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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 16, 2010

HIFF showcase has something for everyone

 •  HIFF film schedule
 •  More on HIFF

By Dave Dondoneau
TGIF Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Clockwise from top left: “Mao’s Last Dancer,” featuring Punahou graduate Amanda Schull, chronicles the story of a Chinese dancer who defects to the United States. Sweden’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” has created much buzz ahead of its U.S. release. “The Most Dangerous Man in America” looks at Daniel Ellsberg, who risked life in prison to leak the truth about the Vietnam War. The Bollywood guy flick “3 Idiots” has set box-office records in India.

HIFF photos

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Clockwise from top left: "Ajami" looks at a Jaffa neighborhood where the cultures of Jews, Muslims and Christians clash. "Summer Wars" is one of two anime films in the festival. "Blood Into Wine" tells the story of a musician and his winemaking efforts. "Micmacs" follows a survivor of a drive-by shooting who gets an opportunity for revenge.

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Hawaii International Film Festival's Spring Showcase opens tonight with local flavor — Punahou School grad Amanda Schull co-stars in the Australian film "Mao's Last Dancer."

It's the U.S. debut for the highly anticipated ballet flick, already the third highest-grossing film of all time in Australia and scheduled for release in this country later this year.

Can it get any better for HIFF moviegoers?

Well, yes.

The Spring Showcase runs through Thursday with 31 films from 13 countries all being screened at Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18. It includes five U.S. premieres, seven comedies and documentaries, six films involving food or wine, two Oscar-nominated films, two musicals and one locally produced surf film, "Fiberglass and Megapixels."

There is at least one film showing each day that comes in with a lot of buzz, including the Scandinavian blockbuster "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." The Swedish murder mystery earned more than $100 million overseas and is scheduled for U.S. release later this month. (It is tentatively scheduled to open at Kahala 8 on April 23).

So many good ones to choose from, but here's our picks for each day. For more information on every film, go to www.HIFF.org.


6:30 p.m. — "Mao's Last Dancer" — English, Mandarin with English subtitles — 117 minutes

Schull, 31, plays a ballerina in Bruce Beresford's ("Driving Miss Daisy") inspirational film based on the true story of Li Cunxin, a classically trained dancer who was born and raised in communist China. Cunxin gained international fame after he defected to the United States while on a trip to Houston, and the film tells of the struggles he overcame to reach his dream.


2:15 p.m. — "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers" — 94 minutes

This is a gripping history lesson from a man who knows what happened in Vietnam and the politics behind it. Ellsberg was one of the nation's leading war planners in 1971 and had 7,000 pages of top secret documents to prove it. He risked life in prison to leak the truth about the Vietnam War, which he helped plan. Shows again at 3:45 p.m. Monday.

9 p.m. — "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" — Swedish with English subtitles — 152 minutes

The gripping murder mystery is the first of the late Stieg Larsson's trilogy "The Millenium-series." There is nothing special about the cinematography, but the storyline of a disgraced journalist getting hired by a rich family to solve a cold case murder that happened nearly two decades earlier is intense, and the performance of Noomi Rapace, who plays the goth Lisbeth, is worth the price of admission itself. Note: There are some graphic rape scenes in the movie, so it's not recommended for children.


11 a.m. — "3 Idiots" — Hindi with English subtitles — 173 minutes

This is Bollywood's answer to "Hot Tub Time Machine" and other guy movies. It's also the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time in India. "3 Idiots" tells the story of two friends who embark on a quest for a lost buddy. During their journey they encounter a long-forgotten bet, crash a wedding and a funeral that goes out of control. Shows again at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

4:15 p.m. — "Fiberglass and Megapixels" — 48 minutes

The lone surf movie at HIFF is directed by Derek and Craig Hoffman. This one looks at and tells the stories of the photographers who get the incredible photos at Pipeline and other epic surf spots. It's filled with incredible surf footage.


3:15 p.m. — "Ajami" — Arabic, Hebrew with English subtitles — 120 minutes

An Oscar nominee last year, this is a powerful crime drama set on the streets of Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood where the cultures of Jews, Muslims and Christians often clash. The story is told through various perspectives. Also showing at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

8:15 p.m. — "Summer Wars" — Japanese with English subtitles — 114 minutes

One of two Japanese anime films in the festival, it's about a math geek who gets the dream job of pretending to be Natsuki's (his longtime crush) boyfriend for a couple of days. When he solves a 2,056-digit math riddle sent to his cell phone, he breaches the security barricade protecting Oz (a globe-spanning virtual world where millions of people and governments interact through their avatars).


7 p.m. "About Elly" — Persian, German with English subtitles — 119 minutes

A sleeper pick as one of the best at HIFF. The Iranian film is about a group of old college pals who reunite for a weekend outing and try to set up Elly with a recently divorced man. But little lies in the beginning turn into major problems when Elly disappears.The film was nominated for 10 awards at the 27th Fair International Film Festival in Tehran. Also shows at 1 p.m. Thursday.

8:30 p.m. "Father and Guns" — French with English subtitles — 106 minutes

Canada's highest-grossing French language film is a comedy/thriller about a father and son who hate each other but are on the same police force. It gets rolling when they're assigned to work undercover together. Shows again 1 p.m. Thursday.


8 p.m. — "Waking Sleeping Beauty" — 86 minutes

The documentary is a fascinating look at how Walt Disney reinvented itself through animation and how its artists struggled between old ways and new to thrive over the past decade with hits such as "The Princess and the Frog" and "Bolt."

8:45 p.m. — "The Chef of South Polar" — Japanese with English subtitles — 125 minutes

One of six food films screening, it chronicles a chef who makes incredible meals for a research team stationed near the South Pole. The group lives year-round in the freezing cold in the middle of nowhere. It gives new meaning to comfort food. Shows again at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.


6 p.m. — "Blood Into Wine" — 100 minutes

Another show for foodies, but also for rockers. This one looks at the life of multiplatinum recording artist Maynard James Keenan (Tool), his winemaking mentor Eric Glomski, and their push to bring credibility and notoriety to the Northern Arizona winemaking region.

6:15 p.m. "Micmacs" — French with English subtitles — 105 minutes

Weird title aside, the closing night film is an intriguing comedy/tragedy about weapons dealers from "Amelie" director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. "Micmacs" follows a man who survives a drive-by shooting, but still has the bullet from the accident lodged in his head. Mounting hospital bills leave him homeless before his luck turns and he gets a chance for revenge against the weapons manufacturers who caused him his pain.