#HIFF38 Spotlight: PACIFIC SHOWCASE brings the best cinematic stories from First Peoples of the Pacific

By HIFF | October 26, 2018

PACIFIC SHOWCASE sponsored by Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC) presents the latest films by Pacific Islanders or with a subject matter that takes place in the Pacific. These 6 features and 7 short films that comprise the Pacific Showcase Shorts program, represent the voices and stories of First peoples of the Pacific—From Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, Kiribati, Guam, and Easter Island.

As part of the Pacific Showcase, PIC is also honoring the legacy of the late Merata Mita with the PIC Trailblazer Award. Her son, filmmaker and archivist Heperi Mita, will accept the award on her behalf, as well as in continuing the legacy that was started by Merata in championing Maori and native filmmakers on the big screen. Finally, also do check out HIFF 38's Closing Night Film, MOANANUIĀKEA: ONE OCEAN. ONE PEOPLE. ONE CANOE., which will have its world premiere at the Hawaii Theatre Center. 


Threatened with total destruction by rising sea levels, the low-lying pacific nation of Kiribati is poised to be one of the first catastrophic victims of climate change. Set against the backdrop of international climate negotiations, ANOTE’S ARK follows the country’s president as he fights to have climate displacement recognised as an urgent human rights issue, and to find a lasting home for his people and 4,000 years of their culture.

EATING UP EASTER (Haka Puai Te Kainga)

Rapa Nui (Easter Island) straddles the fault line between local identity and the opportunities presented by globalism. As the local economy is subjugated by the demands of tourism, locals must contend with the contrasting expectations of indigenous culture and Western industrial capitalism amidst the fear that old practices are not valued or protected unless performed for visitors. EATING UP EASTER is a timely reminder of the challenges facing indigenous peoples maintaining their culture while surviving in the modern world.


A lyrical story about the impact a mother's death has on an Aboriginal family living in an isolated community perched on an ancient river. The story is seen through the eyes of Gem, a spirited 8-year-old girl, who deals with the grief of her mother's death by forging a bond with a wild emu, a mythical bird of her ancestors. This spiritual dreaming is a bond she will do anything to keep, but one that puts her at odds with the new social worker.

Over the course of a year, LEITIS IN WAITING follows Joey, a devout Catholic of noble descent, as she organizes an exuberant beauty pageant, mentors a young contestant rejected by her family, garners the support of a Royal Princess, and spars with American-financed evangelicals threatening to resurrect colonial-era laws that would criminalize the leitis' lives. With unexpected humor and extraordinary access to the Kingdom's leaders, this emotional journey reveals what it means to be different in a society ruled by tradition.


The voice of an ancestor speaks to Tanaoa, a young Tahitian man in search of his people’s identity. Reciting the history of the country and its people, the voice traces the country’s past as a test site for French atomic weapons, the current struggle for land rights against colonial powers, and the future of the Ma’ohi, whose very way of life is under threat. MA’OHI NUI is a poetic, contemplative and visually-stunning journey through contemporary Tahiti.


New Zealand has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, leaving thousands of families struggling to survive in the aftermath of their loss. Grounded by the experiences of five families reeling from the loss of loved ones, MAUI’S HOOK blurs documentary and drama to tackle the crisis head on in a heartfelt and moving meditation on family, grief and we leave behind.

View the entire PACIFIC SHOWCASE section

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