Latest Blog Posts

New Film Announced: PIANO IN A FACTORY (China)

HIFF has just confirmed a new film for this year’s Spring Showcase. See the details below:

Hawaii Premiere

Chen is a musical entertainer employed at a deteriorating steel plant. Embroiled in a custody battle with his estranged wife, he is at pains to acquire a piano, which he hopes will secure the affections of his musically inclined daughter. This leads to a string of failed schemes, including a bungled robbery at a music school, before Chen enlists the assistance of his long-suffering girlfriend and a cadre of ragtag locals to build the perfect piano.

Director: Zhang Meng
China 2010 | Mandarin w/ English subtitles | 107 M
Showtime:  WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6 – 8:45 PM DOLE


Here’s a review of the film on VARIETY.

Welcome to the Splatter-Fest: Meet Yoshihiro Nishimura Director of HELLDRIVER

Fans of genre-bending splatter-fest films better hold on to their seats because Yoshihiro Nishimura and Sushi Typhoon are back with the goriest, splatter-filled zombie epic to ever come out of Japan, that’s right it’s HELLDRIVER. Over the last ten years Nishimura, and a small group of like-minded horror directors have carved out a new genre in Japanese horror. It’s part comedy, part over-the-top gore and blood, and always filled with cute young girls, freakish mutants, and bizarre special effects. These low budget thrills have made waves at film festivals around the globe, making a name for Nishimura and fellow director Noboru Iguchi (KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR) among others. In 2010 the rising demand for these campy b-movie flicks culminated in the formation of Sushi Typhoon, a production offshoot of the Nikkatsu Corporation. This specialty label burst onto the scene last year with ALIEN VS. NINJA and MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD, which was co-directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, Noboru Iguchi, and Tak Sakaguchi. HELLDRIVER represents Nishimura’s first solo effort with Sushi Typhoon, and since the release of his epic TOKYO GORE POLICE (2008). 

In HELLDRIVER, Nishimura takes the zombie thriller to new dizzying heights, pulling out all the stops, and complete with his trademark comedy-gore. Somewhere in the near future, a mysterious mist has covered the northern half of Japan, turning the local population into flesh-eating zombies. Japan is ultimately driven to divide the country in two, erecting a heavily fortified wall to contain the zombie-infected northern wasteland. And just when all hope seems lost, in walks Kika (Yumiko Hara), a beautiful high school girl armed with a chainsaw sword powered by an artificial heart. Recruited by the government, Kika leads a ragtag group of desperados on a secret mission into the zombie-infected wilds to exterminate zombie queen Rikka (Eihi Shiina from AUDITION and TOKYO GORE POLICE) and put an end to the plague of the living dead. But the road is fraught with a thriving zombie culture that refuses to lay down and die.

A zombie road-movie the likes of which you’ve never seen before, HELLDRIVER is a J-horror that will have you laughing and cringing at the same time!


HELLDRIVER Showtimes: Friday, April 1 at 9PM Dole Cannery                    

VARIETY reviews of Spring Showcase films

If you’d like a mainstream hollywood view on some of these international films we’re offering at our festival, we have found a few of them reviewed by VARIETY, a Film / TV / Entertainment publication.

MAD BASTARDS – Review by Rob Nelson

PATISSERIE COIN DE RUE – Review by Dennis Harvey

7 MURDERS FORGIVEN – Review by Jay Weissburg


We also found a few film reviews on Film Business Asia: CYRANO AGENCY, DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART.

Love Japanese Films? No time to see them all? Check out my top 3 J-picks for Spring Showcase!


So there are six Japanese films screening at this year’s Spring Showcase, but you can only pack half that many into your busy schedule, how do you possibly decide what to see? As a huge Japanese film fanatic, I was wondering the same thing, but after careful consideration I managed to narrow it down to three that especially peaked my interest. Hopefully my thoughts will make your job a little easier! Continue reading below to discover what made the list and why….

Three Foodie Films to Tantalize Your Tastebuds

Soybean Paste

These were the last words of a fugitive killer before he was executed in a new film from South Korea called THE RECIPE. What would cause a killer on the run to stop and savor a bowl of soybean paste stew (된장 찌개 – doenjang jjigae) while the police caught up to and arrested him? It must have been truly amazing.

TV Producer Choi Yu-jin sees an interesting story behind this, and starts investigating what made this bowl of stew so special. A mystery slowly unfolds regarding the disappearance of the cook, a young lady named Jang Hye-jin. Choi visits farms in the area to figure out all of the ingredients that went into this stew, in the process uncovering a love story.

This is director Anna Lee’s second feature film, and the first one since her debut “Rub Love” 12 years ago. She was also notable as a 19 year old screenwriter on Park Cheol-Su’s 1995 film 301/302. See reviews for THE RECIPE at Variety and Film Business Asia.


THE RECIPE Showtimes (tickets go on sale March 23rd, 2011)

  1. Friday, April 1st – 9:15PM – Dole Cannery
  2. Wednesday, April 6th – 9:15PM – Dole Cannery



Actress Yu Aoi had her debut role in Shunji Iwai’s ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU (2001), went on to star in HONEY AND CLOVER & HULA GIRLS (2006), and has even had voice acting roles in anime films TEKKON KINKREET and REDLINE. She’s back in 2011 with PATISSERIE COIN DE RUE (translated from French as Pastry Corner).

She plays Natsume, a young girl from the country coming to Tokyo in search of her fiance. When arriving at the pastry shop the film is named after, she finds that he no longer works there.

After going through a range of emotions, she asks for a job there, since she has experience at her parents’ small town cake shop. She almost gets declined due to the high end requirements of the pastry shop, but eventually Natsume is brought on as an apprentice.

Meanwhile, legendary patissier Tomura (Yosuke Eguchi) is a regular at the shop. He suddenly left the field 8 years ago, but still teaches at culinary schools and writes books about the topic. We see Natsume grow as a pastry chef (including the inevitable mistakes made) and her interactions with Tomura are a big part of the film.


PATISSERIE COIN DE RUE Showtimes (tickets go on sale March 23rd, 2011)

  1. Monday, April 4th – 6:00PM – Dole Cannery
  2. Tuesday, April 5th – 9:00PM – Dole Cannery



While this last film doesn’t exactly fit in with the “foodie” theme, it is somewhat food related. HONEY (Bal in Turkish) is the third and final film in Semih Kaplanoğlu’s “Yusuf” trilogy. The previous films are Milk (Süt – 2008) and Egg (Yumurta – 2007), and are in reverse chronological order, the main character in his mid 30’s, then as a high school graduate, and finally as a boy of six. HONEY won the Golden Bear award (best film) at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2010. It’s a more dark and serious film, exploring Yusuf’s relationship with his parents, including his father who collects honey from tall trees in the forest, and struggles in school which lead him to become a poet later in life.

HONEY Showtimes (tickets go on sale March 23rd, 2011)

  1. Saturday, April 2nd – 1:00PM – Dole Cannery
  2. Sunday, April 3rd – 11:30AM – Dole Cannery

Promoting Films: The One Sheet


Most everyone is familiar with movie posters as film promotional materials, but what I find more interesting are “one sheets”. These one sheets are full color, glossy, letter sized, two-sided, and printed on card stock. They are meant to catch your attention, and provide some additional details about the film. We’ll have some of these one-sheets in our box office for you to view. I’m highlighting several of them in this post that stood out because of their colorful designs. Click on the images below to see bigger versions.



See more one sheets after the break…

Stories to Light: SFIAAFF 2011

Last weekend, I had the chance to go to the 29th Annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), so of course, I went! This year’s theme was “Stories to Light.” Check out their trailer:


Japanese Superhero Fans Unite! Its KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR!


If you grew up watching such classics as KIKAIDA and KAMEN RIDER and have a special place in your heart for Japanese super heroes, robots, and monsters then you might have also caught a glimpse of the 1970’s Japanese series DENJIN ZABOGA also known as DENJIN ZABORGAR (Hawaii release title). This show, which aired in 1974 on Japanese television, also premiered the same year for (some very lucky) Hawaii audiences with English subtitles. However, unfortunately local television only screened the first 39 of the total 52-episode series. But have no fear! Infamous genre director, Noboru Iguchi has teamed up with production house Sushi Typhoon to bring an updated and reworked version of the series to the big screen, KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR!

KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR follows the story of secret police agent Yutaka Daimon and his robot warrior Zaborgar. After the death of his scientist father, Daimon inherits this mighty robot equipped with an array of superpowers including the ability to transform into a motorcycle. However, during their attempt to foil an evil plot Daimon falls in love with an enemy agent, beautiful female robot Miss Borg. Fast-forward to twenty-five years later, the now disgraced Daimon has been relegated to working as a chauffeur for a corrupt minister. But when his nemesis Sigma appears back on the scene with a giant robot bent on destruction, Daimon must come out of retirement to fight crime once again. But will Zaborgar forgive and forget, and help Daimon in his quest to save the world from total destruction? 

This exciting update is slightly different fare from Noboru Iguchi’s usual splatter fests, and promises to be much more family friendly. Many may know him from such cult classics as ROBOGEISHA and MACHINE GIRL, both of which were fan favorites among HIFF audiences. Iguchi’s campy over-the-top style easily translates to the live-action superhero tale, and promises to add some exciting flair. Even if you’ve never seen a live-action Japanese superhero film or show, or one of Iguchi’s genre-bending films, KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR is an exciting and fun film for young and old alike. 


KARATE ROBO-ZABORGAR Showtimes (tickets go on sale March 23rd, 2011)

Saturday, April 2nd – 9PM – Dole Cannery

13 ASSASSINS is one of the best samurai films of all time!

I’ve been programming for HIFF for almost a decade now, and it’s been pure joy selecting films from all around the world to bring to Hawaii’s film hungry audiences. I’m especially excited about this year’s 14th edition of the Spring Showcase because we’ve got films for everyone, and we kick it off with one of the greatest samurai films ever made, 13 ASSASSINS!

Cult director Takashi Miike delivers a bravado period action film set at the end of Japan’s feudal era in which a group of unemployed samurai are enlisted to bring down a sadistic lord and prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a war-torn future. Starring Koji Yakusho, this film is balls-to-the-wall action and the 45 minute final action sequence rivals any showdown on celluloid. It is a filmmaking feat and Miike, who is one of Japan’s most prolific and genre-bending director working today, takes no prisoners, forging truly one of the great samurai flicks. 

So, I’m really proud to open the Spring Showcase with the bushido tour-de-force, 13 ASSASSINS, which is playing twice at the Festival. You can read more about the film and find out it’s showtimes here. In the meantime, check out the trailer for the film:

I love the fact that this Japanese trailer has a cover of Desperado by Bon Jovi! Yeah!

HIFF Family Friendly Films

There is always a movie families can enjoy together during the festival.  Two featured films that are for families are MAKE BELIEVE and KARATE-ROBO ZABORGAR.  MAKE BELIEVE chronicles the lives of several teens both nationally and internationally as they take a journey to become the world’s best teen magician.  Amazing and inspiring MAKE BELIEVE is a film not to miss.  To learn more about MAKE BELIEVE go to:

KARATE-ROBO ZABORGAR is a remake of the popular Japanese film of the same name.  Fans of Kikaida-like films such as these will be glad to know that although some of the effects have been updated (no zippers showing in the back of costumes), the kitschy fun that made these type of films so popular in Hawaii is still there.  Bring your kids along so that the fun you had watching these shows can be shared by a new generation.  To find out more about KARATE-ROBO ZABORGAR go to:

Content and Design Copyright © 2009-2015 Hawaii International Film Festival