The Hawaiian International Film Festival (HIFF) is the largest film festival in the US “dedicated to the advancement of understanding and cultural exchange among the peoples of Asia, the Pacific and North America through the medium of film." In 2015 HIFF marked its 35th year with an ambitiously eclectic program befitting its unique crossroads position as an American state located in the Asia Pacific region. HIFF 2015 was also memorable for a substantial NETPAC presence to mark NETPAC’s 25th anniversary year. HIFF is one of over 30 film festivals around the world to give the NETPAC Award to promote Asian cinema by spotlighting exceptional works and discovering new talent. In North America, it is also the only film festival to present the Award. For 2015, HIFF presented an excellent choice of 6 nominations for the NETPAC Award:
Enishi – The Bride of Izumi (Japan, 2015; Hiroshi Horiuchi) How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) (Thailand-US, 2015; dir Josh Kim) The Kids (Taiwan, 2015; Sunny Yu) Robbery (HK, 2015; Fire Lee) Violator (Philippines, 2014; Dodo Dayao) Court (India, 2014; Chaitanya Tamhane)
The Award was given to The Kids for “its simple, understated but compelling narration of a young family’s struggle for survival and efforts to keep their early marriage intact” (jury’s citation). The film is the directing debut of Sunny Yu, who was a script-supervisor in Taiwan director ChangTso-Chi’s film studio. The NETPAC Award provides a fortuitous link to the film’s executive producer Arvin Chen, who won the NETPAC Award for his film Au Revoir Taipei at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2010. The NETPAC jury panel comprised Wong Tuck Cheong (Malaysia), Zakir H Raju (Bangladesh) and Misa Tupou (Hawaii). Extended NETPAC Program at HIFF 2015 To mark NETPAC’s 25th anniversary, Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, President of NETPAC/USA, created a special program to advance NETPAC’s aim of promoting Asian cinema more widely in Hawaii. The program comprised film screenings, public presentations, symposia and film education sessions in schools in O’ahu and Lana’i. They were delivered by a select group comprising filmmakers, critics, festival directors and film scholars specially invited by HIFF from India, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, China, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Fiji, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Korea and Hawaii to commemorate the occasion. The film segment of the anniversary program featured 7 films: Act of War: the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation (Puhipau Ahmad, John Lander; US, 1993); Chunhyang (Im Kwon-Taek; Korea, 2000; NETPAC Award, Busan International Film Festival); The Coffin Maker (Jason Paul Laxamana; Philippines, 2014; NETPAC Award, Hanoi International Film Festival); The Hijra (aka Guru Bangsa: Tjokroaminoto; Garin Nugroho; Indonesia, 2015); Margarita, with a Straw (Shonali Bose; India, 2014); The Redfern Story (Darlene Johnson; Australia, 2014); Salesi: Hero to Love (Garin Nugroho-Vilsoni Hereniko; Hawaii, 2015). Of special note in this film program is Salesi (directed by Garin Nugroho and Vilsoni Hereniko), a short dance film about power and love adapted from Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s version of the popular Indonesian legend Mangir. It was produced by NETPAC/USA in an exemplary demonstration of collaboration between the filmmakers, dancers, choreographers of Indonesia, Fiji, and Hawaii. This screening was a world premiere and was presented in recognition of the growing contributions of Pacific Islander filmmakers to world cinema. To reflect the importance of the cinematic output from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, from 2016 NETPAC’s acronym shall be expanded to stand for Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema.
In a meaningful outreach exercise, NETPAC/USA brought a program of film screenings and film discourse to the community of Lānaʻi, the sixth largest of the Hawaiian Islands, under the banner of “Pamana! Shared Memories in Filipino Motion Pictures”, in deference to the large Filipino population on the island. The program was presented in person by Nick Deocampo, film historian and director of the Center for New Cinema in Quezon City, and director Jason Paul Laxamana, who showed and discussed his 2014 NETPAC Award-winning film Makabaung: The Coffin Maker with the audience. Other segments of the Extended NETPAC Program at HIFF • NETPC@25 Symposium: Chasing the Dream: Culture, Capitalism and Cinema A series of panel discussions was held to mark NETPAC’s 25th anniversary. Participants included Aruna Vasudev, Xie Fei, Vilsoni Hereniko, Nick Deocampo, Sun Shaoyi, Dr Ella Henry, Anne Démy-Geroe, Wimal Dissanayake, Darlene Johnson and Gulnara Abikeyeva. The topics included: Cultural Nuances and Creativity; Co-Productions and Globalization; and Financing, Marketing and Distribution. • Retrospective of Films by Xie Fei NETPAC/USA also sponsored a retrospective of award-winning Chinese director Xie Fei’s films. These included A Girl from Hunan (1986), Black Snow (1990), Women from the Lake of Scented Souls (1993), A Mongolian Tale (1996) and Song of Tibet (2000). • Interview with Aruna Vasudev by Dr Wimal Dissanayake An extended in-depth interview was conducted by Dr Wimal Dissanayake, the leading scholar of Asian cinema, with NETPAC President Aruna Vasudev, covering Aruna’s remarkable life, her involvement with cinema and the events leading up to the founding of NETPAC, as well as NETPAC’s influence and impact.
HIFF Vision in Film Award for Aruna Vasudev
A highlight of the NETPAC@25 program at HIFF was the bestowal of the Vision in Film Award on Aruna Vasudev by HIFF Executive Director Robert Lambeth “in recognition of her vision and tireless efforts to promote an appreciation of Asian cinema.” Previous illustrious recipients of the award include Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee, Park Chan-wook and Roger Ebert.
HIFF@35, NETPAC@25: Two of the World’s Great Channels for Intercultural Dialogue
The scale of celebration for HIFF@35 and NETPAC@25 in 2015 befitted the crucial role these two organisations play in fostering intercultural dialogue. Whereas hitherto NETPAC had focused its efforts in Asia and Europe, in November 2015 it acknowledged the pre-eminence of Pacific Island cinema by officially extending its geographic remit in a name change to Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema, while still retaining the acronym NETPAC. This portends well for the wider dissemination of Asian and Pacific cinema: it is now poised to make a bigger presence among the southern Pacific countries (a vast area that includes Micronesia, Fiji, Polynesia, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia) and in mainland USA. In confidently passing the baton of the presidency of NETPAC/USA to Vilsoni Hereniko from 2016, Jeannette Hereniko could not have chosen a more opportune moment or a more appropriate person.