7 Foodie Movies at This Year’s Hawai‘i International Film Festival and What to Eat During Them

Gather up your favorite kimbap, lumpia and pastries to eat while watching these international foodie films.


Come Back Anytime Courtesy Hiff

“Come Back Anytime.” Photo: Courtesy Hawai‘i International Film Festival


For cinephiles, there are certain expectations that come with choosing the right film. Whether it be a feature film, a documentary or a series of shorts, the choices you make should embrace your senses and transport you at the whim of the filmmaker. And if it’s a film focusing on food? Well, get your snacks ready because the Hawai‘i International Film Festival has a show(case) for you.


The festival’s 41st annual fall showcase runs from Nov. 4 to 28, in-person and online. For foodies, the popular “Eat. Drink. Film.” spotlight series will delight viewers and titillate their taste buds with two full-length documentaries, a feature film and four shorts. All tell intimate stories from various parts of the world through the context of food. Because this showcase is all online, there’s no need to hide your goodies in the folds of your jacket—display them loud and proud before settling into your HIFF marathon at home.


Here’s a roundup of what’s screening this year with my snack pick pairings.



Rolling (Korea)

Juri is like most of us during the pandemic: homebound, indulging in vices and waiting for life to resume. That is, until her mother asks her to fill in at Sin Na Ra, her kimbap shop. Juri is forced back into the world to discover who she wants to be in these new times. As she takes care of this quaint corner store, we meet people from around the neighborhood who frequent the shop for quality kimbap. Each visitor helps to slowly redefine our protagonist into something new. Like the ubiquitous yet uniquely Korean staple, it’s the sum of the parts that make it a delicious journey, as her life experiences impart added seasoning to this delightful story.



Pairing: Pālama Supermarket kimbap rolls



The Pursuit of Perfection (Japan)

A four-part documentary that explores what it means to pursue a passion in food day after day and how far these obsessions are taken. From traditional kaiseki and sushi to French cuisine and mind-blowing pastries, each chef is interviewed about their undeterred focus and ability to transcend what has already come before them. You will drool as the camera lingers lovingly over dishes of foie gras monaka with persimmon and whiskey jelly or yakitori-style grilled softshell turtle. Keen eyes will spot the mango tart that looks like a bouquet of orange roses. The cinematography is so beautiful that we highly recommend snacks within arm’s reach. Patissier Shoji Natsuko says it best: “100% is a given. I want to give 2,000%.”



Recommending food pairing: Sushi Zen box from Yohei Sushi


SEE ALSO: ‘Ahi, ‘Ahi, ‘Ahi, ‘Ahi, ‘Ahi, ‘Ahi, ‘Ahi, ‘Ahi: 8 Ways to Try ‘Ahi Sushi at Maguro-Ya



Come Back Anytime (Japan)

Ramen heads will want to sit back and enjoy this one with their favorite bowl of noodles. Bizentei is a small mom-and-pop ramen-ya located in central Tokyo. Over the decades, Masamoto Ueda and his wife of 50 years, Kazuko, serve simple and honest shoyu ramen to loyal customers. Showcasing the simple flavors that reflect Ueda’s personality, the documentary interviews not only the owners but a panoply of almost daily customers who see Bizentei as a second home. It is through the Masamotos’ spirit of omotenashi, the Japanese style of wholehearted hospitality, that this heartfelt union becomes possible. After watching, you too will feel the pull to come back anytime.



Recommended food pairing: Shoyu ramen from Hokkaido Santouka – Kāheka


SEE ALSO: Slurp’s Up: Onoya Ramen Brings New Age Noodles to Kapahulu


“Eat. Drink. Film.” Shorts

At 15 to 30 minutes each, these mini-films will delight viewers with their unique stories.



Little Fish (USA)

Chef Bun Lai has a very successful sushi restaurant in Connecticut. But while he serves wonderful food to his customers, he finds himself asking, how can he sustain and nourish himself both physically and soulfully? This is a question that often goes unasked of the people that make and serve our food every day.


Phoenix Bakery: Sweets for the Sweet (USA)

This film examines the multi-generational evolution of Phoenix Bakery, a Chinese-American family business in Los Angeles Chinatown, from its humble beginnings to its recent 80th anniversary celebration.



No Place Like Kasama (USA)

How do you open a new restaurant in the middle of a global pandemic? Cameras follow chefs Genie Kwon and Timothy Flores as they stake their culinary claim in a small Chicago neighborhood by opening Kasama, Tagalog for together, a Filipino fusion restaurant-café at the infancy and height of COVID-19. As if opening a new business isn’t hard enough in normal times.


Tanagokoro: A Culinary Portrait (UK)

Yoshinori Ishii is the head chef at Michelin-starred Umu restaurant in London, where he serves Kyoto-inspired dishes. Through his unyielding demand for high-quality fish in a market void of it, Ishii takes ikejime, the Japanese method of humane fishing, to various fishmongers.


Recommended food pairings: Pastries from Beyond Pastry Studio, lumpia from J&S Lumpia Spot, and/or bara chirashi from Sushi Sho.


SEE ALSO: First Look: Beyond Pastry Studio’s Pastries and Modern Take on Filipino Breads


Individual films for the “Eat. Drink. Film.” series will be shown online at $8 apiece with the four film shorts screened as one entity for $8. hiff.org, @hiffhawaii