Your Must-Watch Guide to the 2019 Hawai‘i International Film Festival in Honolulu

Choose from 205 films from 31 countries across 11 days, November 7 to 17 in Honolulu.


Honolulu film buffs can catch the new film Jojo Rabbit, then ask director Taika Waititi why he’s portraying Hitler; watch the premieres of films straight from Cannes and other international festivals; explore Made-in-Hawai‘i films; and much more Nov. 7 to 17 at the O‘ahu celebration of the Hawai‘i International Film Festival.


With 205 films from 31 countries, the lineup includes a mix of films never seen here before, visiting celebrities and thought-provoking films, documentaries, panels and discussions centered at the Regal Dole Cannery theaters.


SEE ALSO: The 10 Best Movies and TV Shows Shot in Hawai‘i


Some expected highlights: 

  • Premieres include: The Irishmanthe Martin Scorsese film about a hitman looking back; Marriage Story, Seberg and A Hidden Life

  • Free to the public is a special film and panel program called Maunakea: Through the Kia‘i Lens, defining the “Kapu Aloha” movement happening at Mauna Kea and the fight to block the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope project.  It includes two short documentaries—Standing Above The Clouds follows Native Hawaiian mother-daughter activists at the forefront of the movement and This Is The Way We Rise follows Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio on her creative journey through poetry inspired by the Kū Kiaʻi Mauna.

  • New American Perspectives spotlights immigrant filmmakers and media makers, including a keynote from director Haifaa Al-Mansour (The Perfect Candidate).

  • Spotlights on China, India, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan as well at Southeast Asia.

  • Foodie films that include a documentary called Kampai! Sake Sisters, about women who were once forbidden to set foot in sake breweries now leading exciting changes in the industry, and The Wandering Chef, following a prominent chef as he searches Korea for unique ingredients.

  • Documentaries including the world premiere of Tokyo Hula, directed by Lisette Flanary, about the explosive popularity of hula in Japan and the international impact of Native Hawaiian culture.

  • The festival will close with Makoto Shinkai’s highly anticipated anime young love story, Weathering With You, a follow-up to his 2016 box-office hit Your Name from HIFF 2017.

  • Expanded virtual reality program with the HIFF VR Lounge, free and open to the public at Salt at Kaka‘ako Nov. 8 through 12, with a block party on Nov. 8 to kick things off. This year, it expands to a second location at the Entrepreneurs Sandbox in Kaka‘ako Nov. 9 to 12.

  • Locally born and raised actor Jacob Batalon, who has broken out as Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Ma: Far From Home, returns to O‘ahu. He’ll take part in the future filmmakers luncheon to share thoughts on his breakthrough career, acting experiences and where he sees himself next.



The star-studded gala Nov. 15 this year will include award winners: Hong Kong director John Woo on the 30thanniversary of his film The Killer; actors Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaidʻs Tale, Us) and Randall Park, most widely known in film for The Interview. (Tickets available online.)


HIFF artistic director Anderson Le described Park as one of the funniest and most charming actors working today from Trainwreck to his role as Agent Jimmy Woo in Ant-Man And The Wasp. “But, it is his role as Louis Huang in the groundbreaking Asian American family TV sitcom Fresh Off The Boat and in his co-starring role in Always Be My Maybe that has catapulted him in the last few years,” he said. 


SEE ALSO: This Hawai‘i Production Assistant Went From Making Costco Runs to Starring Alongside Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac


The festival continues Nov. 21 to 24 on the Big Island, Kaua‘i and Maui.


This is the 39th edition of the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, whose mission is to advance understanding and cultural exchange among the peoples of Asia, the Pacific and North America by presenting films from around the world.



Tips for HIFF:

  • Make a plan starting at The online schedule shows the latest films added, those that are sold out, special panels and more. The blog gives even more. Some films show more than once so you can be strategic about your viewing. Printed guides are being distributed through Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Zippy’s and independent coffee shops around town. 

  • Bring your own snacks so you can get in line at least 30 minutes before your film. Seats are first-come, first served. Parking is free with validation.

  • Clear your schedule Nov. 7 to 17. If you’re committed to seeing as many as possible, there’s still time to sign up as a member at varying levels where you get discounts, line priority and a sense of belonging.

  • Buy tickets online (easiest) or at the box office at Dole Cannery pre-festival: open from 2 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays Oct. 18 to Nov. 2; during the festival, the box office opens an hour before the first screening of that day until 15 minutes after the last show of that day. (808) 447-0577.

  • If you’ve got more time than money, volunteer by signing up on the website. Volunteers must work at least two shifts, and receive a free film voucher for each shift worked.

  • Prices: General admission is $14 a film, but that drops to $10 for HIFF members and to $12 for students, seniors, military. Service fees add $1.50 per online ticket and $1 each at the box office.

  • There are two additional ways to save money: all military tickets are $10 on Veterans Day, Nov. 11; and tickets for matinees (that start before 5 p.m.) cost $10.


SEE ALSO: Quote Unquote: Bomb Disposal Technician by Day and Visual Effects Artist by Night


Watch the HIFF trailer here. See the full schedule and buy tickets online at


Read more stories by Robbie Dingeman