Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) is the longest running film festival at the Pacific Coast. It advocates for the cultural exchange among Asia, Pacific Islands, and North America through films. It is one of the few festivals that highlights Asian Pacific films and emerging directors. This year is the 39thedition of the festival, and the participating Taiwanese film “Heavy Craving” is nominated for both the KAU KA HŌKŪMain Competition and NETPAC Award, a truly exciting news for Taiwan.
KAU KA HŌKŪ means “shooting star,” and is awardedto emerging filmmakers who create their first or second feature films in Asia Pacific or North America. NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Award is dedicated to promoting Asian films by discovering new talents and spotlighting exceptional worksto global stage.The NETPAC award is presented annually at international film festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Rotterdam, Busan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hawaii to promote the outstandingAsian films. HIFF is the only film festival in the United States given permission to present the NETPAC award. The nomination of “Heavy Craving” for this particular award is undoubtedly an encouragement to the Taiwanese film and TV industry.
With the support from the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan Academy in Los Angeles collaborates with HIFF to create a series of screenings called “Spotlight on Taiwan.” It is the 8th year of collaboration between Taiwan Academy in Los Angeles and HIFF. This series of screenings will take place at Regal Dole Cannery and Entrepreneurs Sandbox in Hawaii, from November 8th to 11th, with a total of 2 feature films, 4 virtual realityworks, and 2 short films. Directors and producers throughout the series will appear to have a talk after screening: director Pei-Ju Hsieh of “Heavy Craving” on November 9th, director Hsin-Chien Huang of the virtual realitywork “Bodyless” with producer Estela Valdivieso Chen of “Your Spiritual Temple Sucks” on November 8th.
The screenplay of “Heavy Craving” is nominated for the Berlinale Talents, and “Produire au Sud Taipei Workshop” co-produced by Taipei Film Festival and Festival de 3 Continents Nantes. “Heavy Craving” was awarded the Best New Talent and the Audience Choice Award in the International New Talent Competition category at this year’s Taipei Film Festival. It is at the same time nominated for the Best New Performer by this year’s Golden Horse Awards. It shows the potential of this film, and the popularity among the audience. “Heavy Craving” is about a plus-sized girl Jiang Ying-Juan who is a cook at a preschool. Due to her plus-sized body, she has always been discriminated everywhere, from her family to her workplace to even daily life environment. One day, Ying-Juan encounters a boy who works at Sunshine Delivery, which encourages her to embark on a journey of weight loss. “Heavy Craving” centers on the global theme of weight loss to further discuss the intersectionality between the body identity and gender. “Heavy Craving” is expected to strike a chord globally.
Another highlight at “Spotlight on Taiwan” is the 2nd Annual HIFF VR Experience in which 4 Taiwanese virtual reality films will be shown. “HIFF initiated the VR Experience in 2018. This year is the 2nd year, and we have 4 Taiwanese VR films participating. We have a strong presence. Through our participation, we are hoping to promote Taiwan’s excel VR technology and creativity to the global stage, reinforcing the power of culture exports,” said Emmy Yang, director of Taiwan Academy in Los Angeles. These 4 Taiwanese VR films include “Your Spiritual Temple Sucks” which was selected for the “New Frontier” at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. It is the very first time to have a Taiwanese film be selected, since this category was established 11 years ago. This film uses the virtual reality to let the audience experience the unique blindfolded Taoist ritual in Taiwan, allowing them to appreciate director John Hsu’s imagination and humor. “Bodyless” is a VR film co-created by Hsin-Chien Huang and Golden Horse Award winner, composer Lim Giong. It aims to discuss the human existence, religion, and transcendence during the time of totalitarian state resulted from the advancement of digital technology. “Bodyless” is selected for the “Venice Virtual Reality” competition at the 76th Venice Film Festival. “Abandoned Temple” is director Wei-Hao Cheng’s yet another thriller masterpiece after “The Tag-Along.” It is selected for the official competition at the Festival NewImages in France. “Afterimage for Tomorrow” is a creative interdisciplinary collaboration between director Singing Chen and choreographer Shou-Yi Chou, an example of integrating VR and dance.
In addition to “Heavy Craving” and VR films at the “Spotlight on Taiwan,” there are also one feature film “Nina Wu” and two short films. “Nina Wu” exposes the dark unspoken rules in the entertainmentbusiness, centering on the global #MeToo issue. It is director Midi Z’s attempt in psychological thriller genre, disregarding his usual naturalistic style. “Nina Wu” was selected into “Un Certain Regard” of 72th Cannes Festival, and won Audience Choice Award of 3rd Annual Malaysia Golden Globe Awards, as well as Jury’s Special Mention at the SITGES Film Festival in Spain. Short film “The Menarche” is selected for 2019 Maine International Film Festival’s short film competition, the Panorama category of 2019 Taipei Film Festival. In addition, “The Menarche” has won 2019 Ivy Film Festival’s Best Screenplay of Graduate Short, and Best Short Screenplay at 2018 Atlanta Film Festival. “The Menarche” is about the deteriorating friendship between two girls due to the swimming competition. “BITE” is a movie about zombies and family love. It depicts the challenge that a couple faces when the zombie virus is taking over Taiwan.