Film festival
big on heart

Grown from
the Garden Isle

The 4th Annual Hawaii Student Film Festival
Where: Hemenway Theater, UH-Manoa campus
When: 6:30 p.m. tonight and 1 and 4 p.m. tomorrow, with a 7 p.m. awards ceremony and 8:30 p.m. reception
Admission: $3 donation
Call: (808) 651-3749

There's a good reason Paul Booth's Hawaii Student Film Festival office seems to have that homey, "lived-in" look. For a good portion of its four-year existence, the HSFF has been a family affair, with Booth and his grandmother conducting festival business from their Kapaa residence. E-mails and phone calls from across the island chain are exchanged from Booth's bedroom.

"In terms of day-to-day, in-and-out work, it's just myself and my grandma, who does all the secretary work," reveals the 24-year-old Kauai Community College student, who adds that the festival, now in its fourth year, would not have gotten off the ground without the help of volunteers and sponsors. "(HSFF) basically all happens because there's hundreds, if not thousands, of people that support us and send us their films, offer their venues and theaters and hand out fliers for us. It's kind of like a statewide team effort. It's industry professionals, it's teachers, film lovers, the media -- it's the whole kit and caboodle."

Birthed by the efforts of the Kauai Community College Film Club in 1999, the Hawaii Student Film Festival began as a Garden Isle event to showcase works by students, middle school through college (it has since expanded its field of entrants to also include elementary students). The festival has grown to include films from Oahu, Maui and Molokai, and most recently, the Big Island, making HSFF a presence on all five major islands in Hawaii.

This year, a record 75 entries were submitted and the festival's visibility and stature has likewise grown. "It's something everybody gives their time to and that's why it's been able to stay around for four years," said Booth.

This year's judges include producers Frank South and Margaret South; Robert Olague, the executive director of the Hawaii Screenwriters Association; and award-winning director Aaron Yamasato, whose film "Blood of the Samurai" was produced by Booth. Each donates their time.

"We all know how important networking is," relates Booth. "The whole point of doing the festival has been to provide people with opportunities and connections that they might not normally have. These judges will be at the festival sometime over the weekend to talk and meet people. They're giving a lot of their time to us."

One young filmmaker who would do well to seize the opportunity is recently-graduated UH-Manoa student Kevin Yoza, whose entry, "Procrastination," impressed Booth, who screened each entry before sending it off to the judges. "I guess everyone thinks about their lot in life and what kind of impression they want to leave on the world," remarks Yoza, in explaining his decision to further his film studies at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco this fall. "I thought about all the movies I've seen and those moments that touch you or make you want to cry or remind you of things you value in life. If you can spark an emotion in someone to make them remember what's special to them, that's pretty amazing."

The festival's Honolulu screenings start tonight at the UH-Manoa's Hemenway Theater and will continue tomorrow with two showings, followed by an awards ceremony and reception.

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