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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 1, 2005

HIFF keeps its place as East-West bridge

 •  What's playing
 •  HIFF staff recommendations

Editor's note: Though the spring festival enters its eighth season, the Hawaii International Film Festival is using it to kick off its 25th anniversary celebration of its fall festival. We asked HIFF executive director Chuck Boller to write about what he sees in HIFF's future.

By Chuck Boller

George Harris and Daniel Craig in a scene from "Layer Cake," a crime drama from Britain that screens Monday night.

Daniel Smith • Sony Pictures Classics

"Oldboy," from South Korea, is a revenge drama about a man who, after having been mysteriously imprisoned for 15 years, is freed to find some answers.

"Windstruck," from South Korea, is a romantic comedy about a police officer, a man she arrests and the complications that follow. It screens Tuesday night.

"Moolaadé," from Senegal, looks at the subject of female circumcision. It screens Saturday and Sunday.

"My Mother the Mermaid," from South Korea, blends elements of time travel and romance. It screens Tuesday.

"A Moment to Remember," from South Korea, is a story about a young couple whose life together is cut short by tragedy.

Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase

Today through Thursday

Dole Cannery Theatres, with one screening at the Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts

$9 general, $8 military, students, seniors 62 and older, children, $7 HIFF Ohana members


My, how we've grown.

In 1981, when HIFF was conceived by Jeannette Paulson Hereniko and others at the East-West Center, the festival presented just seven films at the Varsity Theatre.

Fast forward to 2004. Last year's HIFF presented 168 films and distributed 65,000 tickets. We've gone high-tech, with 40 percent of those tickets being sold online — the first time we've ventured into cybersales.

Most important, our growth has developed while we've maintained our mission to promote cultural understanding between the East and West through the medium of film.

The diverse nature of the films has helped the festival grow larger and gain worldwide prominence. HIFF discovered a young Chinese director named Zhang Yimou, presenting such classics as "Red Sorghum," "Yellow Earth" and "Raise the Red Lantern." Today, he is the most revered Chinese filmmaker, directing "Hero" and "The House of Flying Daggers."

His discovery is just one of many helping HIFF maintain its reputation as the gateway into the United States for films from Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Filmmakers, critics and actors from all styles and genres have attended HIFF throughout its history: Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino, John Sayles, Michael Moore, Donald Richie, Chen Kaige, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Dhang Nhat Minh, Susan Sontag, Gene Siskel, Juzo Itami, Toshiro Mifune, Jason Scott Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Joan Chen, Temuera Morrison, Cesar Montano, Toni Collette, David Wenham, Maggie Cheung and Roger Ebert have all checked in through the past quarter of a century.

When Tarantino participated in 1998, he was ecstatic over Katsuhito Ishii's cult film "Sharkskin Man & Peach Hip Girl."

They met, partied and discussed film. Tarantino would later employ Ishii to do the animated sequences in "Kill Bill."

Ebert once marveled at the great enthusiasm of our local audiences. He especially enjoyed watching a Chinese drama and then having a great post discussion with locals at a Chinatown noodle shop. To Ebert, that encapsulated the festival.

Countless stories like these make HIFF a true cultural event.

HIFF also continues to be a staunch supporter of Hawai'i-based film and video making, showcasing these in its Hawai'i Panorama section.

We've shown the greats — Puhipau and Joan Lander, Eddie and Myrna Kamae — and we've shown the up-and-comers. James Sereno, Nathan Kurosawa, Leah Kihara, Aaron Yamasato and many others will soon be household names in the film business.

We've seen film education in Hawai'i grow tremendously. With digital cinema democratizing the medium in the 21st century, film and media classes have sprouted throughout Hawai'i's schools.

Patricia Gillespie at the Kamehameha Schools and Candy Suiso and the amazing work of the Seariders at Wai'anae High School are prime examples of educators leading the march for future filmmakers. And with the Academy for Creative Media at UH-Manoa, we move closer to establishing a stronger and sustainable local film industry.

In 1998, the spring festival came to fruition. The target is more Asian, Pacific Rim and global cinema. Yes, it's smaller than the fall festival, but it's also equally exciting for our film-hungry audiences.

HIFF is a strong promoter of economic and tourism development between Asia and Hawai'i. Our annual trip to the Shanghai International Film Festival is a great introduction to the vast cultural, vacation, and business opportunities in China.

Every summer, we host a tour to Shanghai, Asia's most dynamic city. With the world focusing on China and its billion-plus population, this is an advantageous time to cultivate culture and business in what many have called the Asian Century. I invite you to join this year's HIFF Shanghai delegation, June 9-20. Visit www.hiff.org for more information.

As we celebrate HIFF's quarter-century mark, we look forward with a clear vision:

  • We will continue to use HIFF as a vehicle for film-related economic development, promoting Hawai'i as a link for the new economy, a convergence of culture and business through media.
  • We will continue to discover, promote and encourage Hawai'i-based filmmakers.
  • We have set our sights on expanding our school programs by bringing filmmakers and artists to lecture in the schools.
  • We are adding other student filmmaking activities, including a "Student Film Showcase."
  • We will continue to discover new international talent, especially from Asia and the Pacific Rim.
  • We plan to advance Hawai'i as a major film destination by promoting the local film industry and the eventual development of a film market for the induction of international business.

We've come a long since 1981, and the best part about it — the best is yet to come.

• • •

What's playing

The Hawaii International Film Festival's Spring Showcase officially begins tonight, although one movie, "Phantom Below," screened last night at the Hawai'i Theatre. All films will be screened at the Dole Cannery Theatres unless noted.


  • 6:30 p.m. — "Millions" (2004, Britain; 98 minutes). A comic fantasy: Two young brothers from Liverpool find a mysterious bag of cash and try to figure out what to do with it. Directed by Danny Boyle.
  • 6:45 p.m. — "The World (Shi Jie)" (2004, China; 133 minutes, subtitled). Set in a "World" theme park, this film focuses on the romance of a dancer/singer and a security guard. Around them are characters of all sorts, representative of China's villagers leaving for the big city of Beijing.
  • 8:45 p.m. — "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" (2004, USA; 111 minutes). The story of one man's attempt to live an environmentally-correct life and the effect on those around him. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Catherine Keener and Camilla Belle.
  • 10 p.m. — "One Missed Call (Chakushin Ari)" (2003, Japan; 112 minutes, subtitled). A horror/fantasy thriller from director Takashi Miike ("Audition"): College kids are dying off — and the deaths seem to be tied to cell-phone calls made three days in the future.


  • 12:30 p.m. — "Moolaadé" (2004, Senegal; 124 minutes, subtitled). Four young girls hope to escape the ritual female circumcision and find support from a strong local woman who invokes the tradition of "moolaadé," or protection.
  • 1 p.m. — "Schultze Gets the Blues" (2003, Germany; 114 minutes, subtitled). Middle-aged and depressed and wallowing in the East German suburbs, Schultze one day hears zydeco music on the radio, leading him on a journey to the heart of Cajun culture.
  • 3:30 p.m. — "Out of This World (Kono yo no sotoe — Club Shinchugun)" (2004, Japan; 123 minutes, subtitled). After World War II, young Japanese jazzmen share a love of music with the occupying Americans who once were their enemies. Part of "Lessons of War," presented by the USS Missouri Memorial Association.
  • 4 p.m. — "A Talking Picture" (2003, Portugal; 95 minutes, subtitled). It begins as a history lesson between mother and daughter, and develops into much more as travelers aboard a cruise ship share their stories and the legacy of Western history.
  • 6:30 p.m. — "Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World (Sekai no Chushin de, Ai wo Sakebu)" (2004, Japan; 139 minutes, subtitled). Based on the romance novel by Katayama Kyoichi, this Japanese box-office smash follows a 30s salaryman as he reminisces about his youth and a girl he once loved.
  • 7 p.m. — "Kung Fu Hustle" (2004, Hong Kong; 95 minutes, subtitled). In 1940s Canton, a wannabe gangster and his cohort pose as members of an infamous gang, eventually drawing real gang members into a battle with the peasants. Director Stephen Chow ("Shaolin Soccer") blends comedy, melodrama and extreme kung fu action.
  • 9:30 p.m. — "Mondovino" (2004, France; 135 minutes, subtitled). Documentary looks at the globalization — or Americanization — of the wine industry, as U.S. companies exert greater influence over European vineyards.
  • 10 p.m. — "Oldboy" (2003, South Korea; 119 minutes, subtitled). In 1988, a man wakes up to find himself imprisoned; eventually he learns that his wife has been brutally murdered. Fifteen years later he is released with just a wallet of money and a cell phone, and five days to figure it all out and exact his revenge.


  • 12:30 p.m. — "Purple Butterfly (Zu Hudie)" (2003, China/France; 127 minutes, subtitled). In 1927 Manchuria, a Japanese man falls in love with a Chinese woman. She eventually joins Purple Butterfly, a Chinese resistance group that is planning to assassinate the leader of the Japanese secret service who is also the boss of her former lover. Part of "Lessons of War," presented by the USS Missouri Memorial Association.
  • 1 p.m. — "Chinese Restaurants: Three Continents" (2004, Canada; 80 minutes, subtitled). A look at Chinese migration, settlement and integration as stories unfold about communities in Madagascar, Norway and Saskatchewan. This is a preview of more installments that will be shown in the fall film festival.
  • 3:30 p.m. — "Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World." See Saturday listing.
  • 4 p.m. — "The Massie Affair" (2005, USA; 52 minutes). A look at the controversial rape case and subsequent murder case in 1930s Hawai'i. Preceded by "Tama Tu" (2004, New Zealand; 18 minutes). Young Maori soldiers wait in the war-torn ruins of an Italian home.
  • 6:30 p.m. — "A Moment to Remember" (2004, South Korea; 117 minutes, subtitled). A romantic tear-jerker: A young couple blissfully begins their life together, until she is diagnosed with Familial Alzheimer's Disease, a rare and accelerated form of the affliction.
  • 7 p.m. — "The World." See Friday listing.
  • 9:30 p.m. — "Moolaadé." See Saturday listing.
  • 10 p.m. — "Throw Down" (2004, Hong Kong; 95 minutes, subtitled). Authentic judo action punctuates a tale of three souls who fight to hang on to their dreams. Sze-To is a former judo champ, Mona is a pop singer and then there's Tony, who challenges Sze-To to a fight.


  • 1:30 p.m., Doris Duke Theatre — "Bread and Roses" (1993, New Zealand; 200 minutes). Based on the true story of political activist Sonja Davies, whose early history includes falling in love with a GI during World War II, giving birth to an illegitimate child and nearly dying from tuberculosis. Part of "Lessons of War," presented by the USS Missouri Memorial Association.
  • 6 p.m. — "Mondovino." See Saturday listing.
  • 6:30 p.m. — "Lost in Time (Mong bat liu)" (2003, Hong Kong; 109 minutes, subtitled). A minibus driver is killed as he travels to meet his fiancee, Siu Wai. The grieving Siu Wai decides to raise the man's son, repair the minibus and take over his route, but is met with a string of roadblocks. Finally, an old minibus pro, Hale, steps in to help.
  • 8:45 p.m. — "Schultze Gets the Blues." See Saturday listing.
  • 9 p.m. — "Layer Cake" (2004, Britain; 104 minutes). Daniel Craig stars as a London drug dealer who wants to go straight but is drawn deeper into the crime world.


  • 6 p.m. — "Gloomy Sunday (Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod)" (1999, Germany; 114 minutes, subtitled). A melodrama with elements of dark comedy: A love triangle involves a pianist, a waitress and the restaurant proprietor in 1930s Budapest.
  • 6:30 p.m. — "My Mother the Mermaid" (2004, South Korea; 110 minutes, subtitled). A romantic time-travel fantasy: Na-young's father suddenly leaves home, and her mother seems unconcerned. Na-young, in her search for her dad, arrives at her parents' hometown and is shocked to find her mother, who is 20 years old and in love with the young mailman, Na-Young's father.
  • 8:45 p.m. — "Mondovino." See Saturday listing.
  • 9 p.m. — "Windstruck (Nae Yeojachingureul Sogae Habnida)" (2004, South Korea; 123 minutes, subtitled). A romantic comedy about a headstrong, ill-tempered police officer and the man she arrests for supposedly stealing an old woman's purse.


  • 6 p.m. — "Lost in Time." See Monday listing.
  • 6:30 p.m. — "Apres Vous" (2003, France; 110 minutes, subtitled). A romantic comedy starring Daniel Auteuil as Antoine, who saves the life of a suicidal stranger, Louis. The two eventually become friends, and Antoine actually tries to find the woman who had sent Louis into despair, but complications set in.
  • 8:45 p.m. — "Woman of Breakwater (Babae Sa Breakwater)" (2003, Philippines; 124 minutes, subtitled). A drama set in the shanties on the edge of Manila: Newly arrived Basilio meets Paquita, a prostitute. He heals her body and renews her heart; she in turn gives him her love.


  • 6 p.m. — "Veer-Zaara" (2004, India; 192 minutes, subtitled). A Bollywood spectacle that combines romance with geopolitics, racial violence and religious tension. An Indian air force rescue pilot saves a Pakistani woman. Twenty-two years later a Pakistani lawyer on her first case meets the pilot, who has been in a jail cell all these years. And what happened to the rescued woman?
  • 6:30 p.m. — "A Moment to Remember." See Sunday listing.
  • 9:15 p.m. — "Apres Vous." See Wednesday listing.
  • 9:30 p.m. — "Throw Down." See Sunday listing.

• • •

HIFF staff recommendations

While they endorse all the movies showing at the spring festival, HIFF Executive Director Chuck Boller, publicist Chris Dacus and film programmer Anderson Le each recommend two favorites:


"Phantom Below." A thrilling submarine story shot on location in Hawai'i, with many local cast and crew members. High production values, great acting and beautiful shots of Hawai'i.

"Mondovino." Step aside, "Sideways." This highly entertaining documentary examines the current state of the international wine industry. An exciting, behind-the-scenes look at the world of wine.


"Kung Fu Hustle." A hilarious action comedy set in pre-revolutionary China in the town of Pig Sty (really). If you're a big fan of Stephen Chow (director of "Shaolin Soccer"), action or kung fu movies, this is your film. There's plenty of out-of-control martial-arts fights that parody the old-school Hong Kong action flicks.

"The Massie Affair." If you enjoy history, don't miss this documentary. It provides a revealing window into the Island society of 1930s, revealing disturbing racial prejudices and government injustices.


"Oldboy" won the Grand Prix in Cannes, but it is not a film for everyone. It explores very dark themes and is very violent, but shows the range of director Park Chan-wook. His work reminds me of a young Martin Scorsese.

"Veer-Zaara" is Bollywood at its best. Epic, sweeping, with a believable love story, great music and a compelling treatise on Indian/Pakistani relations.