03
Nov
11

HIFF 2011: Hodgepodge & Festival Wrap Up

I know, I know, I’m still writing stuff on HIFF. It’s such a huge film event here in Hawaii that it warrants a lot of coverage by a movie blog based in Hawaii. I promise you though that this will be pretty much the last post on this year’s festival. So please, bear with me as I put down a few more thoughts on the closing days of HIFF 31 in order to try and wrap things up.

Final Entry into the Diary of a HIFF Volunteer

So my last day/s of volunteering didn’t provide as much writing material and hence, this small section is going to close out my experience working as a volunteer at this year’s festival. The one thing I did want to mention again, is that you can end up working with some really cool people as a volunteer.

HIFF volunteers direct festival attendees to the appropriate theater.

On the lone Tuesday night of the festival, I was put into this team of three and we were posted at theater 12. Sadly I can’t remember my teammates names, but it was me, this other guy that I had worked with on Saturday, and this girl. I don’t know how it came up, but it eventually came out that we were all the same age as we were all born in 1980. I mean, I’m sure the odds of something like that happening were way more possible than say me winning the lottery, but at the time I found it pretty striking. With some common ground between us, we started chatting away as we worked.

Of course, the conversation turned towards where we lived and where we were from. Through all of our conversation up until this point I had just assumed that we were all locals. Nothing that anyone had said would have given me reason to think otherwise. However, the other guy in our group told us that he was originally from Houston, Texas. This sparked an amazing conversation on how he came to be in Hawaii and of his travels around the world.

It started off with the usual questions; we asked him what he was doing here in Hawaii, how long he had been here, where he was before he came here. Come to find out that he was watching his friend’s house while he was deployed. Since his friend had a car as well, he even had a car to get around in. How he got here was pretty cool too (figuratively, not literally). Basically his friend called him up towards the end of last year and asked if him if he wanted to live in Hawaii while he was deployed. At the time he was finishing up his stay in Australia and he didn’t really have anything else to do so he took his friend up on his offer.

Naturally the question of “well what were doing in Australia” came up. This pretty much lead into a whirlwind tour of my teammate’s travels around the world. He told us that he was in Australia for volunteer work and it was through the volunteer service that placed him there that he’d traveled all over. He then told us about his experience volunteering in Ethiopia, what life was like there, and about the Internet cafes they had there. The whole time I was listening I was pretty amazed. He was such a low key guy and he had these interesting stories about where he’d been. He even told us that he was a fugitive in Australia. He got fined for trespassing down there and he was supposed to appear in court. The thing was, his court date was a week or two after his flight to Hawaii. He said they’d probably never let him back into the country for skipping town, but he wasn’t heartbroken about it since he had already seen the country and didn’t really need to go back.

Teammates, volunteers, festival friends, call them what you will. You meet these people possibly one night out of the festival and never see them again till the spring or the following year. Working with a good group of people will make the time just fly by while working with not so great people . . . well, let’s just say that’ll probably make for some fun stories. Whatever the case may be, you’re going to meet interesting people when you volunteer at HIFF.

George Clooney at HIFF

The George Clooney cardboard cutout was a big hit on the final night of the festival.

Going into the festival, I (along with everyone else) knew that Descendants director, Alexander Payne, was going to be here for closing night. It was reported by the Star-Advertiser and other media outlets. Hollywood film, shot in Hawaii, about Hawaii, and the director was going to be here to receive an award and talk about the film . . . yeah, even before the festival started you knew closing night was going to be crazy.

What I wasn’t expecting though, was the rumor mill buzzing about how George Clooney might be coming to the festival as well. I heard people talking about this from opening night! No one really knew for sure if he was coming, but it seemed as if everyone had heard from someone that an effort had been made to bring him out here. Now I’m sure Clooney was reached out to and asked to attend, however from the way people were talking about it, it seemed as if everyone thought he would make an appearance and that it was just this secret that was under wraps.

I knew from the beginning that Clooney wasn’t going to be here. There’s no way something like that could be kept a secret, it would have been reported somewhere. And also, this isn’t Telluride or Comic-Con where stuff is kept secret up until the moment it happens. No, if Clooney was coming, everyone would know.

Fast forward to closing night. I didn’t know it as we walked through the lobby, but George Clooney did show up for this year’s HIFF. He was in the lobby in front of the HIFF sponsor backdrop posing for pictures with guests. Ok, well, it wasn’t the real George Clooney, it was a cardboard cutout of him. It was really fun to see everyone wanting to take their pictures with the cutout and I thought it was a really great way to use the buzz surrounding the rumors of his appearance to engage festival attendees.

So just how did the festival get “Clooney” to show up? Festival director Joshua Nye said he had a brainstorm Friday night about the Clooney cutout and rushed out to get it made in time for the closing night film on Sunday.

Thoughts on The Descendants

And what of the closing night film itself? Call me a homer, but I loved The Descendants. I thought Clooney was great in the lead role of Matt King and I especially liked the relationship that he had with his daughters. Overall I thought the entire ensemble cast did good job, even down to Matt Lilliard who, when I saw his name come up in the opening credits I was like, “Ugh, not the guy from Scooby Doo!” However, I thought he had a great understated performance that didn’t make me think about his previous roles.

During the post film Q&A with director Alexander Payne, he talked a lot about how he wanted to get things right about Hawaii and even went so far as to live here for a few months before shooting began to get a good feel for Hawaii. All of Payne’s hard work definitely shows in the film. The way that our local lifestyle is depicted, from family gatherings, right down to the main character of Matt King–everything felt pretty authentic to me. I personally don’t know anyone like Matt King, but there are people like that here. They may not look local, or they may not act local, but they ARE local. And it was things like that that I appreciated from the film.

Anytime you have a film with George Clooney claiming Hawaiian, I’ll take that movie any day of the week. So yeah, like a lot of other locals, I really enjoyed The Descendants and I’m putting it in my Top 10 films of 2011.

Closing Thought’s on this Year’s Festival

Overall I had a really great experience this year, from both working as a volunteer and as a festival goer. If I had to say, I think I enjoyed more of the festival this year than I did last year. From the perspective of the blog, I definitely covered more than I have in the past. Things were really going good in the beginning when I had five or six days of consecutive posts and for a brief time I thought I could keep that pace. Sadly though reality eventually set in and I decided to choose sleep (and other real world responsibilities) over posting.

As for the final count of films that I saw, I believe the count stands at seven:

  • Paradise Broken
  • 6B
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
  • Knots
  • Bullhead
  • The Descendants

Though I didn’t get to see everything that I wanted to, which would have been physically impossible, I do know which films I want to look out for should they make their way to theaters within the next few month or appear on Netflix.

One takeaway from this year’s festival that will stand out for me is what local filmmakers are doing here in Hawaii. I’ve always been hesitant to check out local productions only because for such a long time there hasn’t been anything all that great. From commercials to the stuff on OC16, there is a lot of locally produced stuff that is really lame, kinda cheesy, or just plain tacky–and it was because of all of this that turned me off from local productions. Paradise Broken changed all that. It made me realize that we do have people who are doing great things in Hawaii. Like anything else, some things are going to be better than others and if you search for it, you will find quality work and storytelling going on here.

So I think that’s going to do it for this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival. Definitely some good times. If you enjoyed the festival this year or if you have anything to add, go ahead and hit me up in the comments.

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Catch up with other closing thoughts from this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival from other local bloggers:

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