17-23 April 2020

Festivals & Events

HIFF Blog

October 17, 2019

The Objective of Objectivity: HIFF39 Documentary Films Matter More than Ever

Program coordinator Lee Ngo looks at the renewed importance of the documentary format, especially in a time of political turbulence, the tribalization of opinion and how documentarians fight the good fight for the integrity of their work to seek out the truth in a world of "fake news."

THE HUMAN FACTOR is the behind-the-scenes story from the last 25 years, of how the United States came within reach of pulling off the impossible - securing peace between Israel and its neighbors.

The challenge for documentary filmmakers to depict elevate conversations on complex topics through visual storytelling has never been more insurmountable than in the contemporary era of “alternative facts.” With the tribalization of opinion and thought as well as the summary dismissals of objectivity whenever it fails to correlate to obstinate worldviews, it is easy to see how documentary filmmakers - often regarded as vanguards of truth in an industry preoccupied with escapism - can get discouraged to persist in their craft.

Ironically, documentary films have never been more popular, often the subject of water cooler conversations and Reddit threads alike. Recent popular topics covered include corporate scandal (FYRE, FYRE FRAUD, THE INVENTOR, BETTING ON ZERO), beloved artists who have fallen from grace (LEAVING NEVERLAND, SURVIVING R. KELLY), or explorations that test the humility of human existence (OUR PLANET, APOLLO 11). Even though their facts depicted and execution remain in perpetual debate, the relevance of these films is self-evident: we are hungry for the truth now more than ever. 

The Hawai‘i International Film Festival invites you to be at the forefront of the discourse rather than wait for films to be available via streaming platforms. By joining us and others in the theatrical experience, we hope you will be proactive in our efforts to advance truth and enlightenment through cinema. We’ve selected over a dozen films for our 2019 programming lineup, not including those featured in our Film For Thought (in partnership with the Hawai‘i Council of the Humanities), our annual foodie film section, now aptly titled Mixed Plate, or our various short film program lineups. I’ve chosen my personal five must-see films, guided by my own curiosities and passions. 

HUMAN FACTOR - a behind-the-scenes look at how the United States came within reach of pulling off the impossible: securing peace between Israel and its neighbors over a 25-year period. 

HOPE FROZEN - A Thai two-year-old girl with terminal brain cancer undergoes cryo-preservation. While her father yearns to let her experience a rebirth inside a regenerated body, what her brother discovers will rattle their radical hope in science.

OUR TIME MACHINE - A moving meditation on art, mortality, and family, a famous Chinese conceptual artist grapples with the advancing dementia afflicting his father and uses his unique integrated craft to communicate his story.

GRANNY POETRY CLUB - Banned from reading their own written language during the second world war, a whole generation of elderly women get their chance to learn Korean through the pedagogy of the millennial generation.

RUTH: JUSTICE GINSBURG IN HER OWN WORDS - The “Notorious R.B.G” is something of a mythological figure in the cultural zeitgeist, inspiring a feature film, documentary, and countless internet memes. For the first time, filmmaker Freida Lee Mock offers the living legend an opportunity to speak on her own terms about her incredible life and career.

For the full lineup, check them out here


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