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The MADE IN HAWAII Film Festival Returns this week

The third Made in Hawaii Film Festival, an event taking place on the Big island, is pushing forward in their efforts to remain an annual synergy of local film artists and cinema-loving audiences. Since first appearing in 2018, the MIH FF has been a community-based fixture that supports local independent filmmakers and gives their work a showcase on the big screen.

Last year’s pandemic caused the creators to re-think how their festival would proceed, as they pushed forward and found an alternative to traditional programming. This year, the event, which takes place March 25-28th, will showcase limited, in-person screenings at the Hilo Palace Theater, as well as virtual screenings to view at home. Here’s a taste of what to expect:

Among the many highlights are Mitchel Viernes’ “Charity,” a consistently intense and scary Hawaiian interpretation on a gangster film. There’s also Ciara Lacy’s “This is the Way We Rise,” a documentary about a local poet and activist, that offers the energy and immediacy of a Spike Lee film. Justin Ah Chong’s “Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki” takes a raw look at contemporary day-to-day life on Oahu.

Sarah J. Christman’s poetic, genre-free “Swarm Season,” is about our relationship with nature, which is an issue also explored in Lance Page’s “Aila Au: Forest Eater,” an otherworldly encapsulation of a recent volcanic eruption and the land it absorbed.

The featured short films also sport powerhouse titles, including Alexander Bocchieri’s “The Pit Where We Were Born,” a Sam Shephard-worthy father/son drama. Also showing are Alika Maikau’s “Molokai Bound,” an impressive, haunting depiction of a troubled family, while Kimi Howl Lee’s “Kama’aina (Child of the Land),” sports excellent performances and offers look at contemporary Oahu. There’s also Lisette Marie Flanary’s engrossing “Tokyo Hula,” about hula instructors working in Japan, and Jeffrey Orig’s hilarious “Waikiki PD,” an extension of his popular web series. 

There are also selections of films in the categories of DRAMATIC SHORTS, LATE NIGHT (horror, action and sci-fi), EMERGING (from first-time filmmakers), AINA (exploring topics relating to Hawaii’s inhabitants), MUSIC + COMEDY, PORTRAITS IN MOTION (unique documentaries on their subjects), and EPISODIC/ SERIES (episodes from varying Hawaii-created series). 

A panel discussion is scheduled for March 26th at 3pm, titled Practicing Aloha on Set, which will feature discussions with Erin Lau (“The Moon and the Night”), Aina Paikai (“Hawaiian Soul”) and Heather Haunani Giugni (“Family Ingredients”). 

There’s also an hour-long Behind the Scenes panel with the directors of “Tokyo Hula,” “Waikiki PD” and “Swarm Season,” which will take place at 1pm on March 28th. Both panels are virtual-only.

Tickets and further information are available at www.MIHFF.org.

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About Barry Wurst II

Barry Wurst II
Barry Wurst II is a senior editor & film critic at MAUIWatch. He wrote film reviews for a local Maui publication and taught film classes at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs (UCCS). Wurst also co-hosted podcasts for Screengeeks.com and has been published in Bright Lights Film Journal and in other film-related websites. He is currently featured in the new MAUIWatch Podcast- The NERDWatch.

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