HAWAII INT'L FILM FESTIVAL
HIFF filmmakers stress popularity of Asian films
Exuberant filmmakers from Korea, China and the United States jump-started the 25th annual Hawaii International Film Festival yesterday at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, saying that popularity of Asian films continues to grow.
It's not just the number of films, but their quality and story content that are improving, they said, with the festival being part of the reason.
"What happens here is incredibly important," said Teddy Zee, who produced the American blockbuster "Hitch," starring Will Smith. "With so many Asian films being made, it is increasingly important that there's a place where they can be recognized, and (HIFF) is that place."
The quality of Asian films is becoming so good, especially in Korea, that U.S. films could suffer financially from the competition, Zee said. His own film is an example. "'Hitch' did extremely well in Asia but not so good in Korea," Zee said. "That's because Korean filmmaking has gotten so good that Koreans are seeing their own motion pictures."
Zee also said more Asian actors, filmmakers and stories are finding their way into U.S. productions. "You don't have to look any further than (the Hawaii-based) television show 'Lost,' where there are two Korean co-stars," he said. "Here's an American prime-time hit where these actors speak Korean, with subtitles used to translate. How can that be?
"It shows that American audiences just want good acting and a good story."
Joining Zee at a news conference yesterday were directors Zhang Yimou of China, Kang Je-Gyu of Korea, actor Bai Ling and Anne Misawa of the University of Hawaii's Academy for Creative Media.
HIFF honoree Samuel Jackson will arrive Nov. 4 to attend a special reception, and Vincent Ward, who directed the New Zealand film that closes the festival, "River Queen," arrives this weekend.
Dale Ruff, regional vice president of HIFF sponsor Louis Vuitton Hawaii, announced that the company has extended its sponsorship, which began in 2002, through 2007. The agreement, reached about a year ago, includes an annual cash donation of $100,000 to $150,000 and other support, sources said.
The festival runs through Oct. 30.