Archive for the 'HIFF' Category


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.


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


HIFF 2011: Michael Giacchino Q&A

It took us almost a week to fully recover from this year’s HIFF. Though the festival’s over, we’re finally able to look back and blog about a few more things that we saw and did at this year’s fest. We thank you for coming back and checking in with us as we close out our coverage of HIFF 31.

While you may not have heard of Michael Giacchino, I can definitely bet that you’ve seen some of the films he’s worked on: Mission Impossible III, The Incredibles, Star Trek, and UP (which he won an Academy Award for). Though he might not be as well known as fellow composer John Williams when it comes to film scores (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, Harry Potter), Giacchino is definitely on his way to becoming a household name.

As part of the Hawaii International Film Festival’s Sound x Vision section, Giacchino was invited to the festival to ‘talk shop’ at two different panels–both discussing music as it relates to cinema. For the panel that is being covered in this post, Giacchino was on hand after a screening of one of the most recent films that he’s worked on, this summer’s Super 8 directed by JJ Abrams.

Though the video quality might not be the best, from the four videos that we shot you can definitely get a feel for the kind of person Giacchino is as well as his personality. He’s definitely very passionate about his work and seemed very down to Earth both during and outside of the Q&A. He even stayed well after the Super 8 Q&A was over to sign autographs and take pictures with each and every fan.

If you’re interested by his work, I hope you take the time to watch each video. Each of the videos is less than seven minutes long and I’ve also provided a rough breakdown of what is discussed in each one.

Part I
How Giacchino got into making movies . . .
How he got into music and transitioned from making movies to making music . . .
On his experience at the performing arts school Juilliard in New York City . . .

Part II
How he developed his orchestral background . . .
On his early days as a composer . . .
On meeting Steven Spielberg for the first time . . .

Part III (continuation of Part II)
On what he took away with from working with JJ Abrams & Brad Bird . . .
On working on Pixar’s UP . . .

Part IV
On composing for Super 8 . . .


HIFF 2011: Interview With Traci Toguchi

Traci Toguchi with Ralph Macchio (aka Daniel-son) from The Karate Kid Part II.

In this special to The Red Band Project, Guest Manager Valentino Valdez sits down for an interview with local ‘renaissance chick’ (and actress) Traci Toguchi.

When the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) announced they were bringing The Karate Kid Part II back to the big screen for the 25th anniversary (as part of HIFF), I was stoked. It’s such a cult hit, especially here in Hawaii, and I have fond memories of watching it with my family in the back of our shag-carpeted Chevy Malibu station wagon at Kam Drive-In, as well as re-enacting every scene with my sister and nephew. I was compelled to seek out the only person I knew, personally, that was in the movie–-local ‘renaissance chick’, Traci Toguchi—to get some behind the scenes scoops. Her role in the film (she’s credited as ‘Girl Ringing Bell’) was not only a turning point in the movie (Sato sees the light!), but a turning point in her career. I sat down and talked with Traci (and by “sat down and talked”, I mean, emailed her questions and waited for her to reply) about her experiences on The Karate Kid Part II, as well as catch up on her other projects.

Was The Karate Kid Part II your first film? Was it your first “Hollywood” job?

Yes, it was. It’s how I got my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card. 🙂 (My first acting job was a Japanese commercial for Mitsubishi of Japan when I was 8.)

What was it like working on such a popular movie? Can you describe some personal experiences you had with the stars of the film?

It was a dream come true. My sister and I kept Karate Kid posters of Ralph Macchio on our bedroom walls, so everything – from the audition process (standing and crying, hitting an imaginary bell in a room at the Ilikai Hotel), to the callbacks (on set with many other kids – all needing to climb the tower and cry), to the filming process (did some of my own stunts and had a stunt woman!) , to the premiere in Hollywood (my mom and I got to attend!) – was surreal.

From Day One, Ralph was so kind, thoughtful and professional. We shot that bell tower scene a zillion times (not only in Hawaii in Kahalu’u, but also in Los Angeles in a movie studio parking lot). That required much rehearsal and getting wet, cold, and muddy. After every take, everyone would rush to Ralph, but he’d tell everyone to help me first, and let me to go first to take a hot shower (and clean off for the next take). He made sure I had hot cocoa. I’ll forever be grateful for his kindness.

One of Traci's scenes from The Karate Kid Part II.

When my part was extended, and my mother and I went to LA to continue filming. We were in the Shuri Castle set as the shot was being set up, when the line was created for me, and Pat was enlisted to help me pronounce the line, “If not for you, I not be here” with the appropriate accent. He was funny, professional, focused… I recall seeing him many years later at a Perry and Price morning radio show appearance after I sang. He was shocked to hear me sing for the first time. He made some one liner joke like he did when he played “Al” in Happy Days that made me crack up. He was and still is classic.

Although this was Tamlyn’s first film too, she was incredibly relaxed, professional, fun, and encouraging. It excites me to see how much she continues to brightly lead the way for Asian American actresses, as she is beautiful, kind, professional, and talented. Nobu McCarthy and Danny were also incredibly warm, kind, helpful, professional, and supportive, as were Yuji and Joey and Mark, though I think they needed to stay in their bad boy characters. 😉

Being able to have been directed by Rocky director John Avildsen continues to be one the biggest honors of my life. He took a chance on me, and gave me the opportunity to do more in the film than what was originally scripted (a featured extra part). He was incredibly helpful, warm, and as you can see from his work, brilliant.

The qualities I mentioned in the handful above were recurring and consistent on the set. I was fortunate to have worked as an extra many days to see some aspects of the movie making business at a young age. Even the extras shared a bond, because of the spirit of the cast and crew, but also because of the spirit and nature of Hawaii people.

What other local actors were in the movie besides you and Danny Kamekona?

Interesting question. Quickly Googled. Looked through the IMDB list, but uncertain if any of the others were from Hawaii (perhaps some of the G.I.’s?). 

Unfortunately, many large principal roles for big productions – both film and TV – are typically not cast in Hawaii, which means Hawaii actors don’t have the opportunity to audition for the larger roles. In LA, actors can stay “fit” by auditioning for big productions – depending on the time of the year – every week, if not every day. When large productions like Hawaii Five-0 stay for a bit, they provide Hawaii actors the opportunity to work on their craft. We are immensely grateful when this happens.

Were all your scenes filmed in Hawaii?

No. Additional “bell tower” scenes, as well as the bon dance scene were shot in Burbank (Los Angeles, California). I missed my elementary school “graduation,” but had my own tutor. (Sweet, huh? 😉

You and Tamlyn Tomita were also in Picture Bride. Was that a coincidence or did the Karate Kid connection have something to do with that?

Total coincidence. 🙂 Also around that time, we had come to share another thing in common — winning a pageant. Tamilyn was a Nisei Week Queen before starring in The Karate Kid Part II.

Please tell me about your role in Bait [a short film featured as part of ‘The Short List’ at HIFF].

I played “Rhonda,” the daughter of the characters played by the great Hawaii actors Dann Seki and Blossom Lam-Hoffman. It was such an honor to be amongst this small cast (other actors included Pomai Brown of 50 First Dates and veteran singer Marlene Sai).

The producers Jason Lau, and John Ching (who was also the director of Bait) were awesome to work with, including producer Angela Laprete, who is Production Supervisor for Hawaii Five-0. 

In fact, many that worked on that crew work on Five-0, so it was seamless, and such an enjoyable experience for me. 

After the premiere at HIFF the other night, I was surprised to learn my classmate (same Kaiser High grad!) wrote the screenplay. I had seen his name on the title page, but thought the name could be very common. Grant Ching came up to me (hadn’t seen him since graduation many moons ago), and told me he was happy I was in his film! Small world. 🙂

Please tell me about your upcoming Hawaii Five-0 guest spot. What was the experience like on the set?

My character is Mrs. Lasko. My husband (played by Kevin Yamada, who’s also from Hawaii, but also resides in New York City) and I are victims of a home invasion. Our scene is with McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Lori (Lauren German). The director was the talented Larry Teng.

Larry was professional, articulate, and helpful. Alex and Lauren were so easy to work with. They were also professional, funny, kind, and as you can see on the show, very talented. 

Like Bait, I knew many of the crew from other local (film, TV, commercial) productions, so it was like being at home.

The entire experience from Day One much like The Karate Kid II (and Bait, come to think of it), was incredible. The people were professional, kind, and bright individuals who work well as a team. 

I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

Any other film or TV projects in the works?

Nothing I can mention now. Regardless, I’m always studying and applying different acting techniques and learning as much as I can (I also teach these techniques to kids, which helps me a lot too).

You’ve also had success on Broadway. Would you do Broadway again if given the opportunity? What roles would you love to tackle?

My dream role would be playing Fantine in Les Miserables (which is not currently running, though is my favorite story/Broadway musical). I used to practice a song she sings – “I Dreamed a Dream” when I had the musical on cassette tape as a kid. 🙂 Singing it still resonates in my gut. Les Miz was part of the Cameron Mackintosh family of iconic musicals with Miss Saigon and the Phantom of the Opera. We got to see and support each other while on the road.Would love the opportunity to perform on Broadway in Manhattan. Being in the national (Broadway) tour was awesome, but since New York is my second home, it would be incredibly awesome.Heard rumors about a Broadway musical of Disney’s Enchanted (or maybe it was in one of my dreams, lol). It’s one of my all-time favorite musical films. Would love to play Giselle (Amy Adams’ character), as I tend to be gullible like her. 😉

Supergator! Tell us how you got involved with this project and any interesting experiences you had on the set. Were you scared of the Supergator? And what happened to that guy you were tending to at the end? The girl never came back with that first aid kit!

Hahaha! Actually, this was a great project for me, as I didn’t have to audition. One of the producers contacted me (or my agent, can’t recall which came first), and said I didn’t have to audition with the credits I already had.

 Flew and got to spend the night in Kauai after the filming, so it was über sweet.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to “interact” with the gator, as others did. I felt bad for those that needed to act like they were being attacked by something that was digitally created post-filming. Was the gator scary in the film? (I’m asking, lol.) It looked scary from what I saw on the online promotional material. 🙂 A highlight was getting to shoot a rifle between scenes, which was quite an experience.

I never got to see the film (though people including my mom and aunt kept telling me they’ve seen it), so I didn’t know that about the girl not coming back with the first-aid kit!! That’s hysterical.

There seems to be a bit of a cult following for the film though it is not highly thought of in regards to the overall quality of the production. Perhaps it’s due to all those SyFy airings, I’m not certain. 🙂 I recently received an autograph request stating how I made the movie better when I appeared. I’m sure he wrote that to the rest of the cast too though! 😉

Most of the autograph requests I (still) receive come from LOST fans. Besides Five-0, LOST was one of the best TV filming experiences I’ve had. Although it seemed to be a brief exchange with Dr. Shepard (Matthew Fox), the filming process was rare for a TV show in my experience, because this process was like shooting a film where telling the story took precedence. Blocking was consciously considered and rehearsed so it made sense in the story. By the time we filmed, it was second nature. I feel the success of that show (besides the incredible talent and imaginative storylines) were due to the efforts made to tell the story. After having auditioned for 4 seasons without any callbacks, to have been a part of LOST history (not to mention Lostpedia 😉 continues to be a blessing, as the program continues to air throughout the world.

BTW, my Hawaii Five-0 episode – 2.6 “Ka Hakaka Maikai” airs October 24, 2011. <fingers crossed>

Reposted with permission from ValenTumblr.

Tamlyn Tomita, Valentino Valdez, and Traci Toguchi at the HIFF screening of The Karate Kid Part II .

Graphic artist, movie geek, and awesome dad are probably the best ways to describe Guest Manager Valentino Valdez. You can find more of Tino’s work over at and follow his exploits on Twitter @valdezign


HIFF 2011: Diary of a Volunteer-Oct 13 & 15

What kinds of stuff can you expect as a HIFF volunteer? People, all kinds of people.

So I was a little hesitant to bring this feature back, mainly because I did this last year and didn’t want to just rehash stuff I had already written. However, when you work enough events there’s something you begin to realize, you can put on the same event again and again, and always have a different experience each time. I should have known there’d be new stuff to talk about from HIFF 31.

A Great First Night
I really had a blast working the opening night of the festival. It was mainly because I got assigned to an awesome team. The other guy in our group was really outgoing and it definitely made for lively conversation while we worked. It just so happened that my team member also made friends with another woman who was with a different team, but during our downtime she sat with us and we all talked story about who we were, why we were all there, what we wanted to see, and of course, about other volunteers (more on that to come). It was somewhat funny that I was the veteran of the group since it was the first time for all of them working the festival, myself only having started just last year. In any case, the night seemed to fly by and I have to admit, I was a little sad to loose my team as I had no idea if I would be working with any of them for the rest of the festival. We all said goodbye and made our separate ways home.

Team 18 on opening night of HIFF 31.

Why Volunteers Should Work the First Night of HIFF
This is something that I only sort of realized this time around: it’s actually a good idea to work the opening night of the festival. I know everyone’s schedule is different, but if you can help it, you’ll definitely get a lot out of it, especially if you’re a first timer.

One of the biggest reasons why you want to work the opening night of HIFF . . . you get your volunteer shirt in the size you want it in. As the festival goes on, there’ll be those who won’t get a shirt in their size or worse yet . . . they won’t get a shirt at all. All that can be avoided by working the first night to ensure that you get one.

Another good reason to work the opening night . . . it’s the only night of the entire festival with the least amount of films playing. It’s the perfect way to “ease into” volunteering at the festival. With the exception of the opening night film (The Front Line) I don’t think any of the other films that played that night were sold out. With only one big film of the night playing, it kind of makes the workload easier to handle. Also, another reason things are sort of calm, the opening night gala tends to draw people (sponsors, directors, actors, talent, and other important people) away from the opening night. Less big wigs = less to worry about.

When Volunteers Go Rogue
I talked about this last year, but sadly it’s always going to be a recurring theme when you have free labor–you always have people that just don’t know how to follow the rules. Sadly, I wasn’t expecting to encounter someone like this so soon.

So to set tone, in our orientation earlier in the week, everyone was told a number of different things about being a volunteer. For time saving purposes I’ll cut to the chase–volunteers aren’t supposed to watch movies while working a shift. Fast forward to opening night. I’m working with my team and we were on a break, sitting around just talking story when we heard this older woman walking down the hall waving her ticket in the air. The funny thing was, she was a volunteer. I had seen her working earlier with a team and she had her volunteer shirt on, but now she was wearing another shirt over that, one that buttoned down the front.

Well when we saw her this time, she had her outer shirt buttoned up like she was off duty or something. Who did she think she was, Superman or something? Was her buttoned up shirt her civilian clothing? Did she think that by opening that up to expose her volunteer shirt would put her “on duty?” Whatever the case was, she was basically trying to hide the fact that she was a volunteer.

As she walked by us she was loudly pronouncing that we shouldn’t worry because she bought tickets to see a movie and that she had spent $8 on those tickets. On her entire march towards her theater, she kept making it known to the rest of us that she had paid for her tickets. Everyone in my group just looked at each other and kind of just laughed at her.

Obviously she had signed up to volunteer tonight, but I guess was confronted about seeing a movie on shift, hence she bought a ticket to the film she wanted to see–as if this was a way to get around this. We all just kind of had to shake our heads at this woman. Why sign up to work a shift at all if you’re going to go see one of the films–just don’t work. It’s as simple as that in my opinion. What I think happened was, this woman is a longtime volunteer and from what I’ve noticed, they are the ones that have trouble complying with the newer rule about not watching films while on shift. Hence her justification about buying a ticket (as if that made everything ok).

Why the Volunteer Shirt is So Important

A closer view of the nice and blue HIFF 31 volunteer shirt.

I signed up for the afternoon shift on Saturday and reported for duty wearing the volunteer shirt. When I got to my assigned theater, I noticed that I was kind of the only one that had the volunteer shirt on. There were other volunteers there, but they were wearing only regular clothes. What I noticed started happening was that I was fielding a number of questions from patrons while those volunteers wearing plain clothes were getting passed by. It was actually pretty funny to see as people would just blow past other volunteers and come straight to me for questions.

The reason for this was because I was the only one at that time that had a volunteer shirt on. People knew to come to me because I was there to help out. This year’s shirts are blue and they definitely help you to stand out from the crowd (a nice colored shirt tends to do that). Sure there were other volunteers there wearing volunteer badges, people still came to me because I was more easily identifiable. I also think I got a lot of questions because people are trained to seek help from someone in uniform as opposed to someone wearing plain clothes. I mean think about it, if you were out on the street and you saw a mailman, fireman, or policeman, wouldn’t you be more inclined to ask them for assistance rather that other people that just happened to be on the street?

So, like I said, the volunteer shirt is definitely key. And since it’s so key, wearing it is a big responsibility–people expect you to have answers. Even if you don’t have the answer, you need to figure out how to get them to someone who has the answer. Probably the biggest thing is to just consult the back of the volunteer badge and look at the schedule. Everything’s pretty much there; when things are playing, what theater they’re in. Knowing that alone will definitely help out.

Also, since the shirt is important, you definitely need to find a way to wash it when necessary. You may be able to get away with wearing the shirt a night or two without washing it, but at some point you will have to, so just recognize that early on. This isn’t baseball, you don’t just keep wearing the same shirt because you’re on a hot streak. Best thing to do if you need your shirt the next day, throw it in the wash with some other clothes (doesn’t have to be a lot) and put it on the fastest wash cycle. Then when it’s done, just throw everything in the dryer before you go to bed. Though it might be a little wrinkled in the morning, at least that’ll be better than wearing it stink the next day.

Other Stuff From Saturday

Short Staffed–When I checked in on Saturday I was about 5-10 minutes late. I looked for my name on the sign in sheet and I realized that more than half of the volunteers that were supposed to work today haven’t showed up yet–not a good sign. Sure enough as the afternoon progressed the effects of volunteer no shows could be seen–captains and other staff members had to pick up the slack. Those of us that were there were asked if we could work an extra shift to help out. One guy said he could while myself and another guy said we couldn’t. I had already purchased tickets to see Elite Squad (my most anticipated film of the festival) and so there was no way I was going to miss seeing that. If I didn’t have tickets, I definitely would have stayed to help out. Sadly I couldn’t.

When Volunteers Go Rogue II–So that lady I talked about in the first part of this post was there again on Saturday, and she was up to her old tricks. I didn’t realize she was “working” since halfway through the shift I saw her coming out of a film. Of course she had her shirt buttoned up again. I wondered to myself if she had paid for her ticket again or if she just went rogue and snuck in. In any case, a few minutes later I see her talking to HIFF executive director Chuck Boller. It looked like she was complaining to him, about what I can’t be sure. The only thing I overheard her say was something like, “we shouldn’t have to stand for that.” Whatever it was, I just had to shake my head at her again.

I really dislike people like that. For one thing, if you have any problems talk to the people that are in charge of us, not the top guy of the whole festival. Cutting to the top of the chain of command to complain about something is just weaksauce. Now on the other hand, she might have actually known Chuck (though I highly doubt it). However, if this was the case, why does she need to volunteer if she knows him? She’d be a ‘priority line’ type of member if she really did know him, which would also mean she wouldn’t have to volunteer to see a film anyway. In any case, Chuck listened to what she had to say, kind of said something like he’d look into it, and then went on to the next thing he needed to be at.

All in all, it was a pretty good first couple of days of the festival. As we head into the middle stretch of the festival I hope to see previous teammates and festival friends from last year. Oh yeah, and a few more films too!


HIFF 2011: Thoughts on Paradise Broken

Dante Basco and Nadine Nicole star as Ray and Misha, two drug addicts who battle the Waikiki underworld as they try to make their modest dreams come true in Paradise Broken.

I like movies. I guess that goes without saying since I have a movie blog. But just what is it about movies that I like so much? I guess this is something I should have written about already. However, I bring it up now because it relates to my viewing of Paradise Broken so please, bear with me.

Probably one of the biggest reasons why I like movies so much is because they take me to places I’ve never seen and are able to show me things I would never do. Traveling into space on a starship, discovering the Ark of the Covenant, traveling to the past in a DeLorean, working for the mob, and even bringing back dinosaurs . . . watching movies makes all of this is possible. I know, I know, ultimately it’s all fake and a lot of “movie magic.” However, I’d like to think of movies as modern day fables or legends in that some way, they have to be based on some fact or truth, something real or something tangible.

But what happens when a movie takes you somewhere you already are? Somewhere you already live? What then?

That’s the dilemma I encountered while watching Paradise Broken. This wasn’t a movie that took me somewhere I had never been or a place I wouldn’t go. It was here. In Hawaii. In Honolulu. Now, I’ve seen local shows and hell, topics covered in the film can crop up on the news or read in the newspapers. How is all that so different than seeing the protagonists, Ray and Misha, on screen? Like I mentioned earlier, movies aren’t real so why did this feel so different? It’s because, like I said, movies are in some way based on something real.

Getting to the heart of the matter, I didn’t know how to feel about the film and more specifically, how I should feel about what I was watching. Now let’s be clear here, I understood “the plot” of the film, you have a couple with a drug addiction almost at the end of their rope trying to live and trying to survive in Hawaii. I got that. I understood what the stakes were and I wasn’t uncomfortable with that. I don’t consider myself sheltered or privileged, but like anywhere else in the world I know bad things happen here, to all kinds of people. Everything is not like those postcards Ray talks about in the beginning of the film.

It was the fact that these characters could be people I know. They were walking along sidewalks and streets I myself have walked on. How could this not be real? By the end of the film, it definitely had me asking questions like; is the way Hawaii depicted in the film really how it is for some people? Do people live like that? Do people make those kinds of decisions? Sadly I had to come to the conclusion that it might be a possibility.

It’s hard for me to express exactly how I feel about this movie, on the one hand I’m not shocked by what I saw, on the other hand I can’t deny that the film left me feeling a bit unsettled since this was . . . is, home–and that was probably the scariest part.

I’ve always been of the mind that good movies will entertain you, but a great movie will engage and challenge what you think. I don’t want to sound naive, but Paradise Broken definitely made me think about the things we don’t see and that probably do happen so close to home–because of that, this is a film you definitely won’t want to miss.


Paradise Broken makes its world premiere tonight, 9:30pm at the Hawaii International Film Festival. As of this posting tickets are still available.


HIFF 2011: News Roundup – Oct 13

News Roundup is a collection of news stories and posts on HIFF 31 culled from print and online media.

To kick off opening day of HIFF 31 we start off from a post from Matt DeKneef over at the HIFF Blog who gives us some perspective on the general festival structure and the “Opening Night” film:

They [opening night film, centerpiece, closing night film] add a sense of form and structure to the fun-in-the-chaos that is HIFF. Since the OPENING NIGHT FILM is tomorrow, some myths we want to clean up . . .

  1. Opening Night doesn’t mean this is the first film of the festival.
  2. Opening Night is not sold out. Yet.
  3. Opening Night doesn’t screen more than once.

Just remember to apply Rule #3 to the Centerpiece and Closing Night films as well.

Over at (a division of the Honolulu Star Advertiser) they have a bunch of reviews up for films that are being shown early on in the festival. Features reporter Gary Chun kicks things off with his review of HIFF’s Opening Night Film, a Korean war movie The Front Line:

The film is riveting because it presents the war without false glory and fanfare. There are no bravura, patriotic moments. It’s a slog through a brutal war that leaves everyone, including the audience, emotionally spent at the end.

They also have reviews up for Together, Sabi Sabi, A People Uncounted, and Marathon Boy. I think they’re posting reviews daily so be sure check back for reviews of other HIFF films. Star Advertiser Cel Shaded columnist Jason Yadao has a second Sabi Sabi review for the paper here.

Over at the Honolulu Weekly, Ryan Senaga talks about how there’s something for everyone at this year’s festival and opens with HIFF’s long run of 31 years:

In this age of economic downturn, it’s awe-inspiring when something–anything–in the local arts community lasts for 31 years. Hell, it’s shocking when something in the arts and entertainment sector lasts for even 31 days. Thus, rejoice. The Hawaii International Film Festival Presented by Halekulani celebrates three decades (plus one year) with 216 films, all with the usual eclectic cultural flavors. (Love that logo with the maneki neko holding the flip recorder.)

Senaga possibly has the inside track on the best films of HIFF with programming director Anderson Le giving his 10 picks at this year’s HIFF. Sorry, you’re gonna have to click the link above to see Anderson’s list.

Breaking into section categories, David Nishimoto with the Honolulu Examiner previews the local films in this year’s festival:

But besides The Descendants, I am mostly looking to see what Hawaii’s own local filmmakers have in store for their audience. This year, there are about seven original films made within the state. Among them are a pair of anthology films, a documentary, and dark drama showcasing the underground world of paradise.

Nishimoto goes on to talk about Paradise Broken and the rest of the films that were produced and shot here in Hawaii.

With more from on the Hawaii section, StarAdvertiser film & television reporter Mike Gordon writes about 6B and The Short List, two anthology films produced by two local production companies:

Included in the Hawaii International Film Festival’s “Made In Hawaii” collection of local films this year are two anthologies — “6B” from Kinetic Films and “The Short List” from TalkStory Productions.

HIFF has often served as a venue to showcase homegrown talent and the two anthologies include nine short films by different Hawaii directors.

Head over there to read up on who all the directors are as well as the titles of the shorts in the anthologies.

Over at the Chinatown Newspaper, this month’s issue is dedicated to HIFF, with a special focus on the HIFF Extreme section. HIFF programming director Anderson Le provides a little insight into just what HIFF Extreme is:

As genre fans come out of the woodwork, HIFF EXTREME, a new section that is essentially a consolidation of our former sub-sections EXTREME ASIA and AFTER DARK, is a safe home for the miscreants and deviants of midnight movies from around the world! Full of sex, violence and stretching the barriers of taste and tolerance, HIFF goes for the EXTREME.

Head over there for the rest of Anderson’s description as well as an interview with UH’s ACM chair professor Tom Brislin, HIFF’s executive director Chuck Boller on being like George Clooney, and more on HIFF EXTREME.


HIFF 2011: Must See Preview Pt 2

So since today is going to be kind of a “long blog post” kind of day, we’re going to just jump right into things. Be sure to check out part 1 of the Must See Preview for my number 4-10 most anticipated films at this year’s HIFF.


Top 3 Most Anticipated Films

1) Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Website // Facebook // Twitter

The Enemy Within is a sequel to the 2007 film The Elite Squad. The film is a continuation of the semi-fictional account of the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police. The plot resolves around the maturing Lt Col. Nascimento, who, after a disastrous operation on a prison riot, gets caught in a bloody political dispute that involves not only the Public Safety Departament, the State governor, State Military Police, and paramilitary militia groups. The movie also shows the family issues of Nascimento, with his now adolescent son gradually moving away from him due to his job and the influence of his stepfather. (via

Why I Want to See It:
Everything I have read and seen about this film points to it being really awesome. The trailer is pretty enticing with the right amount of action and basic story setup. The HIFF description talks up its popularity in its home country of Brazil and supports what’s in the trailer by talking about the good mix of action and drama. The film was so popular in Brazil that they’ve submitted it as their selection for the Best Foreign Language Film category for next year’s Academy Awards. It’s also played on the festival circuit this year, and while it hasn’t really won awards, it’s gotten a ton of praise from movie bloggers (/Film, Film School Rejects). With the film being talked up so much, it’s no wonder that director Jose Padilha has been tapped to helm the long gestating Robocop reboot. With all the praise this film and the filmmaker is getting for Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, this definitely my top choice for this year’s fest.

2) Headhunters

Trailer // HIFF Page

An accomplished art thief risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary. (via

Why I Want to See It:
Leave it to the Norwegians to give us more gritty crime thrillers. Headhunters is actually adapted off of a book by a Norwegian author that was adapted into a Norwegian film. Stop me if that sounds familiar. While the film’s pedigree shares a lot in common with the Millennium Trilogy (the same production company that produced the Norwegian version of that series also produced Headhunters), to me it seems as if Headhunters is a lot more action packed and a lot more gripping. Usually for a lot of these trailers for HIFF films, they are mostly in the native language that the film is from (meaning no English subtitles). As is the case you mainly have to infer and absorb what is going on in the trailer just from a visual perspective with the actors’ inflections as your only additional clue as to what might be going on. That’s not the case for the Headhunters trailer. The entire time I was transfixed and felt that I knew exactly what was going on even though the entire thing was in another language.

3) Red Dog

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Website

Based on the legendary true story of the Red Dog who united a disparate local community while roaming the Australian outback in search of his long lost master.

Why I Want to See It:
Ok, so I’ve already talked about this film in my initial blog post about the first 14. However, I’ll simply say this . . . anyone who is a pet owner can back up the fact that a pet can be just like any human. Pets have feelings, they have moods, they even speak to you without having to say anything. This is the biggest reason why I really want to see this film. Red Dog illustrates why humans have pets and why we are so attached to them. From everything I’ve just described about pets, you get a great sense of that from seeing Red Dog in the trailer. This is more than just seeing a cute dog in a movie. It’s about identifying with this special bond that people have with animals.


Just Missed the List

These next few films just missed making the cut for my top ten list. Don’t think these films are bad because they didn’t make it, I actually think they’re still pretty good and would still see these as well. It’s just one of those things when you’re making lists . . . where do you draw the line? I liken these three picks to being Oscar nominees, in the end only one person/film can win. Being in the conversation is definitely not a bad thing.

Paradise Broken (right, top)
Not going to lie, the trailer for the film is pretty sexy. It’s actually quite weird to have a trailer that “looks” like it’s for a Hollywood film, but then you see Waikiki or the Ala Wai in the background and then you’re like, “hey, that’s here.”// Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

Why It Just Missed the Cut:
Granted, the subject matter isn’t something an island resident likes to think about (or maybe I just don’t want to), but the story just isn’t speaking to me enough (enough to get in the top 10 anyway). However, the visuals are great and I’m definitely intrigued by the film.

The Forgiveness of Blood (bottom right)
What really struck me was that this film is from the director of Maria Full of Grace. The man can up and shoot just about anywhere. The trailer isn’t anything too special, but you can definitely see similar workmanship between ‘Blood’ and ‘Maria.’ What this film also had going for it was that up until Monday it was Albania’s Oscar submission for the Foreign Language category. I say was because a petition was filed against the film and now it’s been DQ’d from Oscar consideration. // Trailer // HIFF Page

Why It Just Missed the Cut:
This decision came down to pure scheduling conflicts. There’s only one screening of this film and it just happens to coincide with Elite Squad. Since Elite Squad is my first pick, I dropped this one off the list. I know it’s kind of a flimsy argument, but like I said, when you’re whittling down your list, sometimes it’s all you have to go by.

Knots (left)
Aside from Red Dog, this was the only other title in contention that was more on the lighthearted side. Everything else has been a pretty serious pick up until now. Shot locally and starring some notable actors, I can’t decide if it’s a romantic comedy, or a dramatic comedy. // Trailer // HIFF Page // Facebook

Why It Just Missed the Cut:
While I like the story and the people in it, something about the trailer just didn’t connect with me. I can’t really put my finger on it but it just didn’t pull everything together. Now I know that it’s really harsh to judge a film by its trailer. However, this is a film festival we’re talking about here and there are over 200 films to see. How do you stand out in a crowd like that? Show me a mind blowing trailer.


Other Film Notes

So after the top ten, after the films that were just left off the list, these bunch of films were briefly looked over, but ultimately didn’t make it into contention.

33 Postcards–interesting dramatic story and it’s got Guy Pearce in it.

Butter–a last minute addition to HIFF, the film is about a butter carving competition in Iowa that has political undertones. The film is a Hollywood picture that stars Jennifer Garner and Olivia Wilde that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival just last month to lukewarm reviews and a media dust up due to a statement by Wilde on behalf of its distributor, The Weinstein Co;

The Bengali Detective–interesting hook about how people hire private investigators because the police in India are overwhelmed, also focuses on one detective who has a job moonlighting as a dancer?

Bullhead–”Animal feed thriller.” I never knew there was such a thing. Whatever the case the film definitely has a taut and suspenseful vibe to it. Oh yeah, it’s also Belgium’s submission for the Foreign Language Oscar as well.

Cannonball Wedlock–A Japanese RomCom that looks pretty funny and quirky. Myong Choi, Nonstop Honolulu’s resident movie guy, has it on his list of films to see at HIFF. We’re definitely interested as well, and could be a fun date movie at the festival.

Delhi Belly–Could be an interesting action comedy.

Kill List–Freaky deaky hitman movie from across the pond. Once you’re in, there’s no backing out.

Le Havre–I keep hearing good things about this movie. HIFF programmer Anderson Le has it on his list of films to see at HIFF and it even got a shout-out from Chicago film critic Michael Phillips. It’s gotta be pretty decent with all that praise and being France’s Oscar Foreign Language submission to boot.

Punished–Chinese revenge film. Not sure it’s the same as a Korean revenge film, but it’s got some action and one pissed off dude in it.

Smuggler–Part of the HIFF Extreme section, the movie looks like it could be a fun Japanese action flick.

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale–It’s über long (290 minutes), but looks über awesome. Kind of reminds me of a Taiwanese version of Braveheart . . . just without Mel Gibson.


Must See Events

The Karate Kid Part II

1980s nostalgia seems to be everywhere these days and what better way to showcase it than with a film that was shot in Hawaii. Every time I drive by a certain stretch of road along Kam Highway at the beginning of Kahalu’u, it always gets me thinking of Karate Kid II (certain outdoor scenes were shot out there and you can see it from the highway). While I haven’t seen the film in ages, it should be fun to see it again in a theater with people who enjoy the film. Actress Tamlyn Tomita, who played Daniel-san’s love interest in the film, will be on hand to do a post film Q&A.

Super 8 + Michael Giacchino

This is actually a pretty interesting screening to attend. While Super 8 was the JJ Abrams’ summer nostalgia movie that was just in theaters as little as four months ago, it’s actually the post film Q&A with Giacchino that I think is going to bring out people to this film. While Giacchino might not be as recognizable of a name as John Williams (composer for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman), Giacchino is definitely making a name for himself and building a solid resume with composing credits on LOST, a number of Disney Pixar films, Mission Impossible 3 & 4, and obviously Super 8. The man does have a unique style (not to mention an Oscar for his work for original Score in UP) and hearing what he has to say about the Super 8 production and JJ Abrams should enhance the film experience.

Roundtable Discussion with Top Composers
Music and score definitely add a lot to a film. It can set the mood, convey feelings, and it can also take you out of a movie as well. With that in mind, HIFF has gathered five composers with cinema background to discuss what it’s like to compose music for a motion picture and the decision and planning that’s involved. Should be really insightful.

An Afternoon with Hawaii 5-0
Saving the best for last, I’m not sure what’s going to be bigger at this year’s fest: the closing night film The Descendants with Alexander Payne Q&A, or the Hawaii 5-0 panel at the Halekulani. I won’t be surprised if it’s the latter. I’m of the opinion that the local Hawaii 5-0 fan base has a more devoted and rabid following than our other most recent TV series LOST. As of this posting, I’m actually kind of surprised that the free panel hasn’t yet sold out (you still need to go online and get tickets). I’d figure the 5-0 fans would have snatched up all the seats to grab a glimpse of their favorite stars and potentially lead producer Peter Lenkov talk about what it’s like to put on this series. One thing I will guarantee, if you don’t get your ticket sooner rather than later, this panel will sell out.


Phew. After all that there’s nothing really left to do but go out and see some movies. Through the ten days of the fest, I hope to work four, maybe five days as a festival volunteer. If you’re lucky you might catch me out on the front lines working Theater Ops–it’s the only place to be and it’s where all the action is. For the other five days, I’m not quite sure. I have a few work commitments that will take me away from the festival for a few days, but if I can help it, I’m going to try to see as much as I can.

The festival starts tomorrow and like many, I still haven’t determined what I’m going to be seeing. Yeah, I made up this list of films ‘I’d like to see,’ but reality doesn’t always meet expectations I’ve come to learn. You just have to make most of what you have. If you’ve followed me this far through the post I’d love to know what you’re going to see at this year fest OR if there’s something I blatantly left off my list I give you full permission to set me straight in the comments below.

So, until next time, happy HIFFing!


HIFF 2011: Must See Preview Pt 1

With HIFF 31 now only a few short days away, the Red Band Project takes a look at our most anticipated films playing at this year’s fest. Culling through the 200 plus film descriptions, trailers, and blogosphere buzz on films playing in the festival does take some time so I’m breaking up this post into two parts. Part I (today’s edition) covers the 4th through 10th most anticipated films; while part II, which I’ll be posting tomorrow (hopefully), will cover the top three most anticipated films and a few other things you won’t want to miss at this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival.

As always I’m going to preface this by saying that I’ve always been kind of a “mainstream” kinda guy so obviously I’m prone to being drawn to films with known actors in it or films that have high production value. Another caveat–some of the bigger “event” or “mainstream” films have been left off. I mean, when even Guy Hagi wants tickets to The Descendants, there’s no need to cover something that huge.

Finally, some of the films talked about or covered in this post may have already been discussed in previous blog posts (here and here). Please bear with me as I try to add more or slightly different insight as to why these movies are appearing on yet another HIFF blog post. And with that, here we go . . .

10) With Great Power – The Stan Lee Story
// HIFF Page
// Official Website
// Facebook
// Twitter


A feature length documentary on the life and creations of Stan Lee. Stan Lee is the co-creator of SPIDER-MAN, HULK, X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR, IRON MAN and over 200 other characters that can be found in comic books, movie screens, and in retail stores around the world. (via

Why I Want to See It:
Stan Lee is the man that gave us Spider-Man, The Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, and a bunch of other really cool superheroes. He’s also the reason why we practically have a superhero genre for film today (which I personally think is a good thing). Now there’s no trailer and the movie descriptions about this film can only tell you so much, but having a documentary about the man is something that I can get behind and I’m sure would find interesting. I’m not a comic book geek so I only know the very basics about him. If this film can shed any light on what he’s like and give some insight into how he created these characters . . . well that’s good time spent in my opinion.

9) The Short List
// Trailer
// HIFF Page
// Official Website
// Facebook

Join crack seed owner, Mr. K, as he shares his treats from his special short list of films. These tempting morsels include HOTEL ST., a crime procedural drama, THE PROTECTOR, a romantic thriller, THE ROUNDUP, a western, BAIT, a drama with a twist, and ONE EVENING IN THE BLUE LIGHT BAR & GRILL, a romantic comedy. Five local writers with five local directors created this tasty blend of short stories. All the films were hundred percent locally produced in Hawaii and preservative free. (via HIFF)

Why I Want to See It:
I’m interested in seeing The Short List mainly because of the people behind it–TalkStory Productions. Last year TalkStory produced the film The Tempest, which played at last year’s HIFF and received a limited release in the US. The team behind TalkStory was on hand during the festival to do a Q&A and I was even fortunate enough to meet them and during both encounters I could feel how much they love cinema and the work that they do. This year they bring an anthology of locally shot short films to HIFF. While each one is different and unique, all have Hawaii written all over them. Also, this screening is already sold out and is at ‘rush line’ status. Guess it must be good if it’s already sold out.

8 ) The Wonder Year
// Trailer
// HIFF Page
// Official Site


A year in the life of CEO, NAACP Ambassador, Duke University Professor, husband, father, son and Grammy Award winning producer 9th Wonder. (via

Why I Want to See It:
I’m going to assume that the music that plays in the first part of the trailer for this film was done by 9th Wonder himself. If that’s not the case, then I am going to be sorely disappointed when I see this film. That song was what basically sold me on the film. It’s mesmerizing, enchanting, and has a beat! And that’s not even the best part, that comes later when all these people (known artists included) wax poetically about how good the guy is. Needless to say if you’re a music person you won’t want to miss this screening or the special composers panel the next day (Saturday, October 15) that 9th Wonder will be at as well.

7) Wind Blast

// Trailer
// HIFF Page
// Official Site

Underground boxer turned hitman Zhang Ning and his pregnant girlfriend Sun Jing flee through the Gobi Desert with Detective Leopard and his cohorts in hot pursuit. Also on Ning’s trail are two killers sent by an irate client to silence him and retrieve a vital piece of evidence. Although Ning is soon captured by the cops, the tables are turned as the assassins attack their camp, setting in motion a series of intensifying battles and explosive duels. (via HIFF)

Why I Want to See It:
Not going to lie, from the movie description and the trailer this film looks like a crazy good Hong Kong style action western. You heard that right, Western. It’s got everything a male ages 18-49 could ask for: explosions, chase scenes (on horseback and vehicular), shoot outs, oh, and don’t forget those slo-mo shots of bullets and arrows sailing through the air. What’s not to love about a movie like that?

6) Let the Bullets Fly
// Trailer
// HIFF Page


Set in China during the warring 1920s, notorious bandit chief Zhang descends upon a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, an identity that he had hijacked from Old Tang, himself a small-time impostor. Hell-bent on making a fast buck, Zhang soon meets his match in the tyrannical local gentry Huang as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues. (via

Why I Want to See It:
There’s definitely a lot to like in this film. The trailer, the film synopsis, having Chow Yun Fat starring in it, and the fact that it’s played at a number of different film festivals this year definitely all provide the ingredients for something great. The director of the film is also this year’s HIFF “Filmmaker in Focus” and they probably wouldn’t bestow that title on him unless his work is up to snuff. However, buzz from the festival circuit has been mixed at best with several film blogs warning about confusing storylines and a runtime that seems a bit long for what’s in the film. However, I did hear from someone locally that the film is “pretty f***en mean.” Whatever the case may be, I’m definitely interested to see what it’s about and am not discouraged by the lukewarm reception from the mainland.

5) The Artist
// Trailer
// HIFF Page
// Official Site 


Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break. (via

Why I Want to See It:
This film received A TON of praise coming out of this year’s Cannes Film Festival (THE highest profile and possibly most prestigious international film festival) and the lead actor, Jean Dujardin, took the Best Actor award from the festival. The film was picked up by The Weinstein Company for distribution in the US; so we will see it here in Hawaii before the end of the year. Though a lot of the buzz from Cannes has dropped off, the film still interests me since it’s a silent film. Yes, you read that correctly, there’s no speaking at all during the film! With so many peopling liking a silent film I feel I need to check this out.

4) The Front Line
// Trailer
// HIFF Page


The Front Line offers up a classically hellish picture of front-line warfare between North and South Korea that turns several of the cliches of war movies inside-out. Most of the film is set on a hill which has been captured and recaptured by both sides, with considerable loss of life each time. A young officer is 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)

Why I Want to See It:
From the trailer, this film looks and gives off the same vibe as Saving Private Ryan. Just the scope and epicness of some of the scenes from the trailer give you that same feeling that you get from any great war film. It’s no wonder that The Front Line is Korea’s submission for next year’s Academy Award and will open HIFF 31 with a bang.


So that’s going to do it for Part 1 of The Red Band Project’s HIFF Must See Preview. Check back tomorrow as I finish off the countdown, take a look at the films that just missed the list, films of note, and a bunch of events that you’ll definitely want to check out at this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival.


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!


First Look: HIFF 2011

HIFF watch has officially begun and of course a dirty RED DOG is The Red Band Project's most anticipated film at this year's fest.

The fall. It’s that time of year between the summer blockbusters and the start of Oscar season. It’s also when Hollywood decides to dump more films on moviegoers that they aren’t all that interested in supporting, albeit a few glimmers of hope (Drive, Moneyball, Contagion). Thankfully though we have HIFF next month to help get us through these dark days of fall. Though it’s just a little over a week long, we can start looking forward to what’s in store for us for HIFF 31 by analyzing the films already announced, right now!

Note: For trailers to the 13 films announced for HIFF 31, head over to their website where they have posts with trailers/descriptions for each of the films.

Red Dog

Out of the 13 films announced so far, Red Dog is definitely the front runner for the film I want to see the most at HIFF 31 (photo above). Call me sentimental, call me an animal lover, call me a dog lover, but the trailer for this film had me smiling and grinning the entire time. Who wouldn’t like to see a story about a dog that is an entire town’s pet. Red Dog definitely seems like he’s almost a human being from the way he’s depicted in the film. Smart, funny, emotional, not since Wall•E have we seen someone who doesn’t speak convey so much with gestures. Take a look at Koko’s (aka Red Dog) screen test below and you’ll begin to see what I mean:


The Other 12 Films (so far)

The only other thing that intrigued me was Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey which describes the gentleman behind the famous Sesame Street character. It got lots of praise coming out of Sundance earlier this year (via /Film & Cinema Blend) and should definitely be a crowd-pleaser here as well. Whether I see this or not will depend on the schedule.

After that, the rest of the films didn’t really stand out to me. Don’t get me wrong, there may be some great films in here that I’m overlooking (and I’m certainly not saying any of them are bad), it’s just that none of them are really speaking to me at the moment. Ninja Kids and My Wedding and Other Secrets look to be fun and cute. Jiro Dreams of Sushi looks interesting and will not only attract foodies to this film, but make all of us wish that we had sushi right there with us next to our popcorn I’m sure. A few documentaries and dramas round out the rest of the currently announced titles:

  • Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (United States)
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Japan/United States)
  • The Journals of Musan (Korea)
  • Jump Ashin! (Taiwan)
  • Legend of the Millennium Dragon (Japan)
  • My Last Day Without You (United States)
  • My Wedding and Other Secrets (New Zealand)
  • Ninja Kids! (Japan)
  • Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul (Afghanistan)
  • Top Floor Left Wing (France)
  • Unfinished Spaces (United States)
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (UK/United States)


The Descendants

What's George Clooney got to hide from? Why only the masses and masses of people that are going to try and see The Descendants on the closing night of HIFF. That's all.

Though not officially announced or noted on the HIFF website, it is already being reported that The Descendants by Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election) starring George Clooney, will be the closing night film for this year’s HIFF. Generally a lot of people go to the opening night, centerpiece, gala, and closing night films because they’re bigger films, receive more publicity, and are showcase features for the festival. However, The Descendants has the distinct privilege of not only being a Hollywood picture, but as previously mentioned stars George Clooney, AND was shot here in Hawaii–a trifecta.

The film was just screened at the Telluride Film Festival this weekend and is already garnering positive buzz from media outlets (via The Hollywood Reporter) and movie bloggers . . .
via /Film:

Loved Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. Worn out from emotion. Great performances from George Clooney. (link)

And the rest of the cast. It will have you crying while you’re laughing and laughing while you’re crying. (link)

Now, normally I’m a mainstream Hollywood movie kind of guy and I’d JUMP at the chance to see this film. However, so is everybody else that’s coming to the festival. Right now I’m going to guarantee that the closing night of the festival is going to be a madhouse with everyone and their mother trying to get into this screening. And you know what . . . I’ll be right there with them!

How you might ask? By not buying a ticket. Call me crazy, but I want to work the festival that night! With my event background, there’s just something about working big crowds that is pretty fun (and yes, pretty crazy sometimes too). Yeah, I do want to see The Descendants, but I really have no desire to even try to stand in line and fight a crowd to see it as a civilian. I can wait till Thanksgiving weekend when the picture has its theatrical release. I don’t mind waiting.

And now we wait . . .

While HIFF 31 is still a good month and a half away, I can’t help but get excited for it. What I’m interested to know is, if you’ve watched any of these trailers or know any more about these films, definitely let me know in the comments below if I’m missing something for those other films. Also, if you were at the special HIFF membership appreciation screening of Senna this week, I’d also like to hear your thoughts on these films as well. Let us know!

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