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19th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival kicks off tonight

  • "STOKE" is among the films being shown this week at the Palace Theater as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival.

The Palace Theater presents its 19th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival tonight through Sunday. The festival offers 10 feature-length films, plus a collection of locally produced “shorts.”

The palace has been a venue for HIFF films since 1999, when the theater was officially reopened after decades of being closed. The gala opening night event was the Palace’s first HIFF festival and featured a visit by Roger Ebert, nationally known film critic.

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“As the vanguard forum of international cinematic achievement in the Asia-Pacific region, Hawaii International Film Festival endeavors to recognize new and emerging talent, promote career development and original collaborations through innovative education programs, and facilitate dynamic cultural exchange through the cinema arts,” states the HIFF website. “HIFF is unique in discovering features, documentaries and shorts from Asia made by Asians, films about the Pacific made by Pacific Islanders, and films made by Hawaii filmmakers that present Hawaii in a culturally accurate way.”

“There are so many great films in this year’s line-up,” said Robin Worley, Palace Theater’s executive director. “We are planning a little reception in the lobby before our opening night film, and Beckie Stocchetti, executive director of HIFF, will be here to present the film, ‘Moananuiakea: One Ocean. One People. One Canoe.’”

“Moananuiakea: One Ocean. One People. One Canoe” tells the story of the Hokule‘a’s historic three-year voyage that also represented the fulfillment of the vision of Nainoa Thompson and his contemporaries.

“Plus we will be showing ‘August at Akiko’s,’” Worley continued, “it’s a magical musical story about coming home to the Big Island that has scenes filmed right here on the Palace stage.”

‘August at Akiko’s’ follows a cosmopolitan saxophone musican who returns home to the Big Island after having been away for nearly a decade. He stumbles upon a Buddhist bed &breakfast run by a woman named Akiko (played by the real Akiko Masuda).

“His wild sax and Akiko’s Buddhist bells form the base for a rich soundtrack that wraps around the audience like a sonic web surrounding the unexpected new friendship,” according to the Worley.

It will be shown at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

“We are quite proud of our closing night film, ‘STOKE’” Worley said. “It was co-directed by Palace Theater director of operations Phillips Payson and his partner, Zoe Eisenberg. This dynamic duo have created their third original full-length film shot right here on and all about the Big Island.”

“STOKE” previews at the Big Island HIFF at the Palace Theater on Sunday, Dec. 2, and it will have a short second run at the theater from Dec. 21- 23.

“This is a drama about a young female attorney who hopes to alleviate her depression by seeing the Big Island’s active volcano,” Payson said.

“She meets two local guys who sell themselves as tour guides. ‘STOKE’, like Hawaii Island, is a little weird, but also life-affirming, especially for three lost souls who are trying to figure out what their next life moves will be. Sometimes it takes the mana of the land to steer you into the right path.”

Phillips and co-director Zoe Eisenberg will be in attendance at the screening.

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Regular Palace movie ticket prices apply: $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and students with ID. Or buy a HIFF pass for $35 and see all the movies. Tickets and passes are available at the Palace Theater box office or with a credit card over the phone, 934-7010, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Check out all the movies and their descriptions on the Palace website: www.hilopalace.com.