In the age of sail, Hawaii became known as the navel of the Pacific and drew ships of all nations to water, provision and, inevitably, engage in cultural exchange, some of it viral. Things haven’t changed much, thanks to the Hawaii International Film Festival, Oct. 11-21 this year. After 32 years, HIFF is again bringing a worldly mix to go with our own home-grown offerings, turning the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 Theatres and Imax and Hawaii Theatres into the cinematic wharf of the world.
Like any bazaar, on first glance HIFF is intimidating. But it breaks down pretty easily by social standing. The red carpet events will be oversubscribed, so if you like to put on the Ritz, jump now.
The Oct. 11 Opening Night pick is The Sapphires, an Aussie retelling of the first aboriginal girl group (think The Supremes), sent to tour the Vietnam War for their first gig. (But it’s also a love story!) The Centerpiece Presentation Oct. 17 is the high-buzz Silver Linings Playbook from David O. Russell (The Fighter, Flirting with Disaster, which brings together heart-throbs (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence), a name (Robert DeNiro), and a comic (Chris Tucker).
Closing Night unveils a Korean crime caper, The Thieves, which reinvigorates the fashion-runway-slash-jewel-robbery genre. Everything Korean is hot right now, so expect a sellout crowd dressed to kill–be careful not to cut yourself on all the chiseled cheekbones.
Among local entries, Kalo Culture by Kamuela Vance follows a family as they prepare for the Hale’iwa Taro Festival; Ryan Kawamoto’s Hang Loose, about bachelor party shenanigans in Honolulu; Sebastian Siegal’s investigation into the world’s deepest questions (we take ours black, thanks), Awakening World; and a half-dozen others.
The Halekulani Career Achievement Award will go to Shall We Dance? lead actor Koji Yakusho, who has worked with many of Japan’s indie filmmakers; you can catch him in The Woodsman and the Rain. The most talked-out mainstream movie may well be Rust and Bone, a French tear-, heart- and reality-jerking tale of a glamourpuss played by Marion Cottillard who is left legless in an accident and yet finds true…well, you can guess.
The 10 Gala Presentations films making their Hawai’i premieres offer one way through the maze. These include a Chinese/Korean remake of ever-sexy Dangerous Liaisons, this one set in 1930s Shanghai, and Big Boys Gone Bananas!, a documentary about Dole Food Company’s attempt to halt the showing of a documentary about Dole’s ghastly disregard of the health of workers in Central America.
There are offerings from China, Europe, India, Japan, Korea, Pacific Islands, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the Nation of Skateboarders. Overall HIFF sponsor Halekulani also hosts two competitions: narrative features and documentary features. There are student and kupuna filmmaker showcases, plenty of LGBT movies, art and design offerings, some very edgy Extreme flicks, plus environmental and world films; and don’t forget the Jake Shimabukuro documentary Life on Four Strings (Oct. 16 at Hawaii Theatre).
For Halloween, thereʻs the free, keiki-friendly Film & Food Pop-Up in the Park, at Mother Waldron Park 6–9pm Oct. 13. And you can watch Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.