‘Waikiki’ and ‘Hawaiian Soul’ Win Made in Hawai’i Awards at Hawai’i Film Festival (EXCLUSIVE)

Dave McNary
·3-min read

Waikiki” and “Hawaiian Soul” won the Made in Hawai’i awards at the the 40th edition of the Hawai’i International Film Festival.

The awards were announced at a virtual gala held Sunday. “Waikiki” is described as a dramatic and visceral allegory for the contemporary issues that plague Hawaii’s people, including mental illness, physical abuse and the loss of Hawaiian identity.

“In his feature debut, director Christopher Kahunahana unravels a hauntingly beautiful film that depicts the complicated and intertwined sides of paradise, both darkness and light,” the festival jury said of “Waikiki.” “Against the backdrop of Hawaii’s natural beauty, Kahunahana and cast focus on the very real struggles of many Hawaiian residents – and leave us wondering how we can be a part of the solution, not just the problem.”

The jury gave a special award for cinematography to Ryan Miyamoto for his work on “Waikiki” and said, “A visually complex film elevated from the commonplace commercial depictions of scenic Hawai’i that captures its hidden duality. From lush green mountaintops to impound lots, Ryan Miyamoto’s work in Waikiki takes viewers on a cinematic journey, eschewing the candy-colored fantasy portrayals that dominate tourism brochures for those that bring Hawai’i alive.”

The Best Made in Hawai’i short prize was awarded to “Hawaiian Soul,” directed By ʻĀina Paikai. The film is based on the true story of George Helm. a young Hawaiian activist and musician who must gain the support of kūpuna (community elders) from Maui to aid in the fight of protecting the precious neighboring island of Kahoʻolawe from military bombing.

“Writer and Director ʻĀina Paikai brings to life the spirit of beloved Hawaiian musician and activist, George Helm,” the jury said. “‘Hawaiian Soul’ is a beautifully crafted tribute to those who helped start the Native Hawaiian rights movement, and is a timely reminder of the strength and purpose inherited by the activists of today.”

The documentary short film award was presented to “To Calm The Pig Inside,” directed by Joanna Vasquez Arong. The prize for best narrative short went to “Yellow Girl And Me,” from the United States, directed by Isabella Issa. The shorts jury presented the best actor award to Chen Yi-wen for his performance in “Growing Pains,” directed by Po-Yu Lin. The jury also presented the best actress award to Ebony McGuire for her performance in “Wirun,” directed by Chad O’Brien.

The jury awarded a special mention to the animated short film “Kapaemahu,” directed by Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu. The jury recognized Malia Kamalani Soon with a Special Acting award for her performance in the short film “Kamaʻāina,” directed by Kimi Howl Lee.

The festival honored Hong Kong auteur Ann Hui as this year’s recipient of the Halekulani Golden Maile for career achievement. The Halekulani Maverick award went to Rachel Brosnahan, director/producer Dave Filoni and actor/producer Steven Yeun. The first Halekulani New Vanguard award went to actress and activist Lana Condor. The Pacific Islanders in Communications Trailblazer award recipient is actress Keala Settle. The HIFF Legacy award was given to Jason Scott Lee.

More from Variety

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.