HIFF42 Key Visual

HIFF42 Key Visual Concept

This year the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, in partnership with Major Sponsor Middle Management, wanted to take this year’s theme of “Secondary Succession” and create a visual story inspired by the experience that our festival, our community in Hawai‘i and the world overall has gone through these past couple of years. Talented Honolulu based artist KAWIKA ASUNCION created this year’s concept. Read below as Kawika walks us through the story that he has created.

“Secondary Succession”

The astounding fury and beauty of Earth is often lost in the nature of its own shear magnitude. Living in Hawai’i offers a rare and tangible glimpse of our planet’s power almost everywhere we look. We see it in the seemingly infinite vastness and vigor of the ocean, in the diverse athenaeum of wildlife that coexists in harmony, and most evidently, in the eruptions of volcanos that continue to build the foundation of our beloved home.

In the still of a night sky, a violent fiery purge of embryonic earth effortlessly extends its waking hands towards the clouds as if to signal its dominance to all. Buried arteries find pores to bleed from, pumping new life into a tired landscape its inhabitants so easily mistaken as permanent. Its slithering tongue, glowing with hunger swallows everything in its path, simultaneously conceiving and consuming without preference or restraint in its feverish binge. It maintains a power so devastating yet necessary, laying a new foundation for life behind a path of utter destruction. When the fury subsides, the smoldering blanket of virgin land signals the eventual birth of a new life that lies beneath the surface. In this rebirth, known as the secondary succession, life finds a way to grow again.

Although life seems decimated on the surface, below the new terrain hides a deposit of nutrition-rich soil. Preexisting seeds continue to feed and soon break through the rocky surface to once again see the light of day. The ‘Ohi’a Lehua is an embodiment of this ecological miracle. The leafy shrub breaks through the volcanic floor and soon explodes with fiery red, nectar-kissed blossoms, seemingly mimicking the very explosion that decimated its ancestors. These blossoms, in striking contrast with an otherwise desolate landscape, appear like a beacon on the horizon. A sign that life, for now, has grown stable again. The birds and insects return the beck and call, pollinating its nectar and spreading its growth far beyond the reach of its root system.

When I look at the volcanoes, I see a lot of ourselves. This cycle of destruction and succession so eloquently mirrors our relationship with the passage of time and the events that can sometimes force unforeseen change. As a human species, we find guidance familiarizing ourselves with our surroundings while navigating the complexities of life. But as we well know, nothing lasts forever.

The persistent passing of time presents us with life’s “eruptions”; arduous moments of destruction that engulf our conventions of everyday life and leave us feeling decimated and hopeless. Life in Hawai’i knows these moments all too well. We’ve seen it in the colonization and subsequent unlawful annexation of our land, the persistent economic disparity of our people, the insurmountable demand and crumbling infrastructure of an overdeveloped land, a shrinking shoreline ridden with microscopic remnants of our gluttonous tendencies and most recently, the fresh scars of an ongoing pandemic that’s redefined life as we know it.

We’ve grown tired, even hopeless at times, combating the test of time with makeshift solutions that only seem to add kindling to the growing blaze. It’s in times like these that it’s important to remember that darkness always has an origin in the light, and that beneath the anguish lies the seeds of our growth that we must find time to nourish in effort to establish our secondary succession.



Kawika Asuncion is a Honolulu based artist, writer, designer & part-time beach bum who likes tell stories. His lifelong tendency to complicate the simple, and oversimplify the complex, has contributed to an expressive voice that offers unique life perspectives on and off the island. His style seeks to colorfully tell an overarching narrative while thoroughly, sometimes obsessively, dissect the fine details of each and every passing moment. Visually, Kawika melds found images, geometric forms, and typographic elements then casts them into dynamic compositions that redefine the narrative structure. These non-linear, new age “cave drawings”, as he refers to them, combine collage, poetry and illustration to tell stories with no definite beginning or end.

“Why not put the neurosis to good use? My artistic approach attempts the impossible task of narrating the story of human experience. This fluid and complex anthology, ridden with plot holes and ever changing narratives that follow some obscured resemblance of a script? This is the story I want to tell. The line between effectively capturing these moments and going insane trying to do so is razor thin, but within that line I believe there is a distinctive beauty worth sharing.”

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