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    Scene from the Japanese film The Taste of Tea. in Hawaii Film Festival
    Scene from the Japanese film "The Taste of Tea."

    Isle seats

    The Hawaii International Film Festival gives locals and visitors a look at some of the most adventurous moviemaking on either side of the Pacific.


    In its 24th year, the Hawaii International Film Festival featured 168 films from 24 countries over the course of 11 days, including 9 world premieres, 18 U.S. premieres and 70 Hawaii premieres. This impressive diversity is built into the mission statement of the festival, which seeks to promote cultural diversity and understanding through the medium of film.

    Featuring 168 films from 24 countries. October 21-31, 2004.

    Related links: Official site
    Hawaii Film Festival 2004
    • Overview

    • Baytong
    • Clean
    • In the Realm of the Unreal
    • South of the Clouds
      • Steamboy
    • Take Out
    • Tarnation

    • Official site
    Like so much else in Hawaii, the festival is dominated by East-meets-West themes, with East often making the stronger showing. Of this year's nominated features, 4 out of 5 were Asian: "Baytong," "Low Life," "South of the Clouds," and "Taste of Tea." "Take Out," the fifth nominated feature, was American but is set in New York's Chinatown and the vast majority of the dialogue is in Mandarin. Interestingly, though, only one of the nominated documentaries was Asian: South Korea's "And Thereafter." The rest, including Jessica Yu's fascinating "In the Realms of the Unreal" were either American or European.

    In addition to the nominated films, the festival hosted a series of high- profile galas, including Otomo Katsuhiro's long-awaited "Steamboy" and the opening night selection "Clean" written and directed by Olivier Assayas and featuring the extraordinary Maggie Cheung.

    Cheung's presence at the festival was substantial. In addition to appearing in "Clean," she served as one of the three jury panelists and received the festival's first ever Achievement in Acting Award. The other jursists were actor David Wenham ("Lord of the Rings," "Gettin' Square") and film critic Emanuel Levy. Mr. Levy, no stranger to festivals, was particularly impressed that he hadn't yet seen any of the nominated films.

    The remaining films were divided into thematic categories, including a special focus on Shanghai cinema, a series of "surf films," and Eastern and Western showcases. Demonstrating a strong commitment to the local production of film, the festival also presented 31 films that were made in Hawaii, including several shorts from students at the University of Hawaii's new Academy for Creative Media.

    The university presence was felt in one of the festival's several seminars as well. In an interesting move, a heavily promoted panel discussion of local video game production featured several student presentations of video games developed in class and focused heavily on the concept of video games as an emerging narrative art form.

    Long a favorite of many critics and magazines, the festival had a record turnout this year, with many sold-out screenings and lines around the block for gala presentations. All indicators (including their first-ever corporate name sponsor, Louis Vuitton) point towards a festival continuing to expand its ambitions and its impact, and striving to live up to its reputation as what Travel and Leisure Magazine called "One of the ten best film festivals around the world."

    Festival articles




    Tragedy propels a monk out of his monastery and into Thai society, with occasionally forced comedy but with often touching results as well.



    Maggie Cheung is a trilingual whirlwind as a mother fighting heroin in Olivier Assayas' "Clean," which drags too much to do justice to its tri-continental performances.


    In the Realms of the Unreal

    "In the Realm of the Unreal" describes the life of a reclusive and somewhat creepy school janitor who died and left behind a 15,000-page illustrated children's book.


    South of the Clouds

    Noteworthy Chinese filmmaker Zhu Wen explores his country's remote southern region.



    "Steamboy," from the maker of "Akira," transports the anime concept to industrial-age London, with strange and intriguing results.


    Take Out

    NYU film grads Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou do a lot of good things with their low-budget depiction of a Chinese-food delivery slave, although they tack on a needlessly hokey ending.



    Son of the South Jonathan Caouette has documented his life from performance-loving youngster with a camera in Texas to adult gay man in New York, using a lifetime of homemade films to construct the unorthodox documentary "Tarnation."

    NOVEMBER 9, 2004

    Reader comments on Hawaii Film Festival:

  • very funny   from tara, Jul 17, 2005

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