As the vanguard forum of international cinematic achievement in the Asia-Pacific region, Hawai‘i International Film Festival (HIFF) endeavors to recognize new and emerging talent, promote career development and original collaborations through innovative education programs, and facilitate dynamic cultural exchange through the cinema arts.
HIFF started as a project of the East-West Center, an educational and research institution created by U.S. Congress and located on the University of Hawai’i Manoa campus in Honolulu. Jeannette Paulson Hereniko was HIFF’s Founding Director, from 1981 to 1996. In 1981, HIFF’s inaugural year, the program consisted of seven films from six countries which were viewed by an audience of 5,000.
HIFF has become a premiere cinematic event in the Pacific and annually attracts more than 50,000 film enthusiasts from around the state, the nation and throughout the world. It is one of the premier film festivals in the United States and the only festival spread across an archipelago.
HIFF annually presents a series of prizes for established and emerging filmmakers at its annual Awards Gala. In addition to its main competitions, the festival also honors filmmakers for special accomplishments and contributions to cinema culture. >>> See a list of past HIFF Award Winners and Honorees
In 2020, HIFF celebrated its 40th edition, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, presented a hybrid festival with over 200 films from 45 countries, available online, at drive-in theaters, limited in person cinema screenings and many zoom Q&As and panels.
HIFF41 was a comeback year for in-person screenings and filmmakers on the ground at the festival. In 2021, HIFF welcomed 284 filmmaker delegates and screened 300 films from 35 countries. 91% of films screened at HIFF41 were Hawai‘i Premieres.
HIFF is the sister festival of Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) & Shanghai Media and Entertainment Group (SMEG). Each year, students from Shanghai University visit HIFF Fall Festival as a cultural exchange program with the University of Hawa‘i, Academy for Creative Media.
HIFF audiences reflect the diverse multi-cultural face of Hawai’i. For example, Chinese Americans see films from Japan; Japanese Americans see films from Korea and Native Hawaiian films are showcased to a broader audience. In so doing, HIFF helps to enrich, enlighten and broaden support for Asian and Pacific films by HIFF members, film festival fans and new audiences alike.
HIFF is unique in discovering narrative features, documentaries and short films by and about peoples from Asia and the Pacific, and films about Hawai‘i made by Hawai‘i filmmakers.
Each year in preparation for the event, HIFF programmers view some 2,000 films and choose an average of 150 narrative features, documentaries and film shorts. Among them are world premieres, North American premieres, U.S. premieres, virtual reality works, animation and interactive XR projects. Programs in focus include spotlights on social and cultural issues, first features by new directors, emerging Asian-Pacific talent, and work by American immigrant filmmakers.
HIFF also conducts panels, workshops, special award presentation receptions with top Asian, Pacific and North American filmmakers participating.
HIFF audiences reflect the diverse multi-cultural face of Hawai‘i. HIFF helps to enrich, enlighten and broaden support for Asian and Pacific films through cultivating HIFF Ohana Membership, film festival fans and new audiences alike. Since its inception, more than 1.4 million people from throughout the world have shared HIFF film screenings and insights.
NEW AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
The New American Perspectives program at HIFF shines a spotlight on the contributions of foreign-born filmmakers to contemporary cinema in the United States. As part of the New American Perspectives program, the Vilcek Foundation and HIFF present a panel discussion with featured filmmakers. > See a list of past New American Perspectives delegates here
In 2021, HIFF launched MAKAWALU, HIFF’s first production project that will bring eight Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) directors together to make one feature length film. MAKAWALU, in modern Hawaiian terminology, references “different perspectives of a situation.” The filmmakers who have been selected to participate in this anthology are: Kekama Amona, Justyn Ah Chong, Ty Sanga, Aina Paikai, Katherine Wong, Taylour Chang, Erin Lau, and Ciara Lacy.
The filmmakers participated in a special 5-day writers retreat at the Halekulani Hotel from November 15 to 19, 2021 to develop the project together. The program is an extension of HIFF’s primary goal of supporting and nurturing local filmmakers for the betterment of the broader community. The feature film is expected to be completed in 2022.