Iconic Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo (Face/Off, Mission: Impossible II, A Better Tomorrow) will be honored at the 39th edition of the Hawaii International Film Festival. In addition, the fest revealed its lineup which includes Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit as its opening night film and will feature Maui native Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy as a centerpiece presentation. The fest runs November 7-17 at the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18.‘Jojo Rabbit’ Fox Searchlight
The fest looks to advance understanding and cultural exchange among the peoples of Asia, the Pacific and North America by presenting films from around the world. This year, HIFF will present 205 films from 31 countries.
The festival’s Spotlight on Hong Kong will honor a special guest John Woo, one of the most influential figures in Hong Kong cinema. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the original Hong Kong theatrical release one of Woo’s most influential and revered films, The Killer. The fest will screen the film which will feature a post-screening conversation with Woo.
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Woo will be presented with the Halekulani Lifetime Achievement Award which is given to an artist in recognition of their longstanding dedication to their craft, encompassing a broad body of work. Past recipients include Awkwafina, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Heperi Mita, Ang Lee, Maggie Cheung and Moon So-ri.“Just Mercy’ Warner Bros
In addition, Waititi will be in attendance for the World War II satire Jojo Rabbit, which premiered to critical acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival. Cretton, the director of the drama Just Mercy will also be on hand for the film which also premiered at TIFF.
“On the eve of our 40th anniversary, HIFF embarks on a new era of growth and revitalization that envisions Hawai’i as the ultimate destination for creators, industry mavens, and cinema lovers alike through a shared passion for storytelling, innovation, and the power of film,” said HIFF Executive Director, Beckie Stocchetti. “This year marks a renewed dedication to our youth programs, a new commitment to women in the film industry, and a return to our devotion to showcasing stories of immigrant filmmakers.”
The Premieres section of HIFF will feature festival favorites including award season The Irishman, Marriage Story, Seberg and A Hidden Life.
HIFF will also welcome Hawaii native Jacob Batalon, breakout actor from Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man franchise to participate in the Future Filmmakers Luncheon that is held after the DKII Short Film Initiative program. HIFF will Australian journalist Stan Grant with the PIC Trailblazer Award which is given to a cinema artist of Pacific Islander heritage who broadens the scope of Pacific Islander stories onto the world stage.
Additional highlights at the fest include:
The world premiere of Tokyo Hula (United States), a documentary directed by Lisette Flanary. Flanary, who also directed Na Kamalei: Men of Hula returns to the festival with a poignant exploration of the explosive popularity of the hula in Japan, and reflects on the international impact of the Native Hawaiian culture.
The Two Popes, directed by Fernando Meirelles (Blindness, The Constant Gardner) brings a historic moment in the Catholic Church to the big screen. In this drama, Cardinal Bergoglio (played Jonathan Pryce) requests permission to retire in 2012. Instead, Pope Benedict (played by Anthony Hopkins) summons his harshest critic and future successor to the Vatican to reveal a secret that would shake the foundations of the Catholic Church.
Yellow Rose, directed by Diane Paragas features Broadway powerhouses Lea Salonga, Eva Noblezada alongside Princess Punzalan and Liam Booth in an emotional drama of family and country. Rose (played by Noblezada), an undocumented 17-year-old Filipina, dreams of one day leaving her small Texas town to pursue her country music dreams. Her world is shattered when her mom suddenly gets picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rose, facing this new reality, is forced to flee, leaving behind the only life she knows, and embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she searches for a new home in the honky-tonk world of Austin, Texas.
Nina Wu, directed by Midi Z, screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2019 Cannes Film. In this Taiwanese psychological thrilled, Nina Wu (played by Ke-Xi Wu) gets her big break as an actress in a 1960s spy thriller, but the work is challenging, involving explicit nudity and sex scenes driven by an authoritarian director. After her father’s business goes bankrupt and her mother suffers a heart attack, Nina nearly breaks down and returns home to connect with a childhood friend, but she is haunted by mysterious paranoid delusions linked to a long-repressed memory. Nina Wu is part of the Spotlight on Taiwan lineup.
The North American Premiere of Okinawan Blue, directed by Tsukasa Kishimoto Set in the quaint, picturesque island of Zamami, the film explores what the island life means to its visitors and residents, weaving three strands of stories together into an omnibus film. This funny, quirky, and moving narrative feature, from the Spotlight on Japan lineup, captures the breathtaking beauty and uniqueness of the region and its people.
Parasite is the new masterpiece from Bong Joon-ho (Okja; Snowpiercer). The dark thriller, from the Spotlight on Korea lineup, brings the story of Ki-taek (played by Song Kang-ho) and his wife and two kids, who are poor and living in a basement apartment. One day son Ki-woo learns that his friend is going abroad and leaving behind a prestigious tutoring job for a rich family. A plan is hatched. As Ki-woo manipulates his way in as the rich daughter’s tutor, the family begins to insert themselves into the lives of the wealthy household.
Free to the public, the special film and panel program MAUNA KEA: THROUGH THE KIA’I LENS will capture the zeitgeist defining ‘Kapu Aloha’ movement happening on top of Mauna Kea and the fight to block the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project from breaking ground. Two short documentaries— Standing Above The Clouds follows Native Hawaiian mother-daughter activists at the forefront of the movement and This Is The Way We Rise, follows Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio through her creative journey through poetry inspired by the Kū Kiaʻi Mauna.
Go Back To China, a narrative feature directed by Emily Ting stars Anna Akana, Lynn Chen (Saving Face) and Kelly Hu (TV series Arrow). Sasha Li (played by Anna Akana) is a spoiled rich girl. After burning through most of her trust fund, her father cuts her off and gives her an ultimatum to go back to China to work in the family’s toy business. What begins simply as a way to regain financial support soon develops into a life altering journey of self discovery, as Sasha discovers her passion for toy designing and learns to reconnect with her estranged family. Go Back To China is part of the New American Perspectives program, sponsored by Vilcek Foundation.
The North American Premiere of Goodbye Mother, directed by Dinh Le MinhTrinh. This narrative feature, from the Spotlight on Southeast Asia lineup, follows a the heir of a Vietnamese clan, as he returns home from the US for the first time in 9 years to move his father’s tomb. The whole family is surprised to find him with a young Vietnamese American named Ian. No one knows Ian is Van’s boyfriend and they plan to come out to Van’s widowed mother, who expects him to get married and have kids to fulfill the heir’s duties. While struggling to find the perfect occasion, Van finds out instead that his mother is seriously ill.
The North American Premiere of Aadhaar, from the Spotlight on India lineup. This drama, directed by Suman Gosh, follows Pharsua as he steps up to be the first person in his village to register for a new aadhaar (resident I.D. card). When the village priest proclaims that his I.D. number is cursed, our hero’s journey switches from droll comedy to something straight out of Kafka, as he goes through great lengths to change his number against an insurmountable adversary–government bureaucracy.
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 a Best Made-in-Hawaii film award.
This year’s Made In Hawaii Award Nominees are:
Down on the Sidewalk of Waikiki – Narrative Short (Director: Justyn Ah Chong)
Driving – Narrative Short (Director: Chelsi Johnston)
Fall Guy– Narrative Short (Director: Bradley Crawford)
Like Maddah – Narrative Short (Director: Rena Shishido)
Mo’o – Narrative Short (Director: Anela Ling)
Molokai Bound – Narrative Short (Director: Alika Maikau)
Other People – Narrative Short (Director: Bryson Chun)
The Pit Where We Were Born – Narrative Short (Director: Alexander Bocchieri)
Tokyo Hula – Documentary Feature (Director: Lisette Flanary)
Voices of The Forest – Narrative Short (Director: Bradley Tangonan)
The Kau Ka Hōkū Filmmaker Award presented enters its second year and 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.
The Kau Ka Hōkū Filmmaker Award nominees are:
37 Seconds (Director: HIKARI)
Another Child (Director: KIM Yoon-Seok)
Bellbird (Director: Hamish Bennett)
Goodbye Mother (Director: Dinh Le Minh Trinh)
Hearts & Bones (Director: Ben Lawrence)
Heavy Craving (Director: Pei-Ju Hsieh)
The Long Walk (Director: Mattie Do)
Mina-anud (Director: Kerwin Go)
They Say Nothing Stays The Same (Director: Joe Odagiri)
To Live To Sing (Director: Johnny Ma)
Yellow Rose (Director: Diane Paragas)
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 the United States granted the distinguished honor of presenting the NETPAC award.
This year’s NETPAC nominees are:
Heavy Craving – Taiwan (Director: Pei-Ju Hsieh)
Mina-Anud – Philippines (Director: Kerwin Go)
Goodbye Mother Vietnam (Director: Dinh Le Minh Trinh)
Another Child – South Korea (Director: KIM Yoon-Seok)
They Say Nothing Stays The Same – Japan (Director: Joe Odagir)
For My Father’s Kingdom – New Zealand (Directors: Vea Mafile’o, Jeremiah Tauamiti)
Dark Place – Australia (Director: Kodie Bedford)
Vortex – China (Director: GAN Jianyu)