Hawaii takes center stage in Hilo this month with the inaugural Made in Hawaii Film Festival.
The independent festival brings a daylong lineup of Hawaii-made feature length and short narrative films, documentaries, music videos and web series shot in the state to the Palace Theater, 38 Haili St., on Saturday, Aug. 25.
Co-founder Zoe Eisenberg said she started the festival with technical director Phillips Payson to create another platform for Hawaii-based filmmakers to show their work — and for the community to see their work.
There are “already some really great Hawaii-focused film festivals out there,” she said, but they were missing an island-based festival since the Big Island Film Festival ended in 2016.
Response, so far, has been great.
According to Eisenberg, 18 films were accepted this year and more than 15 filmmakers from those will attend the festival.
Ticket sales, which started last week, have “already seen some steady growth,” she said.
Eisenberg is a filmmaker herself, as well as an event producer, and has produced events at the Palace for years.
When it came to finding a home for the fledgling film festival, “(the) Palace was the only venue we considered,” she said. “We’re really excited to be able to bring it there.”
“As a filmmaker myself, I know what it’s like to create a project that never gets seen or doesn’t get seen as widely as you would want because the market is inundated with content,” Eisenberg said. “… Having a film festival to show your work is a really important part of the process, especially for up-and-coming filmmakers.”
The festival includes works from seasoned filmmakers, but there are “quite a few new filmmakers showcased” as well, she said.
Robin Rihl, director of “Friendship for the Lost,” a psychological thriller that will show during the Haunted Hawaii film block, is one.
Rihl grew up primarily on the Big Island and is attending Hawaii Community College.
“This was a student made and driven project, with most of the people involved being either HCC or UH-Hilo students.”
About 90 percent of the film was shot on location at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Rihl said, adding that this is the first film he has fully directed.
“I am thrilled for my work to be shown at the historic Palace Theater. I have been going there since I was a small child and it’s kind of surreal that something I made is going to be on their big screen,” Rihl said. “I had finished the project not knowing exactly how I was going to showcase the film locally besides private screenings. A friend told me about this new film festival at the Palace and it all worked out great. The timing was perfect.”
Rihl already saw a few of the films that will be screened during the festival and is excited to meet the people behind them.
“Hilo needed something like this,” he said. “It’s special to see an event of this caliber pop up in our small town.”
Puna filmmaker Malina Fagan said she is “thrilled” to be screening at the film festival
“There is a lot of talent and great films being made in our islands and it’s great to highlight them,” she said. “I’ve been wishing that Hilo had a film festival and am glad someone has finally created one.”
Fagan will screen her documentary short, “Reefs at Risk,” which she co-directed and co-produced with her mother, Lynn Pelletier.
The film is about the harmful effects some sunscreen chemicals have on coral reefs, marine life and people, Fagan explained. It was originally part of a larger feature film the pair is currently making called “The Coverup,” which is about toxic chemicals in cosmetics and other personal products.
“Through the process of making ‘Reefs At Risk,’ we completely fell in love with coral reefs and are so grateful for everything they provide to us here in Hawaii,” Fagan said. “It was devastating to lose our favorite and most vibrant reef at the Wai‘opae tide pools back in June.”
Eisenberg said her overall goal for the festival is that everyone — the audience and the filmmakers — has fun.
And she hopes by bringing Hawaii-based filmmakers together, it “plants a seed for more Hawaii-made content in the future.”
In addition to screenings, audience members can attend Q&A sessions as well as meet-and-greets with the filmmakers.
For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit mihff.org. Tickets also can be purchased at the Palace box office.
Email Stephanie Salmons at email@example.com