HIFF 2011: If You Look at the Schedule

It's finally out . . . the schedule for this year's Hawaii International Film Festival.

Woody Paige of the Denver Post is one of my favorite guests on ESPN’s Around the Horn. During the course of the show it never fails that he throws out this line to illustrate a point, “guys, if you would just look at the schedule . . .” Sometimes it gets him points, sometimes it doesn’t. Today however, that advice will reward everyone.

What originally was going to be an analysis of The Honolulu Weekly’s breakdown (and semi announcement of unannounced HIFF films) actually turned into a quick analysis of a few films at this year’s 31st Hawaii International Film Festival after discovering that the schedule ‘went live’ overnight. While I’ve previously looked at few of this year’s films already, here are some quick highlights after perusing the 8 pages of listed features.

Opening, Closing, Centerpiece, and Galas

THE FRONT LINE (Korea, Opening Night)

Description :: Offering up a classically hellish picture of front-line warfare between North and South that turns several of the cliches of war movies inside-out. Most of the film is set on a (fictional) hill which has been captured and recaptured by both sides, with considerable loss of life each time. Shin Ha-gyun (SAVE THE GREEN PLANET!) plays a young officer sent to the area to investigate a possible spy and what looks like a sinister case of “friendly fire.” The surprises awaiting him include a reunion with an old friend he believed dead, several run-ins with a crack North Korean sniper, rife indiscipline and insubordination and a surprising kind of fraternization between the two sides. (via HIFF)

First Impressions :: I was definitely intrigued after reading the  plot synopsis and definitely understood why this film opens the festival after watching the trailer . . . the film looks and sounds pretty darn good.

(France, Germany; Centerpice)

Description :: Pina 3D is a film for Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders. He takes the audience on a sensual, visually stunning journey of discovery into a new dimension: straight onto the stage with the legendary ensemble and follows the dancers out of the theatreinto the city and the surrounding areas of Wuppertal – the place, which for 35 years was the home and center for PinaBausch’s creativity. (via HIFF)

First Impressions :: Some of the visuals from the trailer definitely look impressive, however I’m not really a fan of 3D so I’m not all that excited about putting glasses on to watch this.

(United States; Closing Night)

First Impressions :: There isn’t too much more that really needs to be said about The Descendants and I don’t really need a description since this has already been kind of covered in a previous post. This is definitely going to close out the festival with a bang.

(United States; Gala Presentation)

Description :: One of the darlings that came out this year’s Sundance Film Festival back in January, Martha Marcy May Marlene looks at the plight of a young woman struggling to put her life in a cult behind her and features Elizabeth Olsen in a much talked about breakout role coming out of Sundance.

First Impressions :: I’ve been tracking this film since it premiered at Sundance and though I’d love to see it at HIFF, I probably won’t only because it’s going to be released here in Hawaii a week or two after the festival. Why see this when I can probably see something else that’s more unique? Elizabeth Olsen (Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen’s younger sister) supposedly gives a superb performance in the lead role and she also has last year’s Best Supporting Actor nominee John Hawkes providing backup in the film as well. How can you go wrong?

 (China, Taiwan ROC, Gala Presentation)

Description :: For Taiwan ,Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale is a historic event. A sweeping epic about the valiant resistance of the island’s indigenous people against imperial Japanese forces. (via HIFF)

First Impressions :: Warriors of the Rainbow will truly be an ‘epic’ film as the runtime is listed at 4 hours and 50 minutes with the film being split into two portions with a 30 minute intermission in between. Definitely a marathon event to say the least. However, it also has that age old “Chinese vs Japanese” conflict driving the action in the film so the battle scenes should be pretty epic. Call me crazy but I also get that ‘Last Samurai’ vibe from it as well–just without Tom Cruise.

(Japan; Gala Presentation)

Description :: The legendary story of the 47 Ronin… and the one who lived to tell it. Unknown to the world, Magoza (Koji Yakusho) is the ronin who betrayed his comrades on the eve of the attack by simply disappearing. Disguised as an antique dealer, he now lives deep in a bamboo forest, protecting a secret. (via HIFF)

First Impressions :: I have to admit the description alone has me intrigued to check out this movie. Why did ‘The Last Ronin’ not kill himself like the rest? Is he hiding something? Protecting something? I guess we’ll just have to watch to find out.

Other Notable Films


First Impressions :: A documentary about undoubtedly one of the most historic comic book creators of all time? Nuff said! Excelsior!

(France, EuroCinema Hawaii)

Description :: George is at the height of his career in 1927 when THE ARTIST begins. While working the premiere of his new film, he accidentally bumps into a beautiful unknown, Peppy and the ensuing photo op sets her on the path to unexpected fame. George, however, quickly finds himself on the opposite track, as sound begins to dominate the screens. As her star status rises, Peppy never forgets the man who gave her the start she needed; she resolves to help George in any way she can. (via HIFF)

First Impressions :: This film received a ton of praise at this year’s Cannes international film festival and won the award for Best Actor for Jean Dujardin’s portrayal of George (the title character). The film definitely harkens back to the early days of cinema as the film is presented in black and white, BUT is also a silent film as well (there’s no dialogue kids). It’ll definitely be an interesting film to check out should you choose to do so.

(United States; Sound x Vision)

First Impressions :: Whoa, whoa, whoa, what is a major Hollywood summer blockbuster (that’s already come out) doing in the middle of a film festival? Well, in order for Academy AND Emmy award winning composer Michael Giacchino to come talk about his work you have to show a movie that showcases his work don’t you? The highlight of this piece of programming is definitely the Q&A with Giacchino after the film. The man has done so much good work in the past 10 years you’d be a fool not to try and get into this presentation.

 (United States, Made in Hawaii)

First Impressions :: HIFF is kicking it old school with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in this special 25th anniversary presentation of The Karate Kid Part II. 80s films seem to be all the rage these days and what better 80s film to celebrate than one that was filmed right here in the islands? Get Peter Cetera on the phone, STAT!

More to come . . .

As you can imagine, it’s hard to pour over 200+ films on the first night that schedule is out. This small commentary only looks at some of the “bigger” films that will be shown at this year’s HIFF. Now that the schedule is out, expect more HIFF analysis in the coming days as we get closer to the festival.

Until then, if you spot anything you’re really dying to see at this year’s HIFF, hit us up in the comments and let us know what you’re looking forward to and why. And hopefully we’ll see you at the festival in mid-October!

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