Hawaii International Film Festival

Really loved our trip to Hawai’i. My film The Pā Boys played at the HIFF (Hawaiian International Film Festival) and we were honoured to be invited. I say ‘we’ because there was a few of us from Aotearoa (New Zealand) including Taika Waititi (director of Boy) with his latest feature What We Do In The Shadows. Playwright and film writer/director Briar Grace-Smith (The Strength of Water, 9 of Hearts), producers Chelsea Winstanley, Tui Ruwhiu, Bailey Mackay, Karin Williams. Some of us flew straight from Toronto (see last post) which was another amazing trip.

The amazing thing about arriving in Hawaii at night is waking up the next day.


The day before the festival started we were invited guests at the inaugural Hawaiian Media Makers Conference which was a sold out event held at Alamoana Hotel and organised by Pacific Islanders in Communication (PIC). Such a great conference. The panel we spoke on was Building a Native Industry (in film). Apparently we were great, haha, and with Taika and Bailey, a couple of the funniest people I know it was definitely entertaining…

Bailey, Taika, Chelsey and Briar at HIFF opening. They had 7 chefs lined up and you just go help yourself. Cocktails too

HIFF was the closest thing I’ve been to ‘Hollywood’, not that that impresses me. It was great to able to observe the flash ‘dos’, red carpet kind of thing. We kind of snuck in the back way to avoid the hype. And Waikiki is the tourist mecca. But what always impresses me about Hawaii is the people. So hospitable, laid back and will do anything for you. Love the place and vibe.

The Pa Boys was received exceptional well. I was really humbled by the reaction. I had to present the screenings and answer audience questions afterwards. I was ‘almost’ speechless, but managed quite well in the end (-:

We got out of the Waikiki one afternoon and had an impressive traditional Hawaii meal at a friends house. That was really special too. Absolutely loved it.



Another amazing thing about Hawaii is the similarities in our languages. I listen to the local ‘leo'(language), read the street names, read anything in Hawaiian and try figure what it says. We have a few changes in consonants and some words that are not similar at all. But generally I can understand, if I can read it, or they speak slowly, lol.

A couple of examples are, Hawai’i in Maori is Hawaiki. Leo = Reo (language) Kona = Tonga (South)

Another thing I notice is they write words as whole words, where as we break them up, e.g. Liliuokalani = Riri o te rangi (in Maori this is ‘an angry sky’ referring to the build up of clouds, storms….

So every time I go to Hawaii I feel at home with my relations…


Toronto is a cool city. And it’s grown, big time since I was last there in 2000. We flew via San Fran, 12 hours then another 6 to Canada. The disadvantage of living so far away from the rest of the world are the long haul flights, but that’s the only disadvantage (-:

Flying out of San Fran


My film The Pa Boys was invited to ImagineNATIVE which is the largest indigenous film festival in the World.  They celebrated their 15th year and it was an honour to be part of it. So awesome! The showcase this year were Aboriginal films (Australia) and with a Maori (NZ) contingent of around 20 people, a huge amount of Native Canadians, American Indians and many more from around the globe it truly was a celebration. We hung out at the theatre, went to all the functions, ate a lot of delicious kai (food) and of course watched a lot of films. Not as much as we would’ve liked. There were too many! Didn’t go sightseeing, unless you call walking endless blocks to find decent coffee. It’s what we NZ addicts do. And Darkhorse cafe, which was set up by an Australian was closest to great NZ coffee, ha. They have the usual, cappuchino, latte etc but we have something here and Aus that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to have. It’s called a flatwhite, which is more like espresso with much less milk than a latte. Try it.

dark-horse darkhorse

Wandering around Toronto you learn a lot about the local culture. It is truly a multicultural city unlike anything we have here in Aotearoa. Blends and strains of all you could imagine, and more.

The organisers of the festival and local Toronto-ites are so hospitable and generous. It’s only when I’m in the northern hemisphere I realise how different looking Maori and Polynesian people are. Even in such a big mix of cultures we stand out. And people are curious and genuinely interested in who we are. It feels strange being exotic.

I didn’t take many photographs but here’s a few from my wanderings.

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