HIFF starts today! Here are the fest’s five must-see Hawaii-themed and –filmed flicks.


The 34th annual Hawaii International Film Festival begins today on Oahu and runs through Nov. 16 with additional screenings on Hawaii Island and Kauai.

Over the years, the festival has earned an especially solid reputation for its programming of films from Hawaii, Asia and the Pacific region. This year’s packed schedule of nearly 200 films from 45 countries around the world does not disappoint. You can see the entire lineup of films and events here.

While I love the multicultural mix of flicks and the opportunity to discover films that I might not otherwise, I am most excited to see the movies that showcase my home state. HIFF’s film slate this year features Hawaii-themed and Hawaii-filmed full-length features and shorts scattered throughout its 15 screening days.

Below are the top five Hawaii films I’m most looking forward to seeing at HIFF. See you at the movies!

Visions in the Dark: The Life of Pinky Thompson. Photo: HIFF.

Visions in the Dark: The Life of Pinky Thompson

This world premiere biographical documentary follows the life of local hero Myron Bennett “Pinky” Thompson, a well-known Native Hawaiian cultural and community leader. Thompson worked on behalf of the Native Hawaiian community, advocating for a better health care system, improved educational programs and pride in Native Hawaiian identity. Visions in the Dark: The Life of Pinky Thompson is the festival’s special closing night film.

Screening: Sun., Nov. 9, 7:00 p.m., Hawaii Theatre Center, Oahu (with the PIXAR animated film LAVA) • Sun., Nov. 9, 8:00 p.m., Consolidated Theaters Koko Marina, Oahu • Sun., Nov. 16, 7:00 p.m., Palace Theater, Hawaii Island • Sun., Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m., Waimea Theater, Kauai

The Lei Makers. Photo: HIFF.

The Lei Makers

Two rival lei makers compete for business outside of a small Hawaii airport in this 8-minute short. Tempers flare and hilarity ensues when similar products divide customers between the two lei stands, and the sellers go to battle over sales. The film, presented by the University of Hawaii at Manoa Academy for Creative Media, plays first in a lineup of five “Made in Hawaii Shorts.”

Screening: Sun., Nov. 2, 1:30 p.m, Regal Dole Cannery, Oahu • Fri., Nov. 7, 8:00 p.m., Consolidated Theaters Koko Marina, Oahu

Beyond Sight: The Derek Rabelo Story. Photo: HIFF.

Beyond Sight: The Derek Rabelo Story

An inspirational surf narrative, Beyond Sight: The Derek Rabelo Story, tells the true tale of Derek Rabelo, a young blind Brazilian boy with a lifelong dream to surf Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline. The film follows Rabelo through two years of intensive mental and physical training leading up to his surfing the famous North Shore break, a feat that astounded and inspired Hawaii’s surf community. This full-length feature film has five screenings.

Screening: Sat., Nov. 1, 6:30 p.m., Regal Dole Cannery, Oahu • Tues., Nov. 4, 8:30 p.m., Regal Dole Cannery, Oahu • Wed., Nov. 12, 7:00 p.m., Palace Theater, Hawaii Island • Sat., Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m., Waimea Theater, Kauai (with Hihio) • Sun., Nov. 16, 6:30 p.m., The St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

Rise of the Wahine. Photo: HIFF.

Rise of the Wahine

This 90-minute documentary explores the little-known story of the landmark Title IX education amendment on gender equality through the lens of the Rainbow Wahine University of Hawaii women’s athletic department. The film follows how 1970s Wahine athletes navigated their desire for women to have the same opportunities as men, ultimately playing an important role in changing the accessibility and perception of women’s sports in the U.S.

Screening: Mon., Nov. 3, 7:00 p.m., Hawaii Theatre Center, Oahu • Sun., Nov. 9, 2:30 p.m. Regal Dole Cannery, Oahu • Fr., Nov. 14, 5:00 p.m. Waimea Theater, Kauai • Sun. Nov. 16, 4:45 p.m. Palace Theater, Hilo

The Sled Challenge of Pele and Kahawali. Photo: HIFF.

The Sled Challenge of Pele and Kahawali

This short film will screen in HIFF’s “Student Showcase” grouping with 10 other films by Hawaiian kindergarten through 12th grade students. But The Sled Challenge of Pele and Kahawali caught my eye as the only HIFF film reinterpreting Hawaiian mythology. The 7-minute short follows Kahawali, chief of Hawaii Island’s Puna district, and his younger brother Ahua as they prepare for a holua (sled) race. The fire goddess Pele, disguised as an old woman, appears to Kahawali at the start of the race and asks to use his holua. The chief declines. You’ll have to watch the film to find out what happens!

Screening: Sat., Nov. 8, 10:00 a.m., Regal Dole Cannery, Oahu

Tickets for all screenings may be purchased at the HIFF Box Office (650 Iwilei Road, Suite 160, Honolulu) or the HIFF website. Regular ticket prices are $12 though some discounts for students, military, seniors and HIFF members, as well as matinee showings apply. Note: There is a $1.50 service fee for all online ticket purchases, and a $1.00 fee for in-person purchases.

Location Details, Oahu:
Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 & Imax
735 Iwilei Rd, Honolulu • (808) 528-3653 • Website

Hawaii Theatre Center
1130 Bethel St, Honolulu • (808) 528-5535 • Website

Consolidated Theaters Koko Marina 8
Koko Marina Shopping Center, 7192 Kalanianaole Hwy, Hawaii Kai • (808) 397-6135 • Website

Location Details, Hawaii Island:
Palace Theater
38 Haili St, Hilo • (808) 934-7010 • Website

Location Details, Kauai:
Waimea Theater
9691 Kaumualii Hwy, Waimea • (808) 338-2027 • Website

St. Regis Princeville
5520 Ka Haku Rd, Kauai • Website

Categories: Culture, Oʻahu