22nd HIFF Spring Showcase presented by Halekulani Film Lineup includes latest Sundance plus special focuses on Japan, South Korea and the Pacific

By HIFF | March 09, 2019

The 22nd Annual HIFF Spring Showcase presented by Halekulani is here! Taking place from April 5 to the 14 at Regal Dole Cannery Theaters in Honolulu, the Spring Showcase is HIFF's annual 'mini-festival', showcasing some of the best Spring season films from across the globe.

Like the main festival in November the Spring Showcase presents a broad spectrum of film festival hits and advance screenings of upcoming indie film releases and will include 30 films from 13 countries. New this year are four special programming spotlights:

Spring Hits:The latest films generating great buzz from major festivals like the just concluded Sundance Film Festival, as well as Toronto, Busan, and Berlin. These premieres provide Hawaii’s cineastes with a first-look opportunity of what will be shaping the indie and award-winning film releases to come out in the latter half of 2019.

JapanFest: Japanophiles unite! Here is your one stop source for the latest in Japanese cinema with eight films that showcase why HIFF audiences flock to Japanese films and continually make them the most popular films at the Festival.

KoreanFest: Four films from South Korea highlight why the country is a formidable cinematic force, dominate the box-office and run the gamut of historical fiction to zany comedies with ease and expert craftsmanship. The Hallyu wave is very much still alive!

Pacific Focus: An extension of the Fall Festival’s Pacific Showcase, the Spring Showcase continues this program silo to present the latest works about and from the First Peoples of the Pacific. Two films in this section just premiered at Sundance and will be having their Hawaii premieres here.

30 films comprise this year’s HIFF Spring Showcase program. Aside from these special film sections, there are films from multiple genres and countries (13 in all) that were selected by the HIFF programming team to highlight the very best in International and buzz-worthy cinema. From intimate and personal stories to massive box-office hits, here are some film highlights:


Straight from is world premiere at Sundance and purchase by indie darling distributor A24 (MOONLIGHT), THE FAREWELL stars breakout star Awkwafina (CRAZY RICH ASIANS, HIFF38 Maverick Award honoree) in a heartfelt family dramedy of a Chinese American family that discover their beloved grandmother has only a short time left to live. Instead of telling her the sad news, they whip up an impromptu wedding to gather the family together before she passes.


A beacon of positive energy, Christa Wittmier, aka #SuperCW, was one of the most prominent and photographed nightlife columnists, DJs and personalities in Honolulu for over a decade. Then three and a half years ago, her life changed forever, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This special world premiere of the feature film version celebrates Christa’s life, her impact on the Honolulu creative community, her advocacy and promotion of self care and to live life to the very fullest. It’s a touching tribute to a champion of our community.


This long lost concert film, directed by a young Sydney Pollack, is the long lost recorded version of Aretha Franklin's unforgettable recording session at a Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972. Franklin sang gospel songs from her youth at a church in over two nights to make her album ‘Amazing Grace.’ The experience was filmed, but never released, due to technical difficulties (mainly with the audio). Now 47 years later it's ready and just as incredible to behold now as it was back then.


A Chinese leukemia patient smuggles cheap but untested pharmaceuticals from India to help hundreds of Chinese people suffering from cancer. Based on the real-life story of Lu Yong, a Chinese leukemia patient who smuggled cheap but unproven cancer medicine from India for 1,000 Chinese cancer sufferers in 2004. This comedy-drama struck a chord with mainland Chinese audiences, which translated into $453 million at the box-office, making DYING TO SURVIVE one of the biggest money grossers of all time, worldwide.


A former gang leader battles human traffickers to save her kidnapped daughter. A female rendition of TAKEN, this box-office hit stars Veronica Ngo (THE LAST JEDI, BRIGHT), who showcases her wares as an explosively charismatic star in this head-cracking, bone-breaking Vietnamese martial-arts extravaganza and a worthy addition to the Asian action pantheon.


Lauren and Ned are engaged, they are in love, and they have just ten days to find Lauren's mother who has gone AWOL somewhere in the remote far north of Australia, reunite her parents and pull off their dream wedding. Continuing the tradition of Aussie wedding romcoms like MURIEL’S WEDDING, this amiable and sweet film, which had its world premiere at Sundance, is the latest from the creative team behind THE SAPPHIRES (HIFF 2012).


Following the footsteps of classics like THE COMMITMENTS, ONCE and A STAR IS BORN, WILD ROSE tells the complicated story of Rose-Lynn of Glasgow, a woman on a quest to move to Nashville to become a country music star, while also grappling with the responsibilities of being recently released from prison and a young mother of two children.


Merata Mita, pioneering Māori filmmaker and international champion of women in indigenous film, is celebrated by her youngest son, archivist Heperi Mita (HIFF38 PIC Trailblazer Award honoree), collaborating with his siblings to deliver a richly personal portrait. This film is an intimate portrayal of pioneering filmmaker Merata Mita told through the eyes of her children. The sudden death of pioneering Māori filmmaker Merata Mita in 2010 led her son on a journey to uncover a story of a mother’s love that changed the landscape of indigenous participation in film forever.


The nonfiction thriller chronicles the plight of the vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, which is near extinction as its habitat is destroyed by Mexican drug cartels and the Chinese mafia, who harvest the swim bladder of the totoaba fish, the “cocaine of the sea.” Environmental activists, the Mexican navy and undercover investigators fight back against this illegal multimillion-dollar business. SEA OF SHADOWS won the Sundance Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.

Early-bird spring passes are available for purchase now. Advance ticket sale for HIFF Ohana members start March 22. For more info on box-office and tickets, head over to the HIFF Box-Office site.

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