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Hawaiʻi Film Festival Announces This Year’s Winners

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The Fourth Annual Made in Hawaiʻi Film Festival closed out its Hilo portion of the event on Sunday, May 8, with an awards ceremony at the Hilo Palace Theater.

Six filmmakers walked away with recognition for their creative contributions following a weekend-long run of Hawaiʻi-made films on Hawaiʻi island. The festival, which travels to Kona on May 14, showcased 50 films over a three-day period. Award nominees are selected by the festival, with winners chosen by the Hawaiʻi Film Critics Society.

“Each year, the Hawai’i Film Critics Society has a harder and harder time choosing a standout selection for each awards category, as our filmmaking community continues to create compelling work,” says festival Executive Director Zoe Eisenberg. “They certainly don’t make it easy to choose.”

BEST FEATURE: “I was a Simple Man”

The Sophomore feature film, written and directed by Christopher Makato Yogi, follows an elderly Hawaiian man nearing the end of his life as he reflects on memory and mortality.


BEST SHORT: “Sina ma Tinirau”

The animated Fiji-set tale of unconditional love was written, directed and narrated by Vilsoni Tausie Hereniko.

BEST DIRECTOR: Déjà’ Cresencia Bernhardt for “Last Hawaiian Sugar”

The film follows 11-year-old Nua as she faces the closing of the last sugar mill on her home on Maui and her complicated relationship with the land, paralleled by a dark secret she must bring to light.


BEST DOCUMENTARY: “Healing Land, Healing People”

Directed by Leah Warshawski, the documentary follows 70 Maui residents who experienced a unique opportunity to engage in nature-based restoration projects that provided paychecks and job skills training during COVID-19.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Ka Hoʻi: The Return,” shot by Gerard Elmore and directed by Mitchel Merrick

A story about a Hawaiian War Veteran grappling with the nightmares of his past. This film was also the recipient of the festival’s Hoʻomau Award.


The Hoʻomau-nominated films are “stories of overcoming obstacles to perpetuation of people and culture,” said Vince Keala Lucero, the festival’s Head of Development, Native Hawaiian Programming, who curated the Hoʻomau block of films that ran in the festival. “To endure, persevere and continue, which is what we as storytellers and filmmakers do.”

Each award came with a cash prize and a trophy.

The festival continues its run in Kona on May 14 with three blocks of films at the Aloha Theatre. Four of the five award-winning films will be playing as part of the single-day spotlight: “Sina ma Tinirau,” “Last Hawaiian Sugar,” “Healing Land, Healing People,” and “Ka Ho’i: The Return.”

Tickets are available now for the screening event at www.apachawaii.org/. For more information, visit www.mihff.org.

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