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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

THE TEMPEST opens in Honolulu this Friday!

THE TEMPEST, based on the last play of William Shakespeare and directed by Julie Taymor (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, FRIDA, TITUS), is opening in Honolulu this Friday, December 17th.

The film was produced and filmed on Lanai and the Big Island of Hawaii by Talk Story Productions. It was the centerpiece film of HIFF’s 30th annual film festival earlier this year.

Watch it at Consolidated Theaters – Ward Stadium with TITAN XC starting this Friday. Showtimes for this week are 12:00PM, 2:25PM, 4:50PM, 7:15PM, 9:40PM. Rated PG-13.

BLUE VALENTINE Gets Controversial Rating Overturned

Indie drama BLUE VALENTINE received promising reviews at it swept across the festival circuit this year making a pit stop at HIFF in October. However, concern grew for the film’s ability to acquire decent distribution as it was slapped with a puzzling NC-17 rating by the MPAA.

Ty Sanga’s “Stones” selected for 2011 Sundance Film Festival

We’ve just received word that native Hawaiian filmmaker Ty Sanga’s short film STONES was selected for the Indigenous Shorts Showcase at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival (January 20-30, Park City Utah) [1]. HIFF had the world premiere of this short film in 2009, and it went on to win the Best Short award at the 2010 Maui Film Festival [2]. STONES will be the first Hawaiian-language film to screen at the Sundance Film Festival. [3] Exposure at Sundance can do a lot for a filmmaker’s career, and it’s a notoriously hard festival to get a film into. We wish Ty Sanga the best of luck at Sundance!






HIFF 2010 t-shirts available for sale – while supplies last!

HIFF has some t-shirts left over from its 2010 Fall Festival. These shirts are a peach color and feature the festival key visual of a hula dancer in shades of yellow and purple on the front. See the photos below. We’re selling these for $20 each, with a $10 shipping fee per order. We will waive the shipping fee if you want to come into our office during business hours to pick up the t-shirts.



There are limited quantities of shirts, and quantities are shown below at the time of this post. Click on the sizes below to order the t-shirts online.


(about 20 left)


(less than 5 left)


(less than 5 left)

BLACK ORPHEUS screening at The Monday Movie Cafe on December 6th!

Marcel Camus’ classic 1959 film BLACK ORPHEUS is returning to the big screen for one night only! I am thrilled about the truly rare opportunity to see this epic tale come alive in its’ original blazing, saturated sound and color.

For those who are unfamiliar with the film, BLACK ORPHEUS is the retelling of the classic Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice set during the madness of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Train conductor Orfeo is engaged to be married to the beautiful Mira, but when country girl Eurydice catches his eye all bets are off. However, Eurydice is being tailed by a sinister stalker, and the star-crossed lovers must tread a dangerous path filled with passion, jealousy and fear in order to stay alive. 

This film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1959, while also exposing a whole generation of moviegoers to the rich culture and music of Brazil. BLACK ORPHEUS truly has one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time coupled with a veritable feast for the eyes. 

I am extremely excited at the prospect of being enveloped in the sights and sounds of 1950’s Rio, and in downtown Honolulu nonetheless!  The Monday Movie Cafe is located at The Venue, 1146 Bethel Street, and the screening will begin at 7pm. You can find further details in the Honolulu Weekly. 

You can check out the trailer on YouTube at:

Save the Date for Oscar Night® America – February 27, 2011

Please mark your 2011 calendars now to save the date of February 27th to attend HIFF’s Oscar Night® America gala. View the 83rd Annual Academy Awards in advance of the public broadcast, enjoy a fabulous dinner and browse various items available in the silent auction.

The list of nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards will be announced on January 25th, 2011. It was also recently announced that James Franco and Anne Hathaway will be co-hosting the event.

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