Contest Theme: “A Message to the President: Transitions in Democracy.”
HIFF DKII Future Filmmakers Student Film Initiative


The Hawai’i International Film Festival will always be an international lighthouse to present cinema for social change. As we partner with organizations like the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, we work to build a better future by working with students and young filmmakers who have a powerful voice to reimagine a new world.
As the nation experiences turbulent times and historic challenges around the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing dialogue around systemic racism through the lens of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, what is resonating with our youth? What messages and hopes do they have when reflecting on their own view of social injustices? Through their eyes and in their words, what does America need most right now? 
Senator Inouye served in the United States Congress through twelve American Presidents. To them, he was an advisor, a mentor, an interrogator, and a friend. From Watergate to Iran-Contra, Senator Inouye held our country’s Presidents and their appointments accountable to their decisions and to the people, earning him praise as “Hawaii’s Quiet Voice of Conscience in the Senate.” In 2010, Senator Inouye was named President Pro Tempore by his peers, becoming third in line for the American Presidency.
A time-honored tradition, the outgoing President leaves a handwritten letter to his successor, offering encouragement, words of wisdom, and support. Regardless of political party, winners or losers, these letters have become a symbol of transition in our American democracy, and an opportunity to reflect on the grace and wisdom of those who serve as Commander in Chief.

Using examples from past Presidents, what would your letter say to the 46th President of the United States of America?


Above is a letter written by George H.W. Bush to President Bill Clinton. 


We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and are taking the necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of our community. To that end, and to respect the safety of our students and audiences, we have made changes to the submission guidelines and Fall festivities. 
We ask students to stay safe while filming and preparing their submission.
      1. All student must register here: 
      2. Craft your message answering the prompt: “My Letter to the American President: What Our Country Needs Right Now.”
      3. Students may film their message individually (unless they share a household or are in a socially safe bubble).
      4. The short films must be at least 1 minute in length, 5-minutes max.  
      5. We encouraged students to use a smartphone, tablet, or digital camera. Zoom record, Tik-Tok, or animated films are also welcomed. Get creative!
      6. Films must be submitted on HIFF’s FilmFreeway page under the “Future Filmmakers Deadline” at:
      7. The new deadline to submit is Friday, September 18, 2020.
      8. Please contact HIFF’s Education Coordinator, Jen May Pastores, for any questions at [email protected]

Q&A with Phillipa Soo & Awards Ceremony | Monday, November 9, Noon – 1:30PM

Philippa Soo Headshot

Finalists of this contest will have an opportunity to have a private Q&A during the online DKII Future Filmmakers Awards Ceremony. This year, HIFF and DKII are honored to host actress Phillipa Soo, who will participate in a live-streamed discussion moderated by Philip W. Chung, the creative director of the YOMYOMF Foundation. Soo will discuss her career, the importance of civic engagement and how young filmmakers and creatives can help shape their world for a better future. 

Soo is best known for originating the role of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton in Broadway’s critically acclaimed HAMILTON, garnering her numerous industry awards and a Tony Award nomination. She can currently be seen in the film version of HAMILTON, on Disney+.  Soo co-starred on Broadway in THE PARISIAN WOMAN, as well as playing the title role in the Broadway musical AMELIE. She also originated the role of ‘Natasha Rostova’ in NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812. She made her feature film debut in HERE AND NOW. On the small screen, she was previously a series regular on THE CODE, and was featured in SMASH. This fall, Soo will voice a lead role in Netflix’s animated film OVER THE MOON  She can also be seen in Sony’s THE BROKE HEART’S GALLERY and in Disney’s THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN.


Mahalo  for a great online session! Middle and high school students and teachers joined us for the Future Filmmakers Q&A Panel on Zoom to connect, get ideas and tips for their submission to the DKII Future Filmmakers Open Call, and learn from local award-winning Documentary Filmmaker, Ciara Lacy, and past high school student winners, Magnolia Basoc and Jessie Hearther, of previous Future Filmmakers’ film contests.
Missed the session? You can watch a recording below.



The top finalists are chosen to present in November during HIFF’s 40th Fall Festival program at the Future Filmmakers Screening, a special presentation for students, free to the public. As we monitor the health measures for our community, it is our goal to ensure safety for this event––we hope to have a socially-safe screening outdoors and will keep you updated on any changes. 
Students will also be given filmmaker badges that provides them with unprecedented access to HIFF, including free screenings and panel talks during the festival. Finalists are also invited to attend a private, intimate luncheon with other finalists and a celebrity youth ambassador, as well as an awards ceremony where a 1st and 2nd place will be selected in a high school category and a middle-school category. Past celebrities include actors Harry Shum Jr and Jacob Batalon. Daniel K. Inouye Institute will also be awarding the top winners with a cash prize, a GoPro camera and a gift card to Best Buy.


Video tutorial created by Phoenix Maimiti Valentine.


Films from the 2019 Future Filmmakers screening are now available to watch online at HIFF @ HOME. Watch all of the student finalists’ short films representing Campbell High School, Center For Tomorrow’s Leaders, E Kūlia I Ka Pono, Ewa Makai Middle School, Farrington High School, Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking, ‘Iolani School, McKinley High School, Waiākea High School.


2019 finalists had the opportunity for a private meet and greet with Youth Ambassador, locally born and raised actor Jacob Batalon, who broke out of the scene with his role as Ned Leeds in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME.
“I am honored and privileged to be a witness to the creative future of our youth. To have a vision of a better Hawaii takes courage, strength, and love. I am truly proud of this initiative, and I hope that these opportunities afforded to them will cultivate a brighter future for filmmakers, actors, and creatives all alike from our great state. You all have a voice that should be heard, and I can’t wait to see what you all have in store,” – Jacob Batalon


The Daniel K. Inouye Institute was established in 2013 to preserve Senator Inouye’s papers and tell his life story; support STEM education, civics learning and international educational-cultural exchanges; and establish a repository of the Asian American/Pacific experience. 

This contest is also supported by the YOMYOMF Foundation, which supports Asian Pacific American artists as well as artists from other traditionally underrepresented communities who wish to pursue careers in film, TV, theater and new media.