Midori in Hawaii is a fun comedy that follows Midori, a wedding photographer listening to the criticism of her sister and brother-in-law when they decide to leave Japan to visit her in Hawaii. The film itself is filled with beautiful shots of Big Island as well as great chemistry between the actors. I was fortunate to sit down and talk story with the director and creator of this film, John Hill.
“I always loved Japanese films in general”
When asked what inspired him to make a film like Midori in Hawaii, Hill reflected on his own interest in Japanese films. Midori in Hawaii is filmed with the characters mostly speaking Japanese throughout the movie, so it makes sense that Hill is also a fan of movies created by Japanese filmmakers. One of his favorite Japanese filmmakers is Tokyo Story and The End of Summer director Yasajiro Ozu. With his interest in Japanese films, his time living in Japan, and his study of the language with the help of Midori in Hawaii’s producer Hiroko Kobayashi, Hill has definitely taken the time to learn about the culture intricately.
“Would I like this if I was watching it?”
Hill’s intended audience is people who “tend to gravitate towards art films,” he says. By art films, he means the films that have more of a slower development for the audience to digest the beauty of that the filmmaker is trying to portray with either his or her shots or the storyline itself. Even though this film was made for people who have a similar taste in film as to Hill, there were quite a few moviegoers whom he didn’t anticipate having a positive reaction. I think that is a sign that this film is easily accessible for the Hawaii masses.
“What brings people here to Hawaii also makes them more willing to help”
Residents, tourists, and visitors understand the beauty of the Hawaii islands. But, what is it that makes filming in Hawaii particularly unique compared to filming on the mainland? Hill described it as a place where the “strange community,” referring to the diverse film and creative community, is more willing to help. Unlike bigger location hubs for filmmakers like Los Angeles and New York, Hawaii, especially Big Island, is the home of a diverse setting with different tones and ecosystems. When something creative is made, the community is more willing to help without expecting anything in return because of the openness to explore the nature and peaceful ambiance that Hawaii offers.
“Making a movie is just…difficult”
Hill pointed out that his two major challenges when making Midori in Hawaii was the film’s low budget and the effort to try to accurately capture Japanese nuances and natural dialogue from a nonnative speaker’s perspective. Because of the low budget, during post-production, Hill was forced to sleep at his desk in his office because he had “ran out of money for rent,” he says. Along with that, writing a story with mostly all Japanese characters was also difficult due to the fact that Hill is not fluent in Japanese. However, thanks to his relationship with the actors and collaborating with producer Kobayashi, Hill was able to overcome this difficulty without letting the film suffer.
On the topic of making films about a specific culture that a filmmaker is not particularly a part of, Hill has this piece of advice to offer:
“Don’t go in with too many preconceptions. There’s gonna be a lot of collaboration and you have to be willing to listen. Talk to the people of that culture. Hear the stories that are important to them.”
“It would be rewarding to have Japanese people view the film in Japan”
A goal that Hill envisions Midori in Hawaii to accomplish is distribution in Japan. Due to the film being in mainly Japanese with a mainly Japanese cast, it makes sense as to why Hill would set this as one of his goals. Hill himself even said that much of his effort went into making Midori in Hawaii a film that is “Japanese in character,” meaning that if a Japanese audience were to watch it, they would find the plot and the dialogue accurate and believable.
Along with Japan distribution, Hill has hopes that this film, along with his upcoming works, can help increase the quality of film culture on Big Island. He is hopeful for the next phases of film on Big Island, saying “I think there is a bright future for movies on Big Island.” And with that, Hill will continue to use to beauty of Hawaii to help mold his passion into a tangible form for all of us to see.