Celebrating fifty years of Hawaiian screen culture


HIFF at 50

Building an oral history and archive of five decades of the Hawai’i International Film Festival

In November 1981, the Hawai‘i International Film Festival launched as an engagement project of the East-West Center with thirteen free films at the Varsity Theater organized around the theme “When Strangers Meet.”

Edging towards its 50th edition, HIFF has changed a lot since 1981. It’s stretched from a single theater to an event that spans O‘ahu and the neighbor islands, launched year-round film screenings and grown to over 300 films per year. HIFF has come a long way since film reels arrived at the airport in boxes of hay, but it’s still connecting strangers from across the world through the shared love of cinema.

The HIFF Legacy Project is a multi-year research project studying the history and cultural impact of the Hawai’i International Film Festival. Co-produced with Dr Duncan Caillard and Auckland University of Technology, the HIFF Legacy Project sets out to record nearly 50 years of oral histories to preserve the stories, struggles and successes that have made the festival what it is today.

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Duncan Caillard

Dr Duncan Caillard is a Research Fellow at Auckland University of Technology in Aotearoa New Zealand. Born and raised in Australia, he fell in love with Hawaiian cinema while working in the programming department at HIFF between 2018-2019. His research spans film history and theory in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, with a particular focus on anti-authoritarian and decolonial art cinema.