Latest Blog Posts

Four films announced for Spring Showcase

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the films that will be playing in the 14th Annual HIFF Spring Showcase, April 1-7 2011. The full program of films & schedule will be announced the first week of March.

France 2011 | French w/ English subtitles | 90 mins

Big man, big hair, big motorcycle. Gérard Depardieu gets a tailor-made, tour-de-force role in this picaresque tale from the creators of the 2005 EUFF attraction AALTRA. He plays Serge, a former slaughterhouse worker whose recent retirement has left him as restless as a caged bear. When he finds out that missing paperwork is holding up his pension payments, Serge gets his 1973 Münch Mammut motorcycle out of mothballs and sets off to collect the required signatures from ten past employers who have scattered far and wide.

MAMMUTH Trailer – Warning! This trailer contains cursing.

India 2011 | Hindi w/ English Subtitles | 143 mins

Based on the short story by Ruskin Bond, 7 MURDERS FORGIVEN is a love story that spans 35 years between a beautiful and charismatic woman and her 7 husbands.  Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes (Priyanka Chopra – FASHION) is a beautiful woman who over the course of thirty-five odd years, gets married seven times.  Six of her husbands die mysteriously, and the strange circumstances of their deaths make Susanna a prime suspect. Is Susanna a murderer or a romantic who is fated to be alone?

United States 2010 | English | 85 mins

Robert, an inanimate tire, suddenly and inexplicably comes to life. As Robert roams the bleak landscape, he discovers that he possesses terrifying telepathic powers that give him the ability to destroy anything he wishes without having to move. At first content to prey on small desert creatures and various discarded objects, his attention soon turns to humans, especially a beautiful and mysterious woman who crosses his path. Leaving a swath of destruction across the desert landscape, Robert becomes a chaotic force to be reckoned with.

Japan 2010 | Japanese w/ English Subtitles | 160 mins

For the first time ever, the camera takes you inside and backstage of the historical Kabuki-za Theater, the main home ground of the Kabuki performance in Tokyo. The Kabuki-za (the 4th generation building – rebuilt after WWII) will end its years of history on April 2010, to be closed for 4 years to be renovated to a new building. 11 main actors, who had grown up on stage of the Kabuki-za navigate us into the heart of the theater, looking back at the best performances ever, the players, the background creation of the stage, and the last day of Kabuki-za. A Kabuki version of THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT! this would be a documentary that would take you to the world of Kabuki like you have never experienced.


2011 Oscar Nominated Short Films

I had a chance to see the Oscar Nominated Short Films for 2011 last week, and here’s my take on them. There are ten films in all, five animated and five live action. These films are playing for a limited time at the Kahala Consolidated Theater, so see them while you can! Also, the animated feature film The Illusionist and Best Foreign Film nominee Biutiful are playing at Kahala. Read more for details about the short films.

Student Filmmakers in Hawaii – The Academy for Creative Media’s SMART Exchange Program

The University of Hawaii at Manoa Academy for Creative Media’s SMART Exchange is a unique program of U.S. – China student films, filmmakers, film festivals and film co-productions – shot on location in Hawaii and Shanghai, China. The program was developed as part of the long-time partnership between the Hawaii International Film Festival and Shanghai International Film Festival, and is supported by both festivals.

In June 2010, students from the UH Academy for Creative Media (ACM) attended the Shanghai International Film Festival and collaborated with students from Shanghai University’s School of Film and TV Arts & Technology. The result were three short films, which played at HIFF last October as “A Summer, A Boy and A Cab”. This collection also won the Best Student Film award at the EuroCinema Hawai’i Gala. In addition, students from Shanghai attend the Hawaii International Film Festival in October, show some of their short films at the festival, and collaborate with ACM students on more film projects. If you missed seeing these shorts at HIFF, you can now watch them below, courtesy of ACM. 

We also wanted to highlight a short documentary about the ACM students trip to China, directed by George Chun Han Wang. This shows “behind the scenes” footage from the production of “A Summer, A Boy and A Cab”.

Nominations Announced for the 2011 Academy Awards

The nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards (to be held February 27, 2011) were announced this morning. You can see a full list of nominations here, but we wanted to talk about some of the less obvious picks this year. First, HIFF showed the following films in 2010 which are up for nominations:

Actress in a Leading Role
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
Costume Design
I Am Love
The Tempest
Documentary Feature
Waste Land

Also of note are the entries in the Foreign Language Film category, most of which you may not have seen at this point. They are:


Biutiful (Mexico)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Dogtooth (Greece)
Director: Giorgos Lanthimos

In a Better World / Hævnen (Denmark)
Director: Susanne Bier

Incendies (Canada)
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Outside the Law / Hors-La-Loi (Algeria)
Director: Rachid Bouchareb

Javier Bardem (Biutiful) is also up for a nomination in the Actor in a Leading Role category. The film competed for the Palme d’Or award at Cannes last May. Our blogger Dana talked about Dogtooth in this post from July 2010. In a Better World is playing now at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, along with Incendies. Outside the Law is a very controversial film about the Algerian struggle for independence from France.

IP MAN 2 Hits Theaters on January 28th!

If you missed the Hawaii premiere of IP MAN 2 at HIFF last October, here’s your chance to see it in theaters, or see it again! We hope to see more Asian films in theaters here; If you’re a fan of Asian cinema, please support this film so that more films can be released in Hawaii, not just action films, but dramas, comedies, thrillers, etc.

The film will be playing at these theaters:

  • In Honolulu at Ward Stadium with TITAN XC
  • In Aiea at Pearlridge West 16
  • In Kapolei at Kapolei 16

IP MAN 2 Synopsis:
The martial arts spectacular that’s been breaking box office records across Asia comes to the big screen in its full uncut and undubbed glory. In 1950’s Hong Kong, Master Ip wants to open a martial arts school – but first he must pass the tests put forth by the local grandmasters and their corrupt leader (the legendary Sammo Hung). If that weren’t enough, a bullying British boxer is in town, and violently insulting the Chinese locals and their martial arts – and it’s up to Master Ip to defend the honor of both in a brutal East vs. West showdown.  International megastar Donnie Yen reprises his iconic role as Ip Man, the real-life Wing Chun grandmaster who trained Bruce Lee. This is a stand alone film, so if you’ve been unfortunate enough to miss out on IP MAN, you can still enjoy both the story and the kung fu mastery of IP MAN 2.

For More Theaters & Info, Please Visit:
For Showtimes, Please Visit:


Okay, so I didn’t actually watch watch the Golden Globes. I had things to do last night, you know? Like use whatever food-related Groupon I purchased in my sleep and finish Snooki’s novel A Shore Thing.

So I’m gonna take a leap of faith and assume the following: Ricky Gervais made some can’t-believe-he-just-said-that-he’s-so-British! quip… on the telly!!!, Tina Fey’s facial scar looked absolutely stunning in Tina Fey, Jake Gylallnahahneneahal (or however you spell) wore a bow tie, Charlie Sheen was just looking for a bathroom when he stumbled into The Globes, and Rachel Zoe hyperventilated into a Vera Wang bag someplace somewhere for no apparent reason (this last part is probably still occurring, I mean, have you seen her show?). Throw in the obligatory “Golden Globes” double entendre on the red carpet and Jesse Eisenberg averting all human eye contact throughout the evening and there you have it: the Golden Globes 2011!

Nonetheless, I did take the liberty to look up the list of last night’s winners and nominees. Here’s what you didn’t miss! I think…

Best Picture

THE SOCIAL NETWORK. I liked this movie. But only with as much effort as it takes to “like” something on Facebook. I just hope this doesn’t mean Justin Timberlake thinks we’re gonna take him seriously ’cause we’re not.

Read on…

HIFF 30 Recap Video

Take 5 minutes out of your busy day to watch this HIFF 2010 promotional video, directed by Henry Mochida, co-cinematographer Jacob Holcomb, edited by Brooks Infante. It’s a great recap of the event, and highlights the importance of having an international film festival in Hawaii. The 30th annual event in 2010 attracted almost 80,000 people to watch the films, over 300 press and industry delegates, and 250 films from over 40 countries were shown.

Kyoto Filmmakers Lab

I had the great pleasure of being invited to attend the 3rd annual Kyoto Filmmakers Lab (KFL for short), which was held last month. Essentially a filmmaker’s boot camp, 20 participants are chosen from an open call, and are split into two groups. Each group must work on a short film. The catch is, the films are jidaigeki and to be shot on the existing sets at the Toei-Kyoto and Shochiku-Kyoto Studios respectively.

These historic studios are located in the famous Uzumasa area, where in its prime, was the nexus of Japanese cinema and TV dramas for the better part of the 20th Century (Classics like Rashomon was shot at the now defunct Daiei Studios, for example). Dubbed the “Hollywood of Japan,” this quiet residential neighborhood houses the last two remaining movie studios, as well as Eigamura, or Toei Movie Land, a tourist attraction similar to Universal Studios, with Edo period village sets, a haunted house, props and other classic movie posters on display and my personal favorite, a Power Rangers museum!

So, what’s the purpose of the KFL? With the waning interest in jidaigeki over the past 20 years leading to this once vibrant sector to lose its luster in the overall Japanese pop culture scene, studio execs and the prefecture government came together to reignite interest in jidaigeki with various events by updating them to the current tastes of young consumers. Case in point is the Sengoku Matsuri, an annual event held every September that promotes Toei Movie Land and showcasing its traditional sets and customs of jidaigeki, and blending it with anime and manga otaku culture, primarily cosplay and interfacing with filmmakers and production pros (costume design, set design, special effects) with seminars that are open to the public.

Breaking out of the mode of traditional jidaigeki, Toei Studios produced a hilarious web series called Metal Samurai, which was set in Edo period and about a brooding gaijin samurai in KISS makeup. I showed this web series in its entirety at the 2008 Festival and it was a lot of fun.

So back to the KFL… By having an international group of filmmakers in Kyoto for a week, collaborating together to make a jidaigeki-inspired short film, it helps promote Uzumasa area as a place to do business, neo-jidaigeki business! With lowered rates and an open mind, the studios there are open to all kinds of filmed entertainment to be produced there. And let me tell ya, 2010 was a busy year for them, with big to low budget films, straight-to-DVD, web series, and even student films produced on the lot.

Unfortunately, there were no Hawaii-based filmmakers participating this year unlike the 2009 edition, when there were three filmmakers from Hawaii. Check out this short film from the 2009 KFL entitled SAYONARAKEN, shot by HIFF alunmus Gerard Elmore!

Nevertheless, the  KFL 2010 teams were great and quite productive, for the most part. As Francis Ford Coppola once said, “being a director is the last job in the Western world, where you can still be a dictator.” Filmmakers are inherently leaders, so it was interesting to see the various dynamics. But mostly, people worked together and set aside their differences. Why wouldn’t you when you were required to attend mandatory traditional samurai sword-fighting seminars?

I was glad to see that some filmmakers that I recommended were chosen and pleasantly surprised that filmmakers that I knew of but have never met, were also there because of my initial recommendation was sent to them (thanks, Facebook). What’s cool is that the filmmakers sleep together under one roof, on tatami mats and futons, bathe at a nearby sento , and pretty much stay together 24/7 for a week, but also get a couple of days to do some local sightseeing. Hey, a sponsored Kyoto trip in December? Count me in!

In addition, to the KFL, the Historica Film Festival is also held during the same time. The “film festival” portion of this whole enterprise, the theme of the festival is to promote historical films from around the world. Films such as Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth and Sngmoo Lee’s The Warrior’s Way were shown with various high level crew members associated with said films in attendance to be a part of in-depth post film discussions.

Japanese enfant terrible director Takashi Miike, the master of disturbing masterpieces Ichi the Killer, Audition, and the most recent 13 Assassins (one of the best jidaigeki films in years, which was also shot all in Kyoto), was also in attendance, leading a master class with other notable directors. He’s definitely mellowed out in recent years (his reputation is legendary and his no bullshit attitude was very prominent when I first met him ten years ago at the Rotterdam Film Festival), and has made three jidaigeki films back-to-back-to-back all in the Uzumasa area.

He interacted quite a bit with the KFL participants and hung out with them at the closing night BBQ, which was held inside one of the stages at Shochiku Studios. What’s cool about Japanese stages is that the ground is padded with dirt and floors are constructed above them. Hence, a great place to host a kick-ass BBQ, with grill stations spread out and my favorite yakitori grandma ever, hard at work to ensure optimum grilling quality.

Overall, a trip well worth it. And if any budding filmmakers interested in Japanese cinema, or just to exercise those creative muscles with peers from around the world and are interested in participating in the next KFL, just go to the official website for information. Aside from meeting and networking with interesting folks, taking in the serenity of Kyoto, and eating my way through the city, I truly admire what these film studios are doing in being relevant and also promoting the area.

Kyoto is truly one of the great cities of Japan, if not the world, and its rich film tradition should not be extinguished. If you are a fan of Japanese cinema, then do check out Yoji Yamada’s love letter to the bygone era of Uzumasa, entitled Kyoto Story, which we showed at the last HIFF.

In the meantime, I leave you with this lasting image, fresh bowl of curry udon from Yamamoto Menzo that was truly heavenly, especially during a cold December evening.


"Coffee Lovers on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"

It’s that time of year again to say “It’s that time of year again”!

Christmas Eve is tomorrow, which really only gives you one full day to rush to Ala Moana, punch someone in the face over whatever our consumerist culture has conditioned us to punch each other in the faces over this year, run down a pedestrian speeding home in the pouring rain, attempt perfectly creased gift-wrapping folds while receiving a fatal number of self-inflicted paper cuts, spurting blood all over your presents while screaming, “I’m not perfect!” under the faint afterglow of your Christmas Tree. OOOoookay, so maybe I’ve seen Black Swan one too many times (I’ve only seen it once).

That aside, I’ve compiled a list of gift ideas to ease the stress when shopping for that movie lover in your life you kinda forgot existed (I mean, you are waiting til December 23rd…)

1. Limited Edition Illy Coffee Set designed by PedrAlmodóvar

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. It can be depressing. That’s why when I want to get extra W.A.S.P.-y, I hit up Neiman Marcus’s espresso bar, order a double shot, and read short stories by Joan Didion or Lydia Davis while pretending to have either of their careers. Then right as I’m feeling lightheaded from realizing I’m an ethnic BOY in Neiman Marcus with no money, the baristas bring this over, and I get kicked off the premises for squealing too loud.

"Coffee Lovers on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"

Still from “Coffee Lovers on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”

Not sure, but think the price on this set is ~$150. What??? You didn’t want to spend that much on me— I mean, someone you actually know…

More after the jump…

EuroCinema Hawaii’s 2010 Awards Gala Recap

Oscar Night America 2010 at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel

Did you attend the inaugural EuroCinema Hawaii Gala in October of this year? Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss was in attendance, and E! Entertainment’s Debbie Matenopoulos was a host for the event. Take a look at the photo galleries on the EuroCinema Hawaii website, and watch the video that they created below. This is a good time to mention that film submissions are now open for HIFF; All films of European origin submitted will be considered for EuroCinema Hawaii 2011, a “festival within a festival”. Several awards will be given out, including the Princess Alliata di Montereale Award for Best Film, which was given to the United Kingdom’s FOUR LIONS in 2010.

Speaking of glamorous events, HIFF’s annual fundraiser Oscar Night America gala is coming up on February 27, 2011. Take a look at photo galleries on our site from 2010 and 2009.

Oscar Night America 2010 at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Oscar Night America 2010
Photo by Kyler Kwock Photography
Oscar Night America 2009 at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Oscar Night America 2009
Photo by Jeannemarie Photography
Content and Design Copyright © 2009-2015 Hawaii International Film Festival