WAIMEA — With a drink in her hand, Joanne Watanabe exits Waimea Theater to take a breather after watching two films for about three and a half hours.
The all-day movie pass she wears on her shirt is a badge of honor. She’ll be watching movies for a bit longer — much longer.
“I really enjoy the films,” said the 80-plus-year-old former school teacher. “When more people recognize how you can make a good story about unusual things, they make more. I’ve been coming over every year. In the beginning, I didn’t buy the all-day pass, but after awhile I kept buying the pass because I knew I was gonna be here (a long time).”
Watanabe was among the dozens of patrons attending the Waimea Film Festival’s HIFF Hana Hou on Monday, a Presidents Day tradition and part of the 40th annual Waimea Town Celebration.
Originally part of the Waimea Heritage Days, the film festival has been around for almost a decade, while the WTC hosted the festival for four years.
“Each one of the movies we’re playing won an award or was an opening-night movie for the Hawaii International Film Festival or they had incredible attendance,” said Puni Patrick, the film festival’s event coordinator. “To see a film from somebody from a different country, their perspective is much different. It’s like a window opening for a world outside of Kauai.”
The festival kicked off with “Hearing is believing” at 9:30 a.m. and ended with “Call of Heroes” at 10 p.m.
Movies hailed from the United States, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
“I like the diversity very much. I think most of them have a message. I like the way people have a different way of looking at things,” Watanabe said. “Most of them are very unusual. You appreciate the creativity as well as how the characters develop, and, also, the unusual subject matter.”
From each movie, you get a sense of what each country’s culture is like without having to leave the island, Patrick said.
“It makes me think of things differently. You think your life here is different than other places, but you watch films like this and you realize people are more the same than they are different,” she said “Everyone wants to be loved and to love. People want their ideas to be respected. You can see that in these films.”
In the beginning, the festival featured films focusing on a Hawaiian theme, Patrick said.
“We wanted to showcase local filmmakers or Hawaii born or films that were either filmed in Hawaii or made by a filmmaker from Hawaii or an idea about Hawaii,” she said.
A New York native, Carl Wend lost count of how many times he’s attended the film festival.
“Four, five, six, seven, eight — oh, I don’t know,” he said. “I think the films are great, and the couple who runs the festival does a super job.”
The diversity of each film, he said, reminds him of Hawaii’s diverse culture.
“Hawaii is a true melting pot. We were invited to a couple of intermediate schools, and the kids asked us what sort of games we played in as a kid,” he said. “The only one who had a generation of one heritage was a Puerto Rican young lad. Everyone else was four, five, six different cultures.”
The Waimea Town Celebration continues as Gay and Robinson Director of Administration Keith Yap is honored as the Ambassador of Aloha for his work with nonprofit organizations, at Waimea Theater at 6:30 p.m.
Yap will be accompanied by Na Hoku Hanohano award winners Natalie and Iolani Kamau‘u, who will perform that evening.
Tickets are $10. For more information, contact Puni at 651-5744.
Local story teller Kathy “Tita” Collins will be telling tales at Waimea Theater at 6:30 p.m. The Maui native is known for telling obake (ghost) stories, a favorite with locals and visitors. The Tales and Treats event will also feature cupcakes from Kuppycakes by J. Lokelani Ice Cream from Super Duper II and malasadas and cream puffs from Gina’s. Tickets are $10. For more information, contact Puni at 651-5744.