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Hawaii Int'l Film Festival, Part Two: Wisdom from Women Making Movies; Honorees Yue Sai-Kan and Koji Yakusho

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood October 18, 2012 at 4:52PM

Following Part One of our Hawaii International Film Festival coverage, we turn to the fest's China Night gala honoring Yue Sai-Kan, the Women Make Movies panel and Career Achievement Award recipient Koji Yakusho's take on the state of Japanese cinema. It's all below:

Woodsman and the Rain
'The Woodsman and the Rain'

Japanese actor Koji Yakusho, who received the fest's Career Achievement Award and stars in HIFF's "The Woodsman and the Rain" (as well as some fifteen films that have screened at past editions of HIFF) spoke about Japan's changing film landscape at his press conference. "Original screenplays are becoming very rare and that's very unfortunate," he notes through his translator. There's an extreme polarization of large films and super small films, which are becoming less and less successful there. But, he says, he "tries not to think out box office" when he chooses his projects, like "The Woodsman."

While Yakusho has a far wider audience in Japan, he's also worked on American productions like Inarritu's "Babel" and Rob Marshall's "Memoirs of a Geisha." The biggest difference between Japanese and American productions, he feels, is the "luxurious" length of pre-production on American films, as well as the large crews and extended shoot schedules (He understands that Marshall is said to work at a particularly slow pace.) "But as an actor, once you're in from of the camera, the work is the same," he says. He does think there's something to be said for Japan's compactness and efficiency.

HIFF's Gala event, China Night, honored Chinese media icon and entreprenuer Yue Sai-Kan with a HIFF lifetime achievement award and featured a fashion show led by Miss Universe China 2012, Diana Xu. The event benefits HIFF's Academy for Creative Media, a film student exchange between Hawaii and Shanghai Universities. Another one of HIFF's programs, the Kupuna Lens, holds workshops for residents over 60 to learn how to create their own short documentary films that screen at the festival. Filmmaker Flanary also teaches that program.


This year's HIFF also features a Studio Ghibli retrospective; a Green Screen documentary section; New Chinese Cinema (including "Shanghai Calling" and "First Time"); Spotlights on India (including "Invoking Justice"), Japan ("Architecture 101"), Korea ("In Another Country"), Taiwan, Philippines and Pacific Islanders; EuroCinema Hawaii (Christina Petzold's "Barbara," Germany's absorbing Oscar entry, as well as Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone"); American Indies ("I Am Not A Hipster," "I Am A Ghost"); World Cinema ("Holy Motors," "Teddy Bear"); and the New American Filmmakers section.

Among the NAF titles are Sean Baker's "Starlet" and Musa Syeed's Sundance Audience Award winner "Valley of Saints." The section is presented by the Vilcek Foundation. Exec director Rick Kinsel tells us "[the] program has proven to be an ideal showcase for bringing widespread attention to the remarkable work of immigrant filmmakers, both in front of and behind the camera. Through our partnership with HIFF, we have presented more than twenty-five films and introduced numerous talented film professionals with diverse backgrounds not only to the audience in Hawaii but also to film lovers all over the United States through the NAF National Film Tour."

Honolulu locals can still get tickets for these films and more here.

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.