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I love movies and I love Hawaii, so I’m always looking for ways to combine those two passions. Happily, several top-notch Hawaii film festivals keep me satisfied each year with their screenings, parties, panel discussions and celebrity sightings. It’s a terrific way to inject entertainment value to a Hawaii vacation.
I highly recommend the following five celluloid celebrations, made all the more enjoyable by their setting in the 50th State.
Big Island Film Festival (BIFF) -- Hawaii IslandMovieMaker magazine named BIFF one of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals, which may explain why over 2,200 people attended it in 2012. Focusing on narrative filmmaking, BIFF presents premieres, parties, networking opportunities, celebrity receptions, screenwriting workshops and a closing night Hawaiian music concert. Free family films are shown under the stars at the Shops at Mauna Lani, while international features and shorts are screened during the days and evenings at Fairmont Orchid Hawaii. Better yet, BIFF takes place over Memorial Day weekend, making it an appealing option for a long weekend getaway.www.bigislandfilmfestival.com
Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) -- OahuDating back to 1981, HIFF is the granddaddy of Hawaii film fests. It’s still going strong as it focuses on emerging movies from Asia and the Pacific and top festival films from over 45 countries around the world. Dedicated to the advancement of cultural exchange and media awareness in the Pacific Rim, HIFF offers panels in the fields of film, music, mobile entertainment and gaming, and it draws filmmakers, actors, composers and innovators. This year’s HIFF spanned 11 days with 219 films total, including 27 world premieres, 31 U.S. premieres and seven international premieres. www.hiff.org
Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival (HRFF) -- OahuHawaii now recognizes same-sex civil unions and it’s considered an LGBT-friendly vacation spot. So it only follows that HRFF has developed a solid following as it seeks to educate and raise awareness about gay and lesbian culture, arts and lifestyle. One of the longest-running and well-respected LGBT film festivals in the U.S., HRFF has presented hundreds of documentaries, feature films, shorts and animations from around the world, including U.S. and international premieres, and it’s a great showcase for creations by Hawaii-based filmmakers. Watch for the next festival to run from late May to early June of 2013. www.hglcf.org
Maui Film Festival (MFF) -- MauiIf anyone needs an excuse to go to Maui, MFF is just the ticket. The 2012 event drew over 16,500 people to its movies, parties, panel discussions and celebrity appearances. Considering the beautiful environment and rich heritage of its setting, it’s only natural that MFF also emphasizes environmental awareness and the local culture. Spanning Father’s Day weekend, it scores two big thumbs up for its Celestial Cinema, an outdoor movie theater on Wailea Resort’s golf course complete with Dolby Digital sound. Industry greats are honored during special ceremonies and public interviews, and several appetizing food-and-wine events enhance the festivities. The 2013 dates are June 12-16.www.mauifilmfestival.com
Waimea Ocean Film Festival (WOFF) -- Hawaii IslandDesigned for not only movie buffs but ocean lovers as well, WOFF is more than a film festival — it’s a love letter to the sea. Along with 40 screenings of exceptional movies, WOFF spreads awareness about the ocean and island culture through breakfast talks, Q&A sessions with filmmakers, panel discussions, exhibits, receptions and early morning activities like yoga on the beach and outrigger canoe lessons. Special hotel rates are available to festival pass holders at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Hapuna Beach Prince Resort, Fairmont Orchid and Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Watch for it from Jan. 3-6 in the town of Waimea and along the Kohala Coast. www.waimeaoceanfilm.org