Shadow, Zhang Yimou
Shadow, Zhang Yimou

The 38th edition of the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) will present 187 films from over 35 countries, from November 8 through November 18, 2018.  The festival will open with highly anticipated new film from Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers; Hero; Curse of the Golden Flower), Shadow, which stars Chao Deng (The Mermaid; Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame), Li Sun (Fearless; Empresses in the Palace), and Ryan Zheng (The Great Wall; Back in Time), is based storied the “Three Kingdoms” Chinese legend. Shadow had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, where audiences were wowed by Zhang’s masterful direction of this unique action-epic.

HIFF’s Closing Night Presentation will be the world premiere of Moananuiākea: One Ocean. One People. One Canoe, directed by Na’alehu Anthony. This documentary looks at the latest worldwide voyage of Hōkūleʻa, four decades after its maiden voyage sparked the Hawaiian Renaissance and continues to inspire a new generation of navigators and voyagers to gather their courage and sail beyond the horizon of the Pacific.

This year’s Centerpiece Presentation is Green Book, which world premiered at the Toronto Film Festival; where it won the coveted TIFF 2018 People’s Choice Award, an early barometer of being an Oscars favorite. The drama, follows Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer from the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Oscar winner Mahershala Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that are safe for African Americans. Green Book won the coveted Audience Award at the recent Toronto Film Festival. Produced by Jim Burke (The Descendants, HIFF 2012), who will be in attendance at HIFF, and directed by Peter Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary), Green Book infuses heartfelt drama in an unlikely friendship that stood the test of time.

HIFF audiences will critically acclaimed titles in the Awards Buzz section; which presents high profile films straight from major festivals like Cannes, Venice, Toronto and more. These must-see films are major players in the awards season, including: the Mexican drama Roma, directed Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity); If Beale Street Could Talk, directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight); Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s (A Separation) Spain-set thriller Everybody Knows starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz; and Natalie Portman’s new film Vox Lux, directed by Brady Corbet.

This year HIFF presents a special spotlight on world renowned auteur Wong Kar-wai with the Filmmaker in Focus series. HIFF is proud to present In The Mood For Love (2000), Happy Together (1997), and Chungking Express (1994). A special extended Q&A with Director Wong Kar Wai will follow the screening of Chungking Express.

In Special Presentations, HIFF will present the West Coast premiere of Wake, a comedy/drama directed by Cyrus Mirakhor. Wake follows a widowed mortician, struggling with agoraphobia, who receives a birthday gift from her mother and daughter as a joke. The gift, a life-size male doll named Pedro, goes from funny to fantastical, complicating her ties with her family and friends.  Wake stars James Denton (TV Series Good Witch), Caroline Lagerfelt (TV Series The Blacklist), and features the acting debut of Filipino-American stand-up comedian, Jo Koy. The popular comedian will attend the screening, and join director Mirakhor for the post-screening Q&A.

The always popular Sound x Vision category offers must-see films for music fans and cinephiles. HIFF will host the North American premiere of The Legend of the Stardust Brothers, directed by Macoto Tezuka. This fascinating musical narrative, made in 1985, begins when Macoto Tezuka (son of the great manga artist Osamu Tezuka) met musician and TV personality Haruo Chicada who had made a soundtrack to a movie which didn’t actually exist: The Legend of the Stardust Brothers. With Chicada as producer, Tezuka then adapted this “fake soundtrack” into the real movie story of “The Stardust Brothers”. Tezuka assembled a cast of some of Japan’s most famous musicians of the time, including such greats as Kiyohiko Ozaki, ISSAY, Sunplaza Nakano and Hiroshi Takano, alongside many famous names in Manga such as Monkey Punch (Lupin the 3rd), Shinji Nagashima (Hanaichi Monme), Yosuke Takahashi (Mugen Shinsi) and even many upcoming film directors of the time such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Tokyo Sonata) and Daihachi Yoshida (The Kirishima Thing). The resulting film The Legend of the Stardust Brothers is the exact definition of a cult film. Despite the huge array of talent on board with a large budget, the film is totally unknown even to this day in both Japan and worldwide. More than 30 years since its release, The Stardust Brothers will finally make itself known worldwide with a new master and a brand new Director’s Cut.

For the first time, the festival will present the HIFF VR Lounge; bringing together a selection of exciting contemporary Virtual Reality projects from around the world to SALT At Our Kakaako. Free and open to the public November 10th through 12th, the HIFF VR Lounge will feature virtual reality technologies bring us closer to the action than ever before, face-to-face with some of the most vital issues and stories in the world today. Audiences can visit the lounge and experience: Age Of Sail (Dir.: John Kahrs), Chasing Coral: The VR Experience (Dir.: Jeff Orlowski), Finding Haka (Dir.: James Hedley) and Songbird (Dir.: Lucy Greenwell).

Additional highlights at the 2018 Hawaii International Film Festival

The world premiere of Eating Up Easter Island (Chile, United States), directed by Sergio M. Rapu. This documentary reveals the nuance of life on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and 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 Island screens as part of the Pacific Showcase lineup.

Maui’s Hook (New Zealand), a documentary feature directed Paora Te Oti Takarangi Joseph, is one of the most original and stirring films released this year. Psychologist and filmmaker Paora Joseph journeys New Zealand’s North Island with families who lost someone close to them to suicide. Seamlessly combining scripted narrative sections with interviews of five brave families mourning the loss of a loved one, Joseph blurs the divide between documentary and drama to make a profound statement about suicide and the people left behind. This will be the film’s International Premiere.

Shoplifters (Japan), directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, is Japan’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. This Cannes Palme d’Or winner tells the story of a poor family who, after a shoplifting run, find a little girl freezing in the cold. Although initially reluctant, they welcome her into their home. Though happy together, an unforeseen incident begins to unravel hidden secrets and test the bonds that unite them. From Palme d’Or-winning director Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shoplifters tells a breathtaking story of family and love told across four seasons on the streets of contemporary Tokyo.

The International Premiere of Still Human (Hong Kong), a drama directed by Oliver Siu Kuen Chan, explores the world of paralyzed and disgruntled Cheong-wing (Anthony Wong), who has gone through quite a few caretakers. When he gets new Filipino domestic helper, Evelyn (Crisel Consunji), they both realize that Evelyn does not speak a word of Cantonese. Somehow as the unlikely duo begin to warm up to each other, a bond forms that may transcend stereotypes and change them both in ways they never imagined.

In Southeast Asian Showcase, HIFF presents the North American Premiere of Memories of My Body. This drama for Indonesia, directed by Garin Nugroho, follows Juno; a child who was recently abandoned by his father.. Alone now, he joins a dance center where men shape their feminine appearance and movement. But the sensuality and sexuality that come from dance and bodies, mixed with the violent social and political Indonesian environment, force Juno to move from village to village. Even if on his journey Juno receives love from his those around him, he still has to face the battlefield that his body is becoming.

The United States Premiere of Sink or Swim (France), directed by Gille Lellouche. This hilarious crowd-pleaser, which world premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, follows a group of 40-something guys, all on the verge of a mid-life crisis, decide to form their local pool’s first ever synchronized swimming team – for men. Braving the skepticism and ridicule of those around them, and trained by a fallen champion trying to pull herself together, the group set out on an unlikely adventure, and on the way will rediscover a little self-esteem and a lot about themselves. Sink or Swim will screen as part of the European Showcase lineup.

The United States Premiere of The Witch (South Korea), directed by Park Hoon-jung, is a Sci-Fi thriller set in rural South Korea, where a young girl flees a government facility. 10 years later a now teenage Ja-yoon has no recollection of her past, and knows only the elderly couple who have taken her is as her parents. But soon Ja-yoon discovers that she has some incredible talents, she is so talented in fact that she lands on national television. However shortly after her appearance, ominous figures show up, threatening to turn her peaceful life upside down. The Witch will screen as part of the Spotlight On Korea lineup

HIFF welcomes Harry Shum Jr. Shum, who has won a Screen Actors Guild award for his performance on Glee, numerous awards and accolades for his role on Shadowhunters, and most recently has appeared on the blockbuster hit Crazy Rich Asians, will be part of the Future Filmmaker Luncheon and Panel. The panel, which will take at WaiWai Collective, will also be a destination for the student filmmaker finalists in the new short film contest presented by HIFF in partnership with the Daniel K. Inouye Institute. The partnership, launched in June, encouraged middle and high school students statewide to create films inspired by Senator Inouye’s historic speech at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

2018 Hawaii International Film Festival Honorees

Ever year, HIFF hosts a prestigious awards ceremony to honor the competition titles at the fest and to celebrate luminaries in the filmmaking community. Past recipients include: Taika Waititi, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Samuel L Jackson, Ang Lee, Maggie Cheung, Koji Yakusho. HIFF is proud to bestow awards on this year’s honorees.

The Halekulani Maverick Award is given to an international cinema artist who has a unique and eclectic career trajectory, contributing to international cinema and the filmed arts in an innovative way. This year, HIFF will present the award to present to actor/producer Steven Yeun (Okja; TV series The Walking Dead; Burning, South Korea’s official entry to Oscars foreign language category). The Halekulani Maverick Award will also be presented to Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians; Ocean’s Eight). During the festival, Awkwafina will participate in an exclusive and intimate conversation about her career. IN CONVERSATION WITH AWKWAFINA, the wildly popular rapper turned actress, will discuss her humble beginnings in Queens, NY, and her stratospheric rise from working in a vegan bodega to hosting Saturday Night Live.

The PIC Trailblazer Award is given to a cinema artist of Pacific Islander heritage who broadens the scope of Pacific Islander stories onto the world stage, producing award winning work in independent and global cinema, becoming a trendsetter in their field and a cultural ambassador that shines a spotlight on Pacific islander culture in mainstream media. This year HIFF will honor Heperi Mita as the current torchbearer for his mother Merata Mita’s legacy and work. Heperi continues to be a beacon for Maori and indigenous filmmakers and media, as a both a filmmaker and archivist, perpetuating this legacy for generations to come.

The Halekulani Career Achievement Award is bestowed to an artist who has reached the career pinnacles very few have achieved via industry awards and accolades and a body of work that is known globally. This year HIFF is proud to present the Halekulani Career Achievement Award to actress Moon So-ri (Oasis; A Good Lawyer’s Wife). During the festival audiences can watch Moon So-ri’s directorial debut, The Running Actress.

Made In Hawaii Feature Film Award Nominees:

This year’s competition lineup continues to amplify the voice of local filmmakers. The Made In Hawaii competition film awards celebrate the dynamic and flourishing local independent film scene that strives onward here in the Hawaiian Islands. Fiction, Non-fiction and short films that are made by locally-based filmmakers or involve locally-based stories are eligible for the following awards—Best Made In Hawaii Feature and Best Made In Hawaii Short Film. This year’s competition films are:

August At Akiko’s – This narrative feature, directed by Christopher Makoto Yogi, features cosmopolitan musician Alex Zhang Hungtai (Dirty Beaches, Last Lizard), who returns home to the Big Island having been away for nearly a decade. Amidst possessed sax solos and brooding strolls, Alex stumbles upon a Buddhist bed & breakfast run by a woman named Akiko (Akiko Masuda). Hungtai’s wild sax and Akiko’s Buddhist bells form the base for a rich soundtrack that wraps around the audience like a sonic web surrounding the unexpected new friendship.

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable – This documentary feature directed by Aaron Lieber, is the untold story of the fearless athlete and her resilience against all odds to become one of the leading professional surfers of our time.

Moananuiākea: One Ocean. On People. One Canoe – This documentary feature, directed by Na’alehu Anthony, looks at the latest worldwide voyage of Hōkūleʻa, four decades after its maiden voyage sparked the Hawaiian Renaissance and continues to inspire a new generation of navigators and voyagers to gather their courage and sail beyond the horizon of the Pacific.

My Hero’s Shadow – A biographical documentary directed by Justin Young, begins when Shane Stant made international news when he struck Nancy Kerrigan’s knee the day before the 1994 US National Figure Skating Championships. He’s a different man today, but still has to deal with memories of his mistakes. Told by Stant’s sister Maile, MY HERO’S SHADOW is a compassionate look at trauma, poor choices and the redemptive value of family.

Stoke – Directed by Zoe Eisenberg and Phillips Payson, this narrative feature Jane is an attorney based in Los Angeles and she’s clinically depressed. While channel flipping, she sees footage of Kilauea in full eruption. She buys a one-way ticket to the Big Island, and along the way, runs into two local guys who sell themselves as tour guides. What transpires is a road movie that captures some of the unique sub-cultures of Hawaii Island from hippie enclaves, and spiritual sanctuaries, to Native Hawaiians trying to make ends meet, and midnight ravers looking for their next hit.

T-Shirt Theatre Presents: Kipuka – This documentary feature directed by Jeremiah Tayao, chronicles the work of the students in the company, as they address bullying, cyberbullying, and teen suicide prevention, all written and performed by the students (aged 13-18). Their 2017-2018 performance of “Kīpuka” – an oasis in a lava field – is reflective of the T-Shirt Theatre mantra that one smile, one word, one friend can make all the difference for someone in turmoil and contemplating tough decisions.

Made In Hawaii Short Film Award Nominees:

Mauka to Makai – Directors: Alika Maikau and Jonah Okano
Hae Hawaii – Director: Ty Sanga
Kalewa – Director: Gerard Elmore
Kaumakaiwa – Director: Bradley Tangonan
The Moon and the Night – Director: Erin Lau
Shoreline (‘Ae Kai) – Director: Brandi Martin.
Six Hundred Lux – Director: Koa San Luis
Surfing To Cope – Director: Katie Walsh
This and Nothing Else: Red Bull Wa’a – Directors.: Marc Levy, Justin Mitchell, Marc

Kau Ka Hōkū Filmmaker Award nominees :

HIFF was an annual stop for the Pulitzer winning film critic Roger Ebert, who hailed the festival as “a showcase for emerging filmmakers from the Asia and Pacific Rim.”. This year, HIFF will launch the Kau Ka Hōkū Filmmaker Award, which will be given to emerging directors with their 1st or 2nd feature film. Both fiction and non-fiction feature films will be nominated by the festival programmers and adjudicated by an international jury.

August At Akiko’s – Director: Christopher Makoto Yogi
Grit – Directors: Sasha Friedlander, Cynthia Wade
House of My Fathers – Director: Suba Sivakumaran
The Hungry Lion – Director: Takaomi Ogata
Last Child – Director: Shin Dong-Seok
Leiti’s In Waiting– Directors: Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu
Maui’s Hook – Director: Paora Te Oti Takarangi Joseph
People’s Republic of Desire – Director: Hao Wu
The Third Wife – Director: Ash Mayfair
Transmilitary – DIrectors: Fiona Dawson, Gabe Silverman

NETPAC award nominees

The NETPAC award is presented annually at international film festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Rotterdam, Pusan, Singapore, Taiwan, Yamagata, Amiens and Hawaii. HIFF is the only film festival in North America granted the distinguished honor of presenting the NETPAC award. This year’s NETPAC nominees are:

Adulthood (South Korea) – Director: In-seon Kim
Emu Runner (Australia) – Director: Imogen Thomas
Gatao: The Rise of the King (Taiwan) – Director: Yen Cheng-Kuo
House of My Fathers (Sri Lanka) – Director: Suba Sivakumaran
Last Child (South Korea) – Director.: Shin Dong-Seok
Long Time No Sea (Taiwan ROC) – Director: Heather Tsui
Sir (India) – Director: Rohena Gera
Song Lang (Vietnam) – Director: Leon Le
Still Human (Hong Kong) – Director: Oliver Siu, Kuen Chan
Wrath of Silence (China) – Director: Yukun Xin

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