FilmSlashTV: HIFF announces spring schedule

Mar. 20, 2012 | 0 Comments


When is a film festival not just a festival of films? When it also has a live musical concert. This spring’s edition of the Hawaii International Film Festival includes not just 34 films screening in seven days, it features a gig called “Sound X Vision: Music from The Descendants,” and yes, “The Descendents” will make a return visit, so it can be panel-discussed. The Spring HIFF runs April 13 through 19 at two screens in the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 Theatres IMAX.

HIFF Spring Showcase films are coming from China, France, the United States, Taiwan, Japan, India, South Korea, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Norway, and 24 of these are Hawaii premieres and eight are U.S. premieres.

There will be a free screening of “The Descendents” at noon, April 14, followed by a panel discussion with the film’s Music Supervisor Dondi Bastone and soundtrack musicians Jeff Peterson and Cyril Pahinui. Sponsored by DBEDT-Creative Industries and The Recording Academy.

The concert, featuring musicians who played in the film, occurs at at 7 p.m. that evening at The Venue. Admission is $30 ($25 in advance at

Film admission is $12 ($10 seniors, students and military; $8 HIFF Ohana members) and can be obtained at the theater box office or at 447-0577. Film times are subject to change as the festival draws closer.

And the movies, in vaguely chronological order, are:

“Turn Me On Dammit! (Fa Meg Pa, For Faen!)” — 6 p.m. April 13 and 1 p.m. April 17. This few-holds-barred tale of a Norwegian teenage girl who can’t stop masterbating is unlikely to be in the NetFlix queue of Republican presidential candidates, but you never know. Told with humor and frankness, which is even more un-American. Hawaii premiere.

“Dragon (Wu Xia)” — 6:30 p.m. April 13. Donnie Yen’s latest martial-arts masterpiece has him as a modest paper maker battling bandits, and he does it with such style that the local police suspect him of being a serial killer. Set in 1917, the film’s sense of visual style and elegant choreography has earned it comparisons to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Hawaii premiere.

“Always (Ohjik Guedaman)” — 8:45 p.m. April 13. The literal translation of the Korean title is actually “Only You,” but either title is appropriate for a doomed love story between a retired boxer and a telemarketer who’s slowly going blind, and they meet while sharing a parking-lot attendant’s booth to watch a Kpop soap opera. Later, he savagely beats a man who tries to rape her, and then they move in together. Sniffling yet? U.S. premiere.

“Liberal Arts” — 9 p.m. April 13 and 3 p.m. April 16. The well-worn trope of dissolute middle-aged men being “awakened” by hot young coeds gets another workout from actor/writer/director Josh Radnor. He even named her character Zibby, which is too precious for words. Stars youngest Olsen sister Elizabeth, who’s hot right now. Hawaii premiere.

“The Descendents” — noon, April 14. Free screening. Yes, this is the movie where George Clooney not only plays a haole, he plays a Nuuanu haole, right down to his Reyns inside-out aloha shirt. Panel discussion afterward about the music.

“A Simple Life (Tao Jie)” — 2:30 p.m. April 14 and noon April 16. In China, women who devote a lifetime in service to a family are called amah, and they’re part of the landscape. Here, bachelor Roger’s elderly family amah, Ah Tao, suddenly has a stroke and descides to retire. Their roles are reversed as Roger discovers he likes caring for her. The Chinese really do respect their elders. Hawaii premiere.

“Peace, Love & Misunderstanding” — 3 p.m. April 14. Grandma Grace lives in Woodstock, ever since the music festival, smokes dope and howls at the moon. Daughter Diane is a divorced Manhattan lawyer. Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener are the stars, and you can guess who’s playing which part. Also stars the apparently always-available Elizabeth Olsen. Hawaii premiere.

“11 Flowers (Wo 11)” — 4 p.m. April 14 and 12:30 p.m. April 17. During the waning days of the Cultural Revolution, things are pretty grey and threadbare in in rural China. A boy encounters an accused murderer and has to confront various dialectical and self-criticism issues that affect community well-being. Hawaii premiere.

“10+10” — 5:30 p.m. April 14 and 3:30 p.m. April 16. This is actually an omnibus production from the Republic of China, in which 20 Taiwanese filmmakers each made a five-minute film celebrating the unique qualities of their island country. The result is by nature widely varied, like most countries. By the way, the title comes from the national holiday commemorating the 1911 revolution, which began on Oct. 10. Hawaii premiere.

“Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban)” — 7 p.m. April 14 and noon April 15. Based on a popular GameBoy video game in Japan, this live-action film deals in “future courts” where prosecutors and defense attorneys have only three days to try their cases, and anything goes, and usually does. Attorney Phoenix Wright gets a big case right away — his boss is murdered and an innocent person is framed. U.S. premiere.

“Agent Vinod” — 8:15 p.m. April 14 and 5 p.m. April 15. We’re talking about a kind of Bollywood James Bond, an international man of mystery played by Hindi superstar Saif Ali Khan, along with Hindi superstarlet Kareena Kapoor. Khan is a super-suave Pakistani spymaster and ladies man with world-savin’ on his mind. Since the soundtrack is chockablock with hot pop music, we’re guessing this isn’t a dupe of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” U.S. premiere.

“V / H / S” — 10 p.m. April 14 and 9 p.m. April 16. The “found footage” genre is all the rage these days, and it actually takes skill to make it look shaky and amateurish. When some punks find a body surrounded by videotapes, they take a look at the tapes, and eeeek! It’s a mini-horror-film festival within a festival! It’s just lucky the auteurs didn’t use BetaCam. Hawaii premiere.

“Surviving Progress” — 12:15 p.m. April 15. What price progress? Whoa, slow down and think on it. This documentary asks many heavy thinkers to do just that, including Jane Goodall, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Hawking and Ronald Wright. Hawaii premiere.

“The Power of Two” — 2:15 p.m. April 15. Twin sisters Anabel and Isabel, stricken with cystic fibrosis, each received lung transplants and bounced back as athletes and spokespersons for organ donation. This documentary is based on their memoir. Hawaii premiere.

“I Wish (Kiseki)” — 3 p.m. April 15. What happens when two bullet trains pass each other at high speed? For 12-year-old Koichi, he hopes the shock wave will reunite his divorced parents. Hey, a kid can dream, can’t he? Hawaii Premiere.

“Always: Sunset on Third Street 3 (Always Sanchrome No Yuhi ’64 3)” — 6 p.m. April 15 and 3 p.m. April 17. If you’re not familiar with manga genius Ryohei Saigan’s long-running comic “Sanchome no Yuhi,” it’s an interpersonal-relations epic set in a small Tokyo neighborhood, beginning in the late ‘50s, and events are tied in with public-works projects. This is is the third film based on the series, and the characters are dealing with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. This is becoming a rather beloved series in Japan. U.S. premiere.

“Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu” — 8:15 p.m. April 15 and 12:30 p.m. April 16. Kareena Kapoor must be the busiest actress in Bollywood. Here, after a drunken Christmas Eve (they celebrate that in Mumbai?), she wakes up married to an unemployed, albeit cute, architect. They have ten days before the marriage is annulled to work things out. The title means something like “one of me and one of you.” Partly filmed in Las Vegas! Hawaii premiere.

“Your Sister’s Sister” — 9 p.m. April 15 and 3:30 p.m. April 19. When a dude hides from his emotional problems in an isolated cabin, and a couple of sisters show up with their own emotional baggage, and many shots of tequila are consumed, yes, there will be laughs and tears and various complications. Either sounds like fun or like punishment, doesn’t it? Hawaii premiere.

“Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told” — 6 p.m. April 16 and 4 p.m. April 19. This seems to be less than a documentary about the glory days of Bollywood musicals, and more of a heartfelt valentine to their giddy magic. Hawaii premiere.

“Romancing in Thin Air (Gao Hai Ba Zhi Lian)” — 6:15 p.m. April 16. A movie star is dumped by his on-screen romance, and he boozily decamps to the Himalayas, where, two and a half miles above sea level, he befriends an innkeeper. They fall in love, natch, and it isn’t just oxygen deprivation. U.S. premiere.

“Love On-Air (Won-Deo-Pool Ra-Di-O)” — 8:45 p.m. April 16 and 3:30 p.m. April 18. In case you’re wondering about the Korean title, on the peninsula the film is called “Wonderful Radio.” This is a blissful rom-com in which a washed-up girl singer finds a second gig as a disk jockey, creates a cool show and then things fall apart. Seem the station program manager is an irritable fellow. U.S. premiere.

“City in Blossom” — 3:30 p.m. April 17. How about a film-festival romance set at a romantic film festival? A college student and a city official squabble and break up, then bump into each other at the Puchan International Fantastic Film Festival (yes, PIFFF), where the peach blossoms are in bloom. Film is directed by Kim Young Bin, who also directs the actual film festival. Sounds like he’s keeping it all in-house. U.S. premiere.

“First Position” — 6 p.m. April 17 and 3 p.m. April 18. Documentary about adolescent dancers, preparing to enter professional ballet. We’re talking the rough-and-tumble arena of tutus and taped toes. Hawaii premiere.

“Trishna” — 6:15 p.m. April 17 and 12:30 p.m. April 18. Trishna works at a nearby resort to pay the family bills, and there she tumbles for the resort’s scion. At the family manse in big-city Mumbai, the rich in-laws have it in for her. If it all sounds like Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D‘Urbervilles,” bingo! Hawaii premiere.

“Couples (Keo-Peul-Jeu)” — 8:15 p.m. April 17 and 5 p.m. April 19. Mix together a cafe owner, a policewoman, a swindler, a mobster and a private eye who meet during a bank robbery and you have the makings of a rather quirky, and complicated, romantic comedy. U.S. Premiere.

“Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope” — 9 p.m. April 17. Documentary auteur Morgan Spurlock irises in on the San Diego Comic-Con, an annual Woodstock for fanboys and geek girls. We’re talking more than 140,000 of them, all at once, each with some sort of fringe fantasy in mind, and Spurlock treats them kindly. Hawaii premiere.

“The Orator (O Le Tulafale)” — 6 p.m. April 18 and 1:15 p.m. April 19. A quiet taro farmer in Samoa needs to get his act together and speak up against those who would ruin his village, but many don’t take him seriously because he’s a dwarf. The first all-Samoan feature film, which is pretty cool all by itself. Hawaii premiere.

“The Invisible War” — 6:30 p.m. April 18. Documentarian Kirby Dick first heard about surprising numbers of American female soldiers being raped by their fellow soldiers years ago, and kicked himself when an investigation wasn’t launched. The film that he finally made reveals that the number is as high as 30 percent and that commanders simply don’t follow through on criminal complaints. Hawaii premiere.

“Sukiyaki (Gokudo Meshi)” — 8:30 p.m. April 18 and 12:30 p.m. April 19. It’s kind of a storytelling tale with tasty stakes. Four prisoners bet their New Year’s Eve special dinners onwho can tell the best story of the greatest meal ever consumed. Winner eats all. U.S. premiere.

“Indie Game: The Movie” — 8:45 p.m. April 18. Super Meat Boy has no skin, and his girlfriend is made of bandages. No, this movie isn’t about them, but rather about the independent designers who cast them in their video games and bring such wonders to market. Hawaii premiere.

“The Intouchables” — 6:30 p.m. April 19. This buddy comedy was an astounding hit in France, although on American terms it seems like something Richard Pryor would have made in 1975. A filthy-rich paralyzed white man becomes pals with his caretaker, a cheerful black man with few social skills. They inspire each other and hilarity apparently results. Hawaii premiere.

“The Big Fix” — 7:30 p.m. April 19. A year and a half ago, Deepwater Horizon cracked open and regurgitated millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico fishing grounds. The mess is still being cleaned up, and adquate safeguards still haven’t been invented, but the filmmakers here go the extra mile and expose a world-colonizing effort by multinational oil companies to shut up critics and shut down dissent. Hawaii premiere.

“Tormented 3D (Rabitto Hora 3D)” — 9:15 p.m. April 19. A boy’s stuffed rabbit toy — is it coming to life or is it a nightmare? More demented Japanese horror in unexpected normality. And if you translated the Japanese title as “rabbit horror,” you are correct. Hawaii premiere.

“The Queen of Versailles” — 9:30 p.m. April 19. Hey, you’re making bazillions in time-share bubbles, why not build the biggest house in America to celebrate? And model the 90,000 square-foot structure after the French palace. Uh-oh, what happens when you’re half-done and the recession hits? This documentary finds humor in dreamy delusion and dopey denial. Hawaii premiere.

Burl Burlingame is a features reporter at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Email him at and follow him on Twitter.

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