appear on most lists. Despite all the honors Zhang Yimou has received at Cannes and throughout the world, he continues to hold the Hawai’i International Film Festival close in his heart. Responding to the festival’s invitation to come to Hawai’i this year, he wrote,

Thank you very much for your support and interest in myself, my works and the Chinese film industry…In your invitation, you mentioned our introductory meeting in Hawai’i. It was like yesterday. I remember it very well. It was that time when I received first international recognition for Best Picture, YELLOW EARTH. The Hawai’i International Film Festival is so special to me. …

Therefore, it is a great honor, and quite appropriate, that the Hawai’i International Film Festival honor Zhang Yimou this year with the Festival’s Vision in Film Award and present his first retrospective. I am particularly grateful to Zhou Chuanji, Zhang Yimou’s film professor at Beijing Film Academy for writing such a fabulous article on Zhang Yimou for this Festival program. It is full of important historical insight. If you read but one article in the Festival Program this year, make it Professor Zhou Chuanji’s.

This Year’s Films

For a decade, the Festival has been well known for presenting an array of outstanding Chinese films and this year is no different. Films from China and Hong Kong are joined by the first feature film made by a Singaporean, Director Eric Khoo, who visited Hawai’i in 1991, with his short film classic, “Barbie Digs G.I. Joe”. Audiences may want to compare the work of two brothers from the People’s Republic of China who are debuting as feature film directors. University of Hawai’i Ph.D. theater graduate, Sherwood Hu, directs WARRIOR LANLING that tells a psychological myth while his brother, Xue Yang Hu, who stayed in China, directs and stars in a low budget film with contemporary social-economic themes – DROWNING.

Films from India and Japan have provided the most surprises this year. You can’t generalize about the slow, deliberate pacing of India movies this year. For example, India filmmaker Dev Benegal demonstrates a rare cinematic sense of humor and cynicism in ENGLISH, AUGUST. The movie BOMBAY is controversial in India, but it has the entertainment value of a WEST SIDE STORY to western audiences. The movie crosses over in genre and offers audiences something all together new from the country that makes more movies than any place in the world.

Independent filmmakers from Japan have emerged with verve, courage and excellence this year. I think that 1995 is the strongest year for Japan independent filmmakers in over a decade. Young filmmakers have mastered the filmmaking skills and found the money to make strong cinematic statements about communicating in close relationships. Most of the young new directors may be making movies about contemporary issues, but the message is delivered in traditional Ozu-like style. It is also interesting to note that one of Japan’s largest studios, Shochiku, is bravely becoming involved in co-productions that may realize a small world-wide profit, but are artistically and historically important. We are screening such an example: Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s masterpiece, GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN is produced by Shochiku. No large Japanese studio has been brave enough to tackle such a controversial subject matter and artistic film style in recent history.

There were less American independent feature films submitted this year than usual, but there was a record number of American independent shorts submitted. Some of the shorts are excellent, and we have put together several programs of them. Could it be that it is harder to finance low budget independent films in America today, and so film school graduates are making 10 minute shorts rather than full length feature films? Could be … But we are also screening several American low budget feature films that show clever use of resources and fresh stories that should serve as an inspiration to Hawai’i wanna-be filmmakers who have a great idea, but not much money. Go see I’M NOT COOKING TONIGHT that was made for under $30,000 and shot in 5 days. It really works well!

The Next 15 (100!) Years

There is a lot to discover this year. Financially, it was another difficult year. Like every other non-profit in the state receiving state funding, the Festival was cut. Our budget is almost half of what it was in 1993. We have been forced to eliminate theater sites where they were not donated or given to us at a nominal fee. We have had to narrow our outreach program in outlying areas because we do not have the resources to go there. Never mind, the movies are great. The guests are top notch. The people of Hawai’i are supporting the Festival in record number with individual donations and volunteer support. We have something to celebrate here. Let us welcome the start of the next one hundred years of cinema and at least another 15 for the Hawai’i International Film Festival. November 3 to 16 – People of Hawai’i, this one is for you – and it comes with Aloha.

Jeannette Paulson,
Festival Co-founder and Director