Preview – 2019 Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase, Honolulu, April 5-14

The 22nd Annual Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) Spring Showcase presented by Halekulani is here! Taking place from April 5 to 14 at Regal Dole Cannery Theaters in Honolulu, the Spring Showcase is HIFF’s annual ‘mini-festival’, showcasing some of the best Spring Season films from across the globe.

Like the main festival in November the Spring Showcase presents a broad spectrum of film festival hits and advance screenings of upcoming indie film releases and will include 30 films from 13 countries. New to this year’s showcase are four special programming spotlights:

Spring Hits consists of the latest films generating great buzz from major festivals like the Sundance Film Festival, as well as Toronto, Busan, and Berlin. These premieres provide Hawaii’s cineastes with a first-look opportunity of what will be shaping the indie and awards scenes in the latter half of 2019.

JapanFest is the one-stop source for the latest in Japanese cinema with eight films that showcase why HIFF audiences flock to Japanese films and continually make them the most popular films at the Festival. This year’s selections include Complicity, A Restaurant from the Sky, and A Banana? At this Time of Night?

KoreanFest presents four films from South Korea that highlight why the country is a formidable cinematic force, dominating the box-office and running the gamut of historical fiction to zany comedies with ease and expert craftsmanship. The Hallyu wave is very much still alive as seen here in such titles as The Dude in Me, Extreme Job, and Malmoe: The Secret Mission.

Pacific Focus is an extension of the Fall Festival’s Pacific Showcase. The Spring Showcase continues this program silo to present the latest works about and from the First Peoples of the Pacific. Two films in this section just premiered at Sundance and will be having their Hawaii premieres here.

30 films comprise this year’s HIFF Spring Showcase program. Aside from these special film sections, there are films from multiple genres and countries (13 in all) that were selected by the HIFF programming team to highlight the very best in International and buzz-worthy cinema. From intimate and personal stories to massive box-office hits, here are some of the highlights:

Straight from is world premiere at Sundance and purchase by indie darling distributor A24 of Moonlight fame, The Farewell stars breakout performer Awkwafina in a heartfelt dramedy concerning a Chinese American family that discovers their beloved grandmother has only a short time left to live. Instead of telling her the sad news, they whip up an impromptu wedding to gather the family together before she passes.

In Dying to Survive, a struggling Chinese drug store proprietor smuggles cheap but untested pharmaceuticals from India to help hundreds of Chinese people suffering from cancer. It’s based on the real-life story of Lu Yong, a Chinese leukemia patient who smuggled cheap but unproven cancer medicine from India for 1,000 Chinese cancer sufferers in 2004. This comedy-drama struck a chord with Mainland Chinese audiences, which translated into $453 million at the local box-office, making Dying to Survive one of the biggest domestic hits of all time.

A former gang leader battles human traffickers to save her kidnapped daughter in Furie. A female rendition of Taken, this box office hit stars Veronica Ngo of The Last Jedi and Bright who showcases her wares as an explosively charismatic star in this head-cracking, bone-breaking Vietnamese martial-arts extravaganza. Furie is a worthy addition to the Asian action pantheon.

The nonfiction thriller Sea of Shadows chronicles the plight of the vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, which is near extinction as its habitat is destroyed by Mexican drug cartels and the Chinese mafia, who harvest the swim bladder of the totoaba fish, the “cocaine of the sea.” Environmental activists, the Mexican navy and undercover investigators fight back against this illegal multi-million dollar business. Sea of Shadows won the Sundance Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.

Merata Mita, pioneering Māori filmmaker and international champion of women in indigenous film, is celebrated by her youngest son, archivist Heperi Mita in Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen. Collaborating with his siblings, Mita delivers a richly personal portrait. This film is an intimate portrayal of pioneering filmmaker Merata Mita as told through the eyes of her children. The sudden death of Merata Mita in 2010 led her son on a journey to uncover a story of a mother’s love that would change the landscape of indigenous participation in film forever.

Early-bird passes are available for purchase now. Advance ticket sale for HIFF Ohana members start March 22. For the full programme and ticket booking facility, visit the festival website.