Last night, HIFF took me to Japan. I had the opportunity of watching two contemporary films by Japanese directors. Looking back at the evening, I would have to say the free parking really helped boost my experience! I got to the theatres earlier than I had anticipated, so I headed to the lounge across the street. It was pretty empty; there were only volunteers to make sure everything was going well. So I went back to the theatre to wait in line. The volunteer staff was helpful, directing me to the line in which I could wait.
The two films that I saw could not have been more different. The afternoon screening of Key of Life is one of six films nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award: Narrative Feature. After reading the plot synopsis, I had the film The Talented Mr. Ripley in mind, a psychological thriller of identity theft. However, Key of Life delivered on a different level. The comedy writing in this script is insanely good. As a first timer to HIFF, I noticed that the audience is more interactive with the film. These patrons are like me, deeply fascinated with film and we cheered and laughed as we went along with the movie. What I really enjoyed in this film played with concepts of death juxtaposed against life, through marriage. I enjoyed this film and would love to see it again on DVD.
I had some time to kill between screenings, so I headed to Aloha Brewing Company for a beer. I reflected on the film without becoming distracted by the UH football game that was being televised (I was distracted, unfortunately). Going back to the theatre, there was a line stretching all the way to the street. I had the good fortune of talking to two ladies, Barbara and Sandy who were waiting since 7:30 to see Thermae Romae. The line that I saw out by the street happened to be for Thermae Romae. Anyway, the ladies and I got to talk about film, and we got onto the subject of comedy, specifically local Hawaii comedy. Rap Reiplinger was a huge influence growing up and we agreed all local comedians today have to credit Rap.
After leaving the two ladies to their film, I waited in line to Dead Sushi, which turned out to be a better experience, while I enjoyed Key of Life for the film; the director, Noboru Iguchi, introduced Dead Sushi. I thought that this was really great because it was welcoming for the audience to see the director care about the audience. The lead actress, Rina Takeda was present and demonstrated some Karate before and she brought her “sushi nun chucks” which were used on set.
I also recognized someone I met earlier this year from Nella Media Group, a sponsor of HIFF Extreme, which include four films. Naomi Taga, an editorial director of Chinatown Newspaper, says she looks forward to another film presented by HIFF Extreme, ABCS of Death. I enjoyed Dead Sushi because of its’ unpredictability, no scene prepares you for what’s coming next. After the showing, there was opportunity for a Q&A with the actress, Rina Takeda. One of the assistant producers was there and we found out that Dead Sushi had virtually no budget, resulting in 10 straight days of shooting. The assistant producer said there was no sleep during the shoot. Rina Takeda, showcasing her Karate in the film, had 11 years of martial arts training and said that Dead Sushi was more of a challenge to film than her breakout performance in High-Kick Girl because all the sushi was CG and trying to interact with the sushi without it physically being there was difficult. She also demonstrated her “high kick,” and the water bottle she targeted almost hit me.
I had a great first time at HIFF and I look forward to some of the great experiences coming up in the week ahead.