Hawaii International Film Festival: Kinship through cinema

By Shane Nelson
InsightThe Hawaii International Film Festival will hold its 31st annual event Oct. 13 to 23, showcasing hundreds of films from around the world and drawing an anticipated 80,000 attendees.

“There’s no better window into other cultures than film,” Chuck Boller, the festival’s executive director, told Travel Weekly. “And we are truly an international film festival. We had 285 films last year from 50 countries, so we’re way beyond Asia and the Pacific, but with that said, Asia and the Pacific are still our heart and soul.”

HIFF, now a nonprofit organization, was started three decades ago in an effort foster cultural exchange across the Pacific Rim, and over the years, its fall event has grown into one of the premier venues for Asian and Pacific filmmakers to debut their movies for a predominantly American audience.

“We are, I’m proud to say, very influential in Asia,” Boller explained. “We are an American film festival, and it’s hard for [Asian filmmakers] to get their films into the United States, so they come here, and they win awards. And that’s very important to us, because we want to recognize the effort in films from that part of the world. … It’s given us a real niche.”

Notable films that premiered at the festival in years past include “Kung Fu Hustle,” “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain” (the latter two directed by Oscar-winning Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee). The event also regularly attracts big names from the movie business, such as critic Roger Ebert, directors Quentin Tarantino and Michael Moore and actors Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Dreyfus.

HIFF Sunset On The BeachAccording to Boller, HIFF draws a substantial number of visitors to Oahu, and this year the Halekulani, a 453-room luxury hotel in Waikiki and longtime festival partner, is the event’s presenting sponsor. Along with the Halekulani, Starwood’s four Waikiki properties and the Hotel Renew have special film festival room rates and packages, which are listed on the Industry page at www.hiff.org.

“We have transportation from the Sheraton and Halekulani every hour on the hour over to Dole cannery and Regal Theatres where the screenings are,” Boller said. “If you stay in the hotels, you get reduced rates on rooms, you get a reduced rate on HIFF, you get free transportation, you get invited to the parties, so that’s really the way to do it.”

A variety of festival packages, including admission to exclusive HIFF events and parties at the Halekulani and elsewhere in Honolulu, can also be found on the website’s membership page, ranging in price from $1,500 to $35.

Boller encouraged agents with travel and package questions to email him directly at boller@hiff.org.
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