Posted by: Rachel W. | April 5, 2011

The Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase

Six months have passed since the film festival in the fall, and now with the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) Spring Showcase underway, film lovers have the chance to get their fix this week at the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 & IMAX Theater.

The 14th Annual Spring Showcase began on Friday, April 1 and will continue through Thursday, April 7. This season there are 29 international films from 10 countries being showcased. Their genres range from action/adventure to romantic comedy, to drama, and even to documentaries and a series of short films.

“I go to HIFF because it focuses not only on new American cinematic films, but also on international foreign films too,” Adrienne Huang, a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa said. “This gives directors and actors a platform to showcase their work and receive criticism from the audiences who attend.”

A common theme this season in HIFF films, identified by Honolulu Magazine, is “dangerous women,” specifically the leading ladies of the Indian film 7 Murders Forgiven and Helldriver, a Japanese film. 7 Murders Forgiven is the eerie mysterious romance of Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes and her six husbands who are murdered, leaving her as a primary suspect, while Helldriver tells the adventurous tale of Kika, a zombie slayer.

HIFF, the premiere international film event in the Pacific, strives to create a way for people to share and partake in different cultures, specifically the people of Asia, the Pacific, and North America, through film. It is known for discovering films made in these areas by locals in order to better showcase each filmmaker’s own culture in an accurate light.

“It does a good job of showcasing the cultural diversity of people in film,” Huang said.

One particularly special film to the people of Hawaii this season is Soul Surfer, the biography of surfer champion Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack in 2003, which brought worldwide attention to Kaui and Hawaii at large. Despite her hardships, she never stopped doing what she loved. AnnaSophia Rob plays Hamilton in the film and is joined by co-stars Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, and Carrie Underwood.

This year the showcase also included a few other films with some big-name actors and actresses, including Super and The Whistleblower. Super, the story of Frank, a self-proclaimed superhero, stars Rainn Wilson, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, and even Ellen Page, while The Whistleblower, the story of the life of Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer and another potentially dangerous woman, stars Rachel Weisz.

The Spring Showcase is a 7-day festival compared to the Fall Festival’s 10 days of films, which means fewer films during the Spring. However, this does not in any way mean a lack of quality. The Spring Showcase is more of a place to just release films and see how audiences react to them where as the larger Fall Festival, while also a showcase, is more of an event that includes question and answer sessions with directors or actors and actresses such as Nancy Kwan, who attended HIFF last Fall and received the Maverick Award.

HIFF is one of the biggest film festivals in the world. Organizing it takes a lot of time and planning and the help of hundreds of volunteers each season. Surely without them the festivals would not be possible. In order to become a volunteer, one must attend a volunteer orientation meeting and sign up for a minimum of three five-hour shifts.

Volunteer mother-daughter pair Elsie and Erica Watanabe have been volunteering with HIFF for two seasons now. “We just got addicted,” Mrs. Watanabe said with a smile. They had attended a few films during previous film festivals and decided that they wanted to help out and get involved. They began volunteering with HIFF during the Fall Festival in 2010 and are back again this spring.

Even with a turn out rate of 80,000 people from around the state and nation, HIFF still finds ways to bring even more people out to the event by offering free tickets through a drawing of sorts. By following @HIFF on Twitter, followers can see when they announce this giveaway. All one has to do to qualify to win the free tickets is follow @HIFF and retweet their message or tweet something similar and add #HIFFTix somewhere in the tweet. Eventually the winners are announced and the free tickets can be picked up at the box office.

Huang was one of the lucky winners of a set of free HIFF tickets from their Twitter giveaway, but it was not her first time. “I won a pair of tickets last year,” Huang said after explaining that she tweeted a number of times to get them this year. “I didn’t mean to spam but I really wanted to get lucky and win a second time around!”

By using social media tools such as Twitter, HIFF is successfully exposing a younger generation to film genres that are less mainstream and more culturally involved and diverse.

HIFF was established in 1981 as a project of the East-West Center. Now it is a major cinematic event in the Pacific, going 30 years strong. And with the help of its volunteers and continued patronage of its viewers, it will continue to inspire and culture generations to come.

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