Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF), celebrating its 35th anniversary, will take place from November 12 through November 22, primarily all on the island of Oahu. HIFF kicks off with South Korea’s official entry to the Oscar Foreign Language category with award winning director Lee Joo-ick’s THE THRONE. The story at the center of this lush historical drama is the struggle between the long-ruling King Yeongjo (Song Kang-ho from SNOWPIERCER) and his son, Sado (Yoo Ah-in) and the real life incident of the king’s decision to lock up his son in a wooden barrel — in which the royal heir died after eight days.
Set in 1950s New York, two women from very different backgrounds (Rooney Mara as a young shop clerk and Cate Blanchett as a sophisticated, but unhappy housewife) find themselves in the throes of love in CAROL, the Festival’s Centerpiece Film. World premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, where Mara won Best Actress, the Todd Haynes drama will assuredly generate awards buzz this season.
The 2015 Hawaii International Film Festival closes with a romantic drama based on real events, the U.S. premiere of Mabel Cheung’s A TALE OF THREE CITIES, an epic period drama about individuals overwhelmed by the times, their trajectories shaped by rapidly changing circumstances beyond their control. Lau Ching-wan and Tang Wei (LUST, CAUTION) play ill-fated lovebirds who meet during the backdrop of the final days leading into WWII. The film is based on the epic love story of Jackie Chan’s parents.
NARRATIVE FEATURE NOMINEES:
HONOR THY FATHER (Philippines)
Director: Erik Matti
Kaye and Edgar is a pair of married white-collar swindlers, who have cashed in on promoting an investment scheme to their friends and fellow Pentecostal parishioners. But when they run afoul of their latest victims, their devout investors turn on them. When the tension erupts into violence, Edgar decides to seek the aid of his criminally inclined family.
THE KIDS (Taiwan)
Director: Sunny Yu
Bao-Li has just started 8th grade when he comes to the rescue of Jia-Jia, an older girl he immediately falls in love with, and soon enough they are in a relationship. When Jia-Jia becomes pregnant, Bao-Li drops out of school to support his new family and become the breadwinner, sometimes by any means necessary. But when he discovers that his mother has gambled away all of their savings, the young family heads toward a path of self-destruction.
MADONNA (South Korea)
Director: Shin Su-won
Nurse’s aide Hae-rim and Doctor Hyuk-gyu are ordered to keep hospital CEO Chul-ho on life support and wait for a donor match. On one of her daily rounds, Hae-rim discovers a comatose patient named Mi-Na who, miraculously, is a match. The CEO’s cold-blooded son makes a deal with Hae-rim to go find Mi-Na’s family and bribe them to sign the consent form. Through her search, Hae-rim unravels Mi-Na’s tragic life and a dark secret that reflects her own past.
MIDORI IN HAWAII (USA)
Director: John Hill
Midori is a struggling wedding photographer living in Hawaii. When Seiko and Kyo-chan, Midori’s judgmental sister and brother in-law visit from Japan, Midori’s small world is thrown off balance. As the sisters travel the Big Island together, old grudges and long forgotten psychological scars begin to resurface. The tension builds until the true reason for Seiko’s visit is finally revealed, forcing Midori to choose between family responsibilities or continuing to pursue her dream.
PALI ROAD (USA)
Director: Jonathan Lim
A young doctor wakes up from a car accident and discovers she is married to another man and living a life she can’t remember. Her search for the truth to her past life will lead her to question everyone around her and her entire existence. Shot entirely in Hawaii and starring Chinese superstar Michelle Chen, TWILIGHT’s Jackson Rathbone and Sung Kang (FAST FIVE), PALI ROAD is a story for the search for true love between two worlds. A US-China co-production shot entirely on location in Hawaii.
ROBBERY (Hong Kong)
Director: Fire Lee
A twenty-something punk fancies himself a total player, but the best job he can find is overnight clerk at a convenience store. The other clerk is a cute chick and you’re thinking “rom com,” but then there’s a robbery, a gangster, a shoot-out and a night they won’t forget, if they survive it! An anarcho-absurdist blood-soaked grand guignol indie flick with attitude to burn, this is the perfect high paced youth movie from Hong Kong.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE NOMINEES:
AMERICAN EPIC (USA)
Director: Bernard MacMahon
AMERICAN EPIC is the extraordinary story of 1920s record companies that toured America with a recording machine, to capture the emerging and diverse music known as American roots. The filmmakers retrace this journey today, to rediscover the families whose music was recorded long ago; music that would lead to the development of Hopi, Hawaiian slack key, Tejano, Cajun and Delta Blues. These seminal musicians are revealed through previously unseen film footage, unpublished photographs, and exclusive interviews.
CROCODILE GENNADIY (USA)
Director: Steve Hoover
Gennadiy calls himself ‘Pastor Crocodile.’ He’s known throughout Ukraine for his years working to rehabilitate drug-addicted kids. But he’s also a vigilante who uses any force necessary to carry out his moral vision. Gennadiy believes he has made Mariupol a better place, but now, the violence in Ukraine threatens everything.
HEBEI TAIPEI (Taiwan)
Director: Li Nien Hsiu
Born in China, drifting from place to place since childhood, Li Chung-Hsiao has survived war and poverty. War robbed him of him returning to his hometown and his dreams are filled with only scenes of violence in the streets of his youth. With these memories as a guide, his daughter sets out to retrace his tumultuous life. This is the dramatic memoir of a foul-mouthed, insolent, yet somehow lovable man.
IN FOOTBALL WE TRUST (USA)
Director(s): Tony Vainuku, Erika Cohn
A contemporary American story, IN FOOTBALL WE TRUST transports viewers deep inside the tightly-knit and complex Polynesian community in Salt Lake City, Utah, one of the chief sources for the modern influx of Pacific Islander NFLers. With unprecedented access and shot over a four-year time period, the film intimately portrays four young Polynesian men striving to overcome gang violence and near poverty through the promise of American football.
REMAKE REMIX RIP-OFF (Turkey)
Director: Cem Kaya
Turkey in the 1960s and 70s was one of the world’s biggest film producers even though its industry was vastly unknown internationally. In order to keep up with demand, screenwriters and directors were copying scripts and remaking movies from across the globe. Name any Western hit film; there is a Turkish version to it, from THE WIZARD OF OZ to STAR TREK. What they lacked in equipment and budget they compensated for with sheer zeal and excessive use of manpower.
THE SEVENTH FIRE (USA)
Director: Jack Pettibone Riccobono
When Rob Brown, a Native American gang leader on a remote Minnesota reservation, is sentenced to prison for a fifth time, he must confront his role in bringing violent drug culture into his beloved Ojibwe community. As Rob reckons with his past, his seventeen-year-old protégé, Kevin, dreams of the future – becoming the biggest drug dealer on the reservation. Terrence Malick presents this haunting and visually arresting nonfiction film about the gang crisis in Indian Country.
“There’s a wealth of award winning and critically acclaimed films that we are honored to present across a broad cross-section of our festival program, especially in our European Spotlight, Awards Buzz, and Gala Presentations.” says Anna Page, HIFF’s Associate Director of Programming. “As a film festival close to the end of the calendar year, we are fortunate to present the very best films from Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Venice and Toronto.”
Awards favorites and the most acclaimed films from the film festival circuit include the following:
45 YEARS (UK)
Director: Andrew Haigh
Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay turn in award winning performances as a couple in trouble. There is just one week until Kate Mercer’s forty-fifth wedding anniversary and planning for the party is going well, until a letter arrives for her husband. The body of his first love has been discovered, frozen and preserved in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps. Jealousy and what ifs plague the couple. By the time the party is upon them, there may not be a marriage left to celebrate.
Director: Jacques Audiard
Dheepan is a Sri Lankan Tamil warrior who flees to France, along with a young woman and little girl, as they pose as a family (this allows easier asylum). Soon, the makeshift family is sent to live in a housing block outside Paris, where Dheepan earns a job as the local caretaker. But violence continues to follow him when he realizes the block is territory for a drug gang. Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes.
JAFAR PANAHI’S TAXI (Iran)
Director: Jafar Panahi
Taxi passengers express their views and opinions as filmmaker Jafar Panahi (currently under house arrest and charged for conspiring to create anti-Islamic propaganda) drives through the streets of Tehran. Thus the stage is set for a series of deft seriocomic episodes that bring Panahi (who exudes a warm presence) into contact with a diverse cross-section of Tehran society, all captured from the fixed p.o.v. of the taxi’s dash-cam.
Director: Trey Edward Schultz
After years of absence, Krisha (played to the hilt by former Hawaii resident Krisha Fairchild) reunites with her family for a holiday gathering. She sees it as an opportunity to fix her past mistakes, cook the family turkey, and prove to her loved ones that she has changed for the better. Only Krisha’s delirium takes her family on a dizzying holiday that no one will forget. The film won both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at SXSW this year.
MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (China)
Director: Jia Zhang-ke
Jia Zhang-ke’s latest is an epic tale about Tao and the men who come in and out of her life. We begin in 1999, where Tao finds herself pursued by two young men. We jump to 2014, where Tao is a divorcee and trying to come to make peace with the fact that her young son may be better off with his rich father, who intends to immigrate to Australia. We end in 2025, centering on Tao’s now college-age son.
MUSTANG (France, Germany, Turkey)
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Early summer. In a village in northern Turkey, Lale and her four sisters are walking home from school, playing innocently with some boys. The immorality of their play sets off a scandal that has unexpected consequences. The family home is progressively transformed into a prison; instruction in homemaking replaces school and marriages start being arranged. The five sisters who share a common passion for freedom, find ways of getting around the constraints imposed on them.
RIGHT NOW WRONG THEN (South Korea)
Director: Hong Sang-soo
The delightful new film from Festival favorite Hong Sang-soo (IN ANOTHER COUNTRY) presents two variations on a potentially fateful romantic encounter between a filmmaker and a painter, tracing each to its own very distinct outcome. The film won the Golden Leopard at this year’s Locarno Film Festival.
SON OF SAUL (Hungary)
Director: László Nemes
Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, and one of the most talked about films of the year, SON OF SAUL is an excoriating look at evil in Auschwitz. During World War II, a Jewish worker (Géza Röhrig) at the Auschwitz concentration camp tries to find a rabbi to give a child a proper burial. Grim and unyielding, this explosive film is also Hungary’s official entry to the Academy Awards.
YELLOW FLOWERS ON THE GREEN GRASS (Vietnam)
Director: Victor Vu
A coming of age story set in the Vietnamese countryside during the late 1980s — Thieu and Tuong are brothers that share a strong bond. Unbeknownst to Tuong, Thieu is constantly jealous of his younger brother’s personal and academic achievements. This leads to an act of violence, which leaves Tuong paralyzed and bedridden. In coming to terms with his own conscience, Thieu attempts to redeem himself and discovers the true meaning of brotherhood.
YOUTH (Italy, France, Switzerland, UK)
Director: Paulo Sorrentino
Oscar winning actor Michael Caine plays Fred, an acclaimed composer and conductor, who brings along his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and best friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), a renowned filmmaker on holiday. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. The two men reflect on their past, each finding that some of the most important experiences can come later in life.
The Festival is celebrating the life and legacy of one of the greatest directors of all time and the maestro of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. The HITCHCOCK SPOTLIGHT presented by the Vilcek Foundation will encompass a 70th anniversary presentation of SPELLBOUND starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. After the screening, there will be an extended Q&A session with the late director’s granddaughters, Tere Carubba and Mary Stone, who will discuss their grandfather’s familial legacy and a personal and intimate perspective on one of the most famous film directors of the 20th century, who defined cinema. In addition, HIFF will present the Hawaii premiere of Kent Jones’ documentaryHITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
“In honor of the contributions that so many immigrants have made to American cinema over the years, HIFF 2015 will spotlight one of the most influential immigrant filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock,” says Robert Lambeth, HIFF’s Executive Director. This spotlight is a special sidebar of the New American Filmmakers program presented by the Vilcek Foundation, which highlights the contributions of gifted immigrant filmmakers to contemporary American cinema. HIFF is proud to once again partner with the Vilcek Foundation to present the 9th annual New American Filmmakers program.
SPELLBOUND (1945) w/ Tere Carubba and Mary Stone (Hitchcock’s granddaughters)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
In this special 70th anniversary screening, SPELLBOUND tells the story of a psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.
Director: Kent Jones
In 1962, Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets behind the mise-en-scène in cinema. Based on the original recordings of this meeting—used to produce the mythical book “Hitchcock/Truffaut”—this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time. Director Kent Jones also interviews the top filmmakers working today as they discuss how this seminal book influences their work.