Prints Charming

Globe-trotting, movie-watching—does HIFF’s Anderson Le have the perfect job, or what?

Anderson Le travels the world in search of popcorn-worthy movies for the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Photo: Mark Arbeit

Anderson Le is here. But he won’t be for long. For nine months of every year, Le, director of programming for the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF), bases himself in Los Angeles and travels to the film festivals of Europe, Asia and North America, seeking screen gems to bring  to Honolulu. Le has lost track of how many air miles he has racked up during his eight-year tenure with the festival, but it’s “in the millions.”

Each August, he wings his way back to his native Honolulu, to mesh his selections with the finds of a community-based committee that screens and evaluates the 2,000 films generated by HIFF’s annual call for submissions, as well as the short-film choices. In October, Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 lights up for 10 days with a celluloid phantasmagoria of films—and then, for Le, it’s back to Los Angeles for another globetrotting year of cinematic hunter-gathering.


Le gravitated to HIFF 10 years ago as a print traffic coordinator; the person in charge of getting the film prints (which can weigh 50 pounds or more) to Hawaii. “It’s challenging, because Hawaii really is the farthest place in the world. I became well-versed in FedEx, UPS and DHL policy.” It’s a complex job: at any given time, there may be only one English-language print making its way around the global festival circuit, and if it’s a sought-after title, its dance card is booked. Le invokes chaos theory when describing the life of a festival print, recounting entanglements with Chinese red tape and courier strikes in France. “We’ve had couriers misplace half of a film,” says Le. After working with HIFF’s marketing and administration, he landed in programming, which he’s been doing ever since.

This is HIFF’s 28th year of bringing together the cutting-edge cinema of East and West. The festival has hosted the U.S. premieres of films like The Piano and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What’s Le planning for this year? See the box of highlights below, but Le adds that that The Barbarian Princess, which was filmed partly in Hawaii, will be part of the festival, as will a celebration of the last season of Lost.

The past few years have brought many changes to the floating world of the international film festival, but there’s one development that should please the traffic coordinator in Le: this year, for the first time, more than half the 160-plus films shown at the festival will be digital, which means no prints to worry about.

Don’t Miss These…

We asked Anderson Le to tell us about a few HIFF 2009 feature films that are too good to miss. Here are his picks:


This quirky comedy about crossed wires has been called a Japanese Napoleon Dynamite. Loser Jimmy lives with his sister, sharing a room with his precocious 10-year-old nephew. When Jimmy falls in love with another guest of the house, complication ensues.


An absorbing coming-of-age story. Yang Yang feels Taiwanese, but her father is European. When she leaves home after her mother’s remarriage, she must confront a world that sees only an exotic hapa girl.


This hotly anticipated martial arts film showcases silat, an Indonesian fighting form that hasn’t appeared on the big screen in living memory. Yuda leaves his farming village for the bright lights of Jakarta, but stumbles instead into an urban underworld, where he must draw upon all his fighting prowess.

Hawaii International Film Festival, Oct. 15 to Oct. 29,