On Our List: 7 Films to Catch at the Hawai‘i International Film Festival

The 2015 Hawai‘i International Film Festival is from Nov. 12– 22.
Photo: Courtesy of Ever the Land 


The annual Hawai‘i International Film Festival kicked off yesterday, and we’ve got our plate full watching these awesome-sounding pictures. If any of these pique your interest, you can buy tickets and learn more at hiff.org.


1. AN


Hawai‘i Premiere

When: Saturday, Nov. 14, at 12:45 p.m.

Where: Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX

The plot: Sentaro runs a small bakery that serves dorayaki—pancake pastries filled with sweet red bean paste (an). When an elderly lady, Tokue, offers to help in the kitchen, he reluctantly accepts. But Tokue proves to have magic in her hands when it comes to making an. Thanks to her secret recipe, the little business begins to flourish, and, with time, Sentaro and Tokue both open their hearts and reveal old wounds.

Why we want to see it: We’re a sucker for anything that serves up baked goods as eye candy alongside sweet characters like the adorable Tokue (watch the trailer and try not to fall in love with her) and Sentaro. Drooling over beautiful shots of sweet red bean paste is right up our alley, and we can totally get on board with the idea of edible treats being the way to someone’s heart.

What we’ll bring: Our foodie girlfriend—the one who always comes hungry. She’ll be completely down to hit up a bakery after (Liliha Bakery is right across the street, incidentally enough) to binge on cream and sugar and talk about how much you heart each other.




Hawai‘i Premiere

When: Saturday, Nov. 14, at 8:15 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 16 at 3:30 p.m.

Where: Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX

The plot: For the past 150 years, the relationship between Ngāi Tūhoe tribe and the New Zealand government has been defined by longstanding grievances over severe colonization experiences such as illegal land confiscations and the devastating consequences of scorched earth policies. Then, in 2014, history was made: Tūhoe’s ancestral homelands were returned, the government gave an official apology, and Tūhoe built the first ever “Living Building” in New Zealand, conceived as a testament to their values and vision of self-governance.

Why we want to see it: The story of Māori indigenous rights struggles reflects similar ones happening right here in Hawai‘i, so this powerful-looking documentary about triumph, culture and rebirth is sure to hit home.

What we’ll bring: Our sharp friends with their hearts and minds in the Hawaiian rights movement. Afterward, grab a coffee with them and pick their mind for some insight into the similarities and dissimilarities between the two cultures and histories. 




Hawai‘i Premiere

When: Monday, Nov. 16, at 7:45 p.m.

Where: Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX

The plot: Michael and Lisa begin with prickly, cautious conversations and then move toward love. But, unlike in a conventional Hollywood romance, that romantic arc is neither simple nor obvious. The love scene at the heart of Anomalisa should instantly rocket up the list of cinema’s greatest. It’s intimate, awkward, heartbreaking, and deeply erotic, despite the fact that the lovers are made of felt.

Why we want to see it: It’s been a while since we’ve seen writer and director Charlie Kaufman stretching his weird, creative, strangely twee wings, but we’ll never forget some of his past pieces (Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind): wildly imaginative and yet unexpectedly relatable stories that were as funny and sweet as they were moving.

Plus: Felt protagonists? Oh, Charlie. 

What we’ll bring: Um, definitely not a first date. Awkward middle-aged-felt-person intimacy, as intriguing as it sounds, does not a sexy evening make. Best to stick with your old college film-buff buddy, the one who will be able to tell you—in fact, he’ll probably insist on telling you— in detail, every allusion, reference and technique used in the film.




World Premiere

When: Monday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 21 at 6:15 p.m.

Where: Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX (Monday) and Consolidated Theatres Ward (Saturday)

The plot: A young doctor wakes up from a car accident and discovers she is married to another man and living a life she can’t remember. Her search for the truth to her past life will lead her to question everyone around her and her entire existence. Shot entirely in Hawai‘i and starring Chinese superstar Michelle Chen, Twilight’s Jackson Rathbone and Sung Kang (Fast Five), Pali Road is a story for the search for true love between two worlds.

Why we want to see it: First of all, Sung Kang. Second of all, set in Hawai‘i! We love how this tense-looking thriller feels like it’s going to really hit us with twists (I mean, who wouldn’t end up falling for Kang? Sorry, imaginary husband.) Squealing over recognizable shooting locations will be the cherry on top of it all.

What we’ll bring: Hurrican popcorn. A local movie calls for a local snack.




Hawai‘i Premiere

When: Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 21 at 3:30 p.m.

Where: Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX

The plot: A wry comedy about men and their sheep, the setting is a secluded valley in Iceland, where two estranged brothers live side by side, tending to their award-winning sheep. Although they share the land and a way of life, the two brothers have not spoken to each other in four decades, until they begrudgingly join forces when the government announces there is an epidemic and they are ordered to destroy all livestock.

Why we want to see it: We could probably watch these brothers herd their sheep across the Icelandic terrain all day but, picturesque views aside, the story of two siblings at odds coming together in a shared struggle is something we can all relate to. OK, so the shared struggle we normally have isn’t usually about sheep, but that makes this story all the more endearing.

What we’ll bring: A cozy wool sweater for the chilly theater. Too macabre? 




Hawai‘i Premiere

When: Thursday, Nov. 19, at 5:45 p.m.

Where: Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX

The plot: Atlantic. tells the story of Fettah, a young man who lives in a Moroccan coastal village where Europeans come to windsurf every summer. After befriending a European woman, his little village becomes like a prison when she returns home. Fettah decides to embark on a treacherous and solitary windsurfing voyage to Europe. Every wave, every turn, every day on this epic and life-altering journey bringing him new dangers as he charts a new horizon for himself.

Why we want to see it: Windsurfing over an ocean for love? Not only does this wonderfully poetic story sound as romantic as can be, we’re fascinated with the idea of getting a glimpse into one individual’s life in a Moroccan coastal village, the summer playground for European vacationers.

What we’ll bring: A date. Aww, he’s windsurfing his way to love! Time for snuggles. 




Festival Premiere

When: Friday, Nov. 20, at 6:15 p.m.

Where: Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX

The plot: Set at the end of China’s Tang Dynasty and inspired by a well-known legend, the film centers on a skilled assassin dispatched to kill an important political figure who is also her cousin and former lover. However, in this ethereal drama from legendary director Hou Hsiao Hsien, plot rides shotgun to the film’s exacting visual style; the story is conveyed via long takes, as if one is watching a series of paintings coming to life.

Why we want to see it: If you haven’t seen any Hou Hsiao-hsien films, you’re missing out—and now’s your chance. His gorgeously woven films have won him awards across the world and, in The Assassin, he enlists the beautiful and dynamic Shu Qi as a highly trained (by a nun!) female killer. Not sold yet? The trailer promises a lush and epic period backdrop for the conflicted emotions and political dramas that unfold.  

What we’ll bring: The high school pal we used to stage kung fu fights with. ’Cause they’ll appreciate it.