Film / It started seven years ago, when Showdown in Chinatown (SIC) founder Torry Tukuafu and a few of his co-workers from Lost were in an argument about who among them was the best filmmaker. They decided the best way to settle it was to see who could write, shoot and edit a short film within 24 hours. They reconvened at thirtyninehotel and projected their films onto a white wall on the rooftop lanai for a modest audience of 25. Applause determined the winner and the debate was settled–Norm Kali and Brian Matsumura earned the first victory, but that night the gears to something greater were set in motion.
Soon, the challenge extended to all filmmakers in Hawaii, professional or amateur. Now occurring every two months, SIC requires participants to make a seven-minute-or-less film that abides by a few rules: It’s got to deal with a predetermined topic and include specific props and dialogue. A time constraint is given (anywhere between 24 hours and 15 days and even beyond for championships) to submit a masterpiece. This year’s panel of Showdown judges will feature the Weekly’s own James Cave, producer and director Jon Brekke and the fabled “wild card” judge, which in the past has been Evangeline Lily and Alexander Payne.
After a brief hiatus, SIC is back in business. Partner, producer and marketing director Cyrina Hadad explains, “We’ve been revamping for this year. The idea was to bring in new talent, better the quality and reformat the program.” She adds, “This year we’re doing five challenges; then we’ll do our championship in November.” And there’s a large cash prize at the end. This month’s challenge? Create an action adventure short that includes the local phrase “Bumbai you learn” with a Rubik’s cube and an iron for props.
After the films are shown, slam poet Bridget Gray will host the Showdown In Chinatown Word Smith Challenge, upstairs at thirtyninhotel at 10pm, open to all writers, poets, musicians or emcees. Contestants are prompted to write something using the same line of dialogue and props required in the films and perform it after the screening. Maybe you’re not a filmmaker, but a musician with original music, or a screenwriter. It’s a chance to network and collaborate. Everyone who attended the film screening will get in for free.
SIC reminds us that great artists come up with something meaningful, honest and beautiful, no matter their budget or time frame. We already have the unique advantage of living in one of the most sought-after film locations. We’re surrounded by stories that don’t need the sheen of expensive CGI to be told. In the right hands, anything can be just as lasting and important.