Not only was this my first time at HIFF, but it was my first time at a film festival. Prior to this event I had only attended music festivals and the only time I would ever sit down to watch one film right after another is in the comfort of my own home during a television series marathon. So needless to say, I was determined to make the most out of this thrilling opportunity.
I was also fortunate enough to be selected to participate in the Roger Ebert Young writers for the Arts program, which consisted of four writing workshops during the first few days of the festival. This year the group was made up of 9 local students from a variety of faculties around Honolulu and Hawaii Pacific University was well represented with several other students who were also selected to participate. The workshop mentor this year was Sheila O’Malley. Shelia is well-known and popular industry film critic. Sheila was extremely encouraging and led engaging informative sessions. She has truly inspired me to further explore film criticism as a career.
I was always told to “never look gift horse in the mouth”, and if I had been given free access to see 20 films, I was going to try my hardest to see 20 films. It was a challenge to schedule the screenings around my classes, assignments and sleep, however, I tried my hardest. I found the time and energy to see 17 films, it was hard to find a fault in any of them. Because I planned to see so many films, I was able to pick a variety of genres and tried to choose films from all the different sections of the film festival.
Thursday Nov 3rd, Day 1 – My apartment is within in walking distance to the Halekulani Hotel, so I was lucky enough to attend the Opening Press Conference. Then made my way to the theatre to attend the first day of the writer’s workshop. That night I saw Kivalina (2016) an American made documentary by Gina Abatemarco, about the detrimental effect global warming has on an Inupiaq tribe living in Kivalina, Alaska. I also saw The last Princess (2016) a Korean film by Hur Jin-ho, which was featured as the opening night film.
Friday Nov 4th, Day 2 – After class I head out to the Dole Cannery Regal Theatres to sit in on the second day of the creative Lab young writers workshop. That night I saw Desperate Sunflowers (2016), a Japanese film by a debut director Hitomi Kuroki. Followed by another Japanese film called After the Storm (2016) directed by industry veteran, Hirokazu Kore-edu.
Saturday Nov 5th Day 3 – I was most excited for the two films I saw this night and I was not disappointed. I saw the 5:30 pm screening of Paterson (2016) by American director Jim Jarmusch also starring one of my favourites, Adam Driver. Followed by the brilliant New Zealand film The Patriarch (2016), starring Temuera Morrison.
Sunday Nov 6th Day 4 – I saw just the one film, Blood Stripe (2016), which was co-directed by Remy Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin. Nowlin also played the lead role of the “lioness”. I was most excited by this film because I have been interacting with the production staff on Twitter.
Monday Nov 7th Day 5 – After my morning class I head out to attend the third day of the Young writers for the Arts workshop and then opted to check out the local talent and saw the film Transcend (2016) directed by Devin Graham and Nikki Mozo, this film drew a big crowd and most of Jon Mozo’s family were in attendance so that was a special experience. There was also the bonus of having A Frame (2016) also locally made; short film play that night as well. Followed by Two Lovers and a Bear (2016) which was a quirky yet deeply disturbing Canadian film by director Ken Ngyen.
Tuesday Nov 8th Day 6 – I had my final workshop for the Roger Ebert Young writers workshop today. I had a morning class but had to excuse myself from my night class to catch a glimpse of the Princess of Bhutan. She was there to introduce her film 1000 hand of the Guru: saving Bhutan’s sacred Arts (2016), a film by Tobias Reewijk. Followed by the Pacific Showcase Shorts (dates vary), which was made up of a collection 6 short films from all over the Pacific region.
Wednesday Nov 9th Day 7 – I watched an Indian film The Cinema Travelers (2016) – winner of the 2016 Halekulani Golden Orchid award for Best Documentary Feature, so I am glad I decided to watch and review that film. Followed by Indivisible (2016) USA, and the Australian film Lion (2016). I’m not just saying this because I am also Australian but Lion was absolutely brilliant, a truly touching story and I’m sure it will receive plenty of recognition come award time.
Thursday Nov 10th Day 8 – I was especially excited to see Listen to me Marlon (2016) It was the film that Robert Lambeth had promoted at the opening press conference, also his daughter Rebecca Brando was there on the night to participate in a Q&A after the screening – it was a very special evening
Friday Nov 11th Day 9 – I opted to watch another New Zealand film Belief: The possession of Janet Moses (2016) directed by David Stubbs. This film was very cleverly made, however it did cover a very complicated topic and was very thought provoking, my mind was so stimulated I had trouble sleeping that night.
Saturday Nov 12th Day 10 – I decided to save the best till last. Score: A Film Music Documentary (2016) is an American documentary by Matt Schrader. Surprisingly, this was a very unique theme. During the Q&A after the film we discussed how unusual it is that more film composers documentaries weren’t already made.
Overall, this was one of the greatest experiences of my academic life. I have definitely caught the film festival bug and I am already investigating how many festivals there are back home. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and I have gained insight to career possibilities within the film industry I was not really aware of.