The Hawai’i International Film Festival (HIFF) continues to champion global voices in cinema with a focus on indigenous storytellers. The fest revealed today its lineup for the 41st edition of the annual film festival taking place from November 4-14 on Oahu and November 18-21 on neighbor islands with virtual programs streaming from November 4-28 nationwide.

This year, HIFF will honor Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton and Reservation Dogs creator Sterlin Harjo for their achievements.

The program includes 123 features, 100 shorts, and for the first time ever, a new episodic series program. Among the lineup are 139 Hawai’i premieres, 34 world premieres, 21 US premieres, and 11 international premieres from 36 countries. Featuring in-person screenings alongside digital screenings, HIFF41 will be accessible to audiences all across the United States. More than three quarters of the program will be available to view online and nationwide.

“Despite everything we have faced in this impossibly difficult year for us in the Pacific, our creatives continue to walk boldly in their storytelling,” said HIFF executive director Beckie Stocchetti. “To honor their vital work, it is our intention that this year’s Festival offers an opportunity for those of us in Hawaii to experience and connect with each other and the world through our programs, while continuing to share Hawai’i’s authentic voices and stories on a global scale. At the heart of HIFF41 is a spirit of hope and inspiration and a space for respite and conversation. We hope to draw our audiences in closer, in connection with these films and the creatives behind them.”

This year’s Opening Night presentation is the world premiere of Waterman directed by Isaac Halasima. The film explores the life of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku and his legacy as a trailblazer, father of modern-day surfing, and five-time Olympic medalist who broke through societal barriers along the way. Waterman will be presented as an outdoor screening at the historic Bishop Museum on the Great Lawn on November 5, accompanied by a new display featuring surfboards and gold medals from Hawaiian Olympians Duke Kahanamoku and World Champion surfer Carissa Moore.

Sundance darling and Made In Hawai‘i selection I Was A Simple Man directed by Christopher Makoto Yogi and starring Steve Iwamoto, Constance Wu, Tim Chiou and Kanoa Goo makes its homecoming Hawai‘i Premiere on November 10 at Consolidated Theatres Ward. The Centerpiece Presentation focuses on an aging man on the North Shore whose wife has come to haunt him in his final days, forcing him to confront his past.

HIFF’s Closing Night presentation is the universally acclaimed Belle, the latest masterpiece from Oscar-nominated Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children, Mira) which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The screening will take place November 14 at the Ward Theater.


A centerpiece of HIFF’s annual programming is the Made In Hawai‘i competition lineup, which spotlights the storytelling of local artists, centering Hawai‘i-grown talent and film productions. The program celebrates Hawai‘i’s dynamic and emerging independent film scene by sharing these talents with global audiences. Fiction, non-fiction and short films that are made by locally-based filmmakers or involve locally-based stories are eligible for a Best Made in Hawai‘i film award. Besides Opening Night presentation Waterman and Centerpiece I Was A Simple Man, and over 25 short films, some other highlights from this year’s Made In Hawai‘i program include:

  • The world premiere of The Island In Me, a documentary feature that takes the viewer to the Polynesian atoll of Pukapuka, a unique place never before captured in film. With only four hundred inhabitants and ten meters above sea level, the atoll has stories to tell. The film follows two women who grew up here and return home after decades away to find the atoll, and themselves, forever changed.
  • A special presentation of Pau Hana Years: Golden Anniversary of Molokai Homesteading, as part of the 100 Years: Hawaiian Homes Commission Act archival screening series, ‘Ulu’Ulu: the Henry Ku’ualoha Guigni Moving Image Archive of Hawai’i presents four restored episodes of the 1975 series PAU HANA YEARS with host Bob Barker which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first Moloka’i homesteads.

“HIFF is enormously proud to present this year’s Made in Hawai‘i program, which will showcase an astounding 5 features and 26 shorts. Creative industries in Hawai‘i are key to rebuilding better, and HIFF is excited to feature many of these films as part of our Competition program, offering cash prizes totalling $10,000 to these Made in Hawaii filmmakers for the fifth year in a row,” said Stocchetti.

Made In Hawaii competition films are eligible to compete for grand jury awards for Best Hawai’i Feature Film and Best Hawai’i Short Film. These two prestigious awards will be adjudicated by two grand juries made up of local and visiting film professionals. The purpose of this award is to reignite the already growing excellence in local cinema production via fiction and non-fiction narratives and to put a spotlight on emerging and established media makers from Hawaii, producing films about and set in this unique, vibrant and precious culture and state.


This year, HIFF will recognize the work and cinematic accomplishments of Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Just Mercy, Short Term 12) with the Career Achievement Award, Sterlin Harjo (Reservation Dogs, This May Be The Last Time, Mekko) with the Maverick Award, Dana Ledoux Miller (The Newsroom, Designated Survivor) with the Pacific Trailblazer Award, Stanley Kwan (Lan Yu, Center Stage) with our Spotlight on Hong Kong Filmmaker, and Albert Pyun (The Sword and the Sorcerer, Cyborg) with a special HIFF Extreme Award, for his genre-bending body of work.

Additional honorees will be unveiled later this month.


In addition to HIFF41’s focus on environmental and indigenous programming, this year’s program will highlight some of the best feature length titles from across the Asia-Pacific and around the globe. This year will feature an expanded Spotlight On Korea program with a special focus on new Korean talent, including short films and first or second features, and spotlight gala screenings. Highlights of films that will be presented in-theaters include: Hostage: Missing Celebrity from South Korea, Baragaki: Unbroken Samurai from Japan, Moneyboys from Taiwan, and Anita from Hong Kong. In addition, the Festival will be presenting award contenders that premiered at major festivals like Cannes, Venice and Toronto including Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers, Jane Campion’s The Power Of The Dog, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria.


The Kau Ka Hōkū (Shooting Star) Award presented by Hawaiian Airlines will be awarded to an emerging filmmaker (first or second feature film). Both fiction and non-fiction feature films will be nominated by the festival programmers and adjudicated by an international jury. The nominees include:

  • Anima (China), Director: Cao Jinling
  • Along The Sea (Japan), Director: Akio Fujimoto
  • The Big Bend (United States), Director: Brett Wagner
  • Dark Red Forest (China), Director: Jin Huaqing
  • I Was A Simple Man (United States), Director: Christopher Yogi
  • Islands (Canada), Director: Martin Edralin
  • Night Raiders (Canada), Director: Danis Goulet
  • Ripples of Life (China), Director: Wei Shujun
  • Ten Months (South Korea), Director: Namkoong Sun
  • Whether The Weather Is Fine (Philippines), Director: Carlo Francisco Manatad


For the first time, HIFF has programmed a special sidebar highlighting premium streaming episodic content and the indie and arthouse filmmakers from around the world creating within this format. Fitting within HIFF’s mission statement of presenting Pacific Rim filmmaking is The Panthers from ​​Halaifonua Finau and Tom Hern. This exciting new series retells the story of how the Polynesian Panther Party was founded in 1970s Aotearoa (New Zealand). The Festival is honored to present the first three episodes and has scheduled a virtual panel discussion with the show’s creators to discuss the making of this groundbreaking series.


This year’s shorts programs are presented in alignment with the HIFF41 focus on environmental issues and indigenous voices, as well as new Korean cinema, culinary cinema, and global documentary and narrative films. Short films in competition are eligible to receive a HIFF Grand Jury Award for Best Short Film. Highlights from the HIFF41 shorts line-up include the new GREEN SCREEN SHORTS program and the largest MADE IN HAWAII SHORTS film program to date, featuring 26 locally produced short films.


The Vilcek Foundation will once again partner with HIFF to present the New American Perspectives Program. The New American Perspectives program shines a spotlight on foreign-born filmmakers, celebrating the extraordinary contributions of immigrant artists to contemporary cinema and media in the United States. The program centers the voices of immigrant artists through film screenings, filmmaker Q&As, a filmmaker master class, and a panel discussion featuring all seven 2021 New American Perspectives filmmakers. This program includes five new feature films and a Master Class with the director, co-writers, and cast of Indian-American comedy 7 Days, HIFF’s 2021 New American Perspectives Feature spotlight film. The artists and films presented as part of the New American Perspectives program include:

  • Roshan Sethi, director and co-writer, 7 Days, (b. Canada)
  • Karan Soni, co-writer and lead actor, 7 Days (b. India)
  • Geraldine Viswanathan, lead actress, 7 Days (b. Australia)
  • Aizzah Fatima, co-writer and actress, Americanish, (b. Saudi Arabia)
  • Kier-la Janisse, director, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, (b. Canada)
  • Natalia Almada, director, Users, (b. Mexico)
  • Shih-Ching Tsou, producer, Red Rocket, (b. Taiwan)

“We are honored to once again partner with the Vilcek Foundation to present the New American Perspectives program, highlighting the contributions of American immigrants to contemporary cinema. These films are critical to the ongoing, critical discourse around displacement, migration, and we are proud to create a platform to elevate immigrant voices and experiences,” said Anna Page, HIFF Director of Programming.

A number of this year’s New American Perspectives filmmakers will also participate in HIFF’s Guest Filmmaker Program, which brings filmmakers from around the globe into K–12 classrooms in Hawai’i to speak with students about their careers in filmmaking.

For a complete lineup of films, please visit