Attending the 2016 Hawaii International Film Festival was a fun and rewarding experience. It provided me an opportunity not only to see new foreign films, but to practice my review-writing skills within a context that I was previously unfamiliar with.
I saw a total of five films at HIFF: “A Piece of the Cake,” “That Demon Within,” “Out Run,” “Harmonium,” and “Gaza Surf Club.”
I wanted to see “A Piece of the Cake” specifically because it was from Vanuatu and the film was in the Bislama language. I had never seen a movie from this country before. I had learned about the Bislama language in my sociolinguistics class last semester and I really wanted to hear it spoken in an authentic Vanuatuan film.
It was easy to attend the screening of “That Demon Within” at Aloha Tower and I was interested in seeing it because normally I’m not a fan of Hong Kong film. Their style of filmmaking has never appealed to me. But the synopsis of this film sounded compelling and I really enjoyed it.
I chose “Out Run” because I was really intrigued by the idea that there exists a LGBT political party in the Philippines. I wanted to learn more about this group and how they deal with the presence of the Catholic Church. As for “Harmonium,” I had wanted to see “Creepy,” but my schedule interfered with the screening of that one, so “Harmonium” was my second choice. “Gaza Surf Club” was also an alternative choice. I had initially planned on seeing “The Eagle Huntress,” but tickets sold out faster than I expected.
After the screening of “Out Run,” I stayed for the Q&A with director S. Leo Chiang, who elaborated on the documentary filmmaking process and the situation this political party finds themselves in. I also stayed for the Q&A with the star of “Gaza Surf Club,” Ibrahim, and director Mikey Yamine. It was great to see Ibrahim in person and listen to him talk about his situation in Gaza.
The highlight of the film festival was seeing the film from Vanuatu. I’ve seen many foreign films over the years, but never one from a Pacific island nation, aside from New Zealand. That was also the first night I attended HIFF and therefore my first time attending an international film festival. It was exciting to be at the theater with a press badge and to be amongst films from around the world. I loved the atmosphere and it made me grateful to be able to participate. I also had a lot of fun at the screening of “That Demon Within.” There were parts of this film that made me laugh a lot, such as the nicknames used among the police officers. I have an appreciation for Hong Kong culture.
Participating in this film festival was special to me because I have a passion for foreign film. Foreign film doesn’t get a lot of attention in the U.S. and I want to help change that. Through this assignment, I gained a little bit of experience with real-time reporting and making a video review, which I had never done before.
I learned that life in Vanuatu is not easy due to poverty and corruption in the government. “Out Run” was particularly educational for me because I didn’t know much about the LGBT community in the Philippines. It was very intriguing to learn that gay people and gender non-conformists are very visible in Philippine society, yet they are only accepted within stereotypical roles. It’s when they step out of such roles that they cause controversy. I was surprised to learn that LGBT people are more visible in the Philippines than they are in Thailand.
I also hadn’t been fully aware of the reality of life in Gaza. I didn’t realize that the people there are unable to leave the Gaza Strip. I had no idea there were surfers there either and I wouldn’t have expected it to be difficult for them to get something as benign as a surfboard.
I would definitely recommend HIFF to my friends, and to anyone else, as a way of broadening their horizons and introducing them to other cultures. This is a highly valuable event and the experience is extremely worthwhile. It’s important for people to see life in other countries and expand their definition of the world. International film festivals provide viewers a chance to see how others live without having to travel great distances.