EXCLUSIVE: The Hawai‘i International Film Festival (HIFF) has unveiled its lineup for its 40th anniversary of the festival which will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual screenings. This marks the fiest time that HIFF will be accessible to audiences across the nation. The fest will focus on Hawai‘i-made films and Kanaka Maoli filmmakers and will take place November 5-29.
“This has been an enormously difficult year for nonprofits, artists and arts organizations, and creative entrepreneurs in Hawai’i. While our 40th anniversary isn’t the grand experience we had been planning, I could not be more proud and excited to announce our Festival lineup.” says HIFF Executive Director, Beckie Stocchetti. “For our 40th anniversary, the HIFF lineup is a statement on the perseverance and resilience of Hawaii’s community and entrepreneurial spirit. In an unexpected Festival year, we are proud to have pivoted our theater experience into a top-tier streaming experience, maintain all of our education programs, our free virtual reality program, and even increase our industry panels and Q&As.”
The festival will present over 200 films from 25 countries, and 17 world premieres opening with Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari which made it its world premiere at Sundance 2020, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. Starring Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton, Minari follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in 1969 in search of their own American Dream. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother and the story then takes place over the next couple of years. The film will screen for one night only, followed by a Q&A with director Chung and star Steven Yeun.
“We are honored to open this year’s 40th anniversary with Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari. When we saw it at Sundance earlier this year, we set our sights to invite this film and present it at HIFF in a major way.” says Anderson Le, HIFF’s Artistic Director. “It not only captures the director’s amazing humanism that appears in many of his previous works, but is also a classic American immigrant story that rings true for many of our audiences. In a way, this is a film that we all need right now.”
The Made In Hawai‘i competition amplifies the voice of local artists, centering Hawai‘i -grown talent and film productions. The awards celebrate the dynamic and flourishing local independent film scene that strives onward the Hawaiian Islands. Fiction, Non-fiction and short films that are made by locally-based filmmakers or involve locally-based stories are eligible for a Best Made-in-Hawai‘i film award. This year’s program includes:
- The world premiere of Hawaiian Soul, written and directed by ʻĀina Paikai, tells the story of George Helm, a talented musician that used his gift of song to become a leader in the movement to protect Hawaiian land and Native Hawaiian rights, what is now referred to today as the Hawaiian Renaissance.
- The documentary feature Cane Fire, directed by Anthony Banua-Simon, examines the past and present of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, interweaving four generations of family history, numerous Hollywood productions, and troves of found footage to create a kaleidoscopic portrait of the economic and cultural forces that have cast indigenous and working-class residents as “extras” in their own story.
- The Closing Night presentation of WAIKIKI, written and directed by Chris Kahunana. This narrative feature, which made its world premiere at Urbanworld, stars Danielle Zalopany and Peter Shinkoda (The Predator). The narrative feature follows a hula dancer and a broken spirit of a man, as they begin a journey into a hidden world, developing a connection through humanity, nature, and culture.
Also available nationwide will be the world premiere of the action comedy Lumpia With A Vengeance featuring: former UFC fighter Mark Muñoz, April Absynth, Darion Basco and Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Til Dawn). A reboot of the 2003 Filipino American cult-favorite, Lumpia; Lumpia With A Vengeance will also reunite some of the original cast.
National audiences can also enjoy works from the New American Perspectives program. Presented by the Vilcek Foundation, the New American Perspectives program shines a spotlight on the contributions of immigrant filmmakers to contemporary cinema in the United States, and supports the inclusion of films by foreign-born filmmakers, screenwriters, and producers at the festival. The foundation provides support for talks, educational programs, and screenings at the festival, creating a platform for immigrant voices and experiences. The New American Perspectives program include:
- Valerie Castillo Martinez, producer, screenwriter, Death Of Nintendo (b. Philippines)
- Yi Chen, director, First Vote (b. China)
- Steven Yeun, executive producer, Minari (b. South Korea)
- Bassam Tariq, director, Mogul Mowgli (b. Pakistan)
- Hao Wu, director of 76 Days (b. China)
Firelight and the Melting Pot: Conversations about Race will be a unique 3 day panel series at HIFF, focused on films challenging and expanding notions of race and equality in Hawai‘i and the US. In collaboration with Firelight Media, an organization dedicated to supporting non-fiction BIPOC filmmakers telling stories about communities of color, these free panels offer a space to reflect on Black Lives Matter and social justice movements towards a more fair, equitable world.
Rounding out the list of films are:
- #HANDBALLSTRIVE, directed by MATSUI Daigo, begins with a social media post by high school students living an uninspired lives after the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake. Before long, they come to realize what they really want to do and what it means to live in this place.
- 76 Days is a documentary set in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film captures the struggles and human resilience in the battle to survive the pandemic in Wuhan, China. It is directed by Hao Wu (People’s Republic of Desire), Weixi Chen and Anonymous.
- Beauty Water, directed by Cho Kyung-hun (조경훈), is an animated horror-thriller that examines a girl’s downward spiral when receives an unexpected package containing a sample and video for a mysterious beauty product. After viewing the shocking video, Yaeji is both horrified and enticed.
- LOIMATA: The Sweetest Tears directed by Anna Marbrook honors the last voyage of the great waka maker, sailor and mentor Ema Siope, whose journeys between Aotearoa and Sāmoa in search of healing, and her family’s reckoning with systemic abuse, are powerfully documented.
- New Order, a narrative feature from Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco (Daniel and Ana; After Lucia; Chronic), is a riveting and prescient dystopian drama that serves as a disquieting cautionary tale for a society marked by extreme class divisions.
- Night Of The Kings, written and directed by Philippe Lacôte refuses all genre expectations, flowing between a prison drama and visually stunning sequences that depict Roman’s elaborate tale. Further incorporating song and dance (and a cameo by the iconic Denis Lavant last seen in HOLY MOTORS), the film is a mesmerizing meditation on the art of storytelling and its role in survival.
In partnership with the Daniel K. Inouye Institute (DKII), the 2020 edition of the HIFF Daniel K. Inouye Institute Student Film Initiative, students explored the ideals of leadership and civic action needed during these unprecedented times by creating cinematic letters for the Future President of the United States. Finalists are eligible to win cash and camera equipment as well as have the opportunity for a private virtual event with Hamilton‘s Philippa Soo. In addition, the fest will include the opportunity for audiences to enjoy HIFF XR safely at home, a dynamic showcase of creative works in emerging media — virtual reality, video games, live streaming, and more.
In an effort to reignite the local economy, HIFF will partner with Consolidated Theaters to present limited in-person screenings in Oahu. For select dates throughout the festival month, HIFF will screen titles for local audiences in theaters with reduced seating capacity. HIFF will have programming, on select dates at: Consolidated Mililani With Titan Luxe, Consolidated Pearlridge, Consolidated Kapolei and ‘Olino by Consolidated Theatres with Titan Luxe. Programming at these venues will include:
- Centerpiece presentation of I AM GRETA. This documentary, directed by Nathan Grossman, follows Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old student in Sweden, globally known for her environmental activism. The film culminates in a harrowing sailboat ride that Greta and her father Svante take over the Atlantic Ocean to attend two UN climate summits in September 2019. Over this transformational year, we witness the forces that seek to lift her up and tear her down.
- Centerpiece Presentation of MLK/FBI. The latest film from noted documentary filmmaker Sam Pollard, MLK/FBI presents a clear lens on examining J. Edgar Hoover’s relentless campaign of surveillance and harassment against Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, when MLK is celebrated as a civil rights hero, across both political aisles, it is jarring to confront the hate and “fake news” campaign mounted by federal agents who painted him as an enemy of the state.
- Ammonite from acclaimed British director Francis Lee (God’s Own Country) is a forbidden-love story between Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan). The film captures the potent chemistry between Winslet and Ronam. The film is both vital and austere, not unlike the fossilized sea creature that gives the film its title and poignant symbol.
- The International Premiere of Baby Done, executive produced by Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit; Thor: Ragnarok; Hunt for the Wilderpeople), is a Kiwi-infused comedy that stars Rose Matafeo (The Breaker Uppers). Wannabe-adventurer and free spirit Zoe and her longtime boyfriend Tim (Matthew Lewis) run a tree-trimming business and are also competitive tree climbers, set to fly to Canada to compete in the annual competition.
- I’m Your Woman is the latest film from director Julia Hart (Fast Color; Stargirl) and award winning producer Jordan Horowitz (La La Land), The narrative feature is a decidedly female take on 1970s crime dramas. Hart deftly directs this film as a tale of love, betrayal, motherhood, family, and what it takes to claim your life as your own.
- The Best Is Yet To Come directed by Jing WANG follows the true story of how one man altered the fate of 120 million people with his pen.Young writer Han Dong has moved to the big city hoping to make it big. So when a reporter at Jingcheng Daily takes him on as an intern, he feels his luck is changing. And when he happens upon an illegal scheme to hide positive Hepatitis B blood results he believes he has struck journalistic gold.
- The Paper Tigers follows three former Kung Fu prodigies known as The Three Tigers who have grown old and lost their fighting abilities and connections to Kung Fu. This feature-length debut from writer/director Bao Tran blends a perfect mix of action, drama, and comedy to create a lighthearted and fun film, with some life lessons underneath.
- Touge: The Last Samurai from director Takashi Koizumi, assistant to the legendary Akira Kurosawa, is a beautiful samurai film based on a popular novel by Ryotaro Shiba. Starring Koji Yakusho, Touge: The Last Samurai tells the true story of a samurai who led his country to fight against the new regime with honor and dignity at the end of the Tokugawa era. Shot entirely on lush 35mm film, Touge offers a philosophical take on a lost way of life.