Outtakes Online: HIFF honors ‘Haumana,’ ‘Dress’

Oct. 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY MIKE GORDON / mgordon@staradvertiser.com

Two films with strong Hawaii ties — “The Haumana” and “Dress” — were named audience favorites at this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival.

Audiences voted “The Haumana,” which was directed by local actor Keo Woolford, as their favorite narrative feature. They selected “Dress,” which was directed by former “Lost” star and Hawaii resident Henry Ian Cusick, as their favorite short film. Both Woolford and Cusick made their directorial debuts with their films.

Tui Asau as Jonny Kealoha in “The Haumana.” (Courtesy photo)

Tui Asau as Jonny Kealoha in “The Haumana.” (Courtesy photo)

“Documented,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and Ann Lupo, was voted favorite documentary.

Woolford’s film screened twice on Sunday, the festival’s closing night, and the director said he was nervous the whole time. He wanted the night to be perfect for the audience and said the thought of a festival award never entered his mind.

“I really wanted to make sure the film was good for them,” said Woolford in a phone call from Maui, where he is directing a play. “I was stressed out.”

The film is the story of a washed-up Waikiki lounge singer who is appointed to take over a boys hula group. The more he works with them, the more he connects with his Hawaiian cultural roots, which he had abandoned.

Audience members told him after the screening that his film was important to Hawaiian culture, Woolford said.

“The reaction I got after the screening, especially from the hula folks and the people who worked on the film, was the biggest prize,” he said.

Cusick, who made his film entirely in Lanikai with the help of friends and the community, said he was “over the moon.”

Henry Ian Cusick starred in "Dress," his directorial debut.

Henry Ian Cusick starred in “Dress,” his directorial debut. (Courtesy photo)

“Dress” follows Ben Granger — played by Cusick — as he struggles to cope with the death of his wife and how that has affected his relationship with his children.

“Oh my god, it’s phenomenal,” Cusick said by phone from Vancouver, where he is working on a TV series. “For a first film — a film I was thinking about not entering in the festival because for me it wasn’t ready — to win this, well I’m delighted.”

HIFF will screen “The Haumana” and “Dress” during an encore presentation starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Hawaii Theatre. Tickets are $15.

“The Haumana” also will begin a one-week run at Consolidated Theatres Pearlridge West 16 starting Friday, Oct. 25.
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Mike Gordon covers film and television in Hawaii for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Email him at mgordon@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter. Read his weekly “Outtakes” column Sundays in the Star-Advertiser.

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