LGBT Films in the Spotlight at the Hawaii International Film Festival

The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldym and starring actor Benedict Cumberbatch, revolves around World War II hero and codebreaker Alan Turing, who was condemned for being gay (which at the time was considered a criminal offense in the UK). It will also be HIFF’s centerpiece film.

Across from the Regal Dole Cannery Cinema on Iwilei Road, the Hawai‘i International Film Festival is diligently preparing for its anticipated fall festival. Charts with colored post-it notes are spread across the HIFF office and the staff are in a functional frenzy, with the event beginning on October 30th. From its humble beginnings as a project of the East-West Center in 1981, HIFF has evolved into a global visual phenomenon celebrating films from across the world.

By providing films that have yet to be introduced to the islands or on a public scale, viewers are given the opportunity to see these films before they come out anywhere else. “We’re looking for a certain quality for the films we select,” says Anna Page, HIFF’s associate director of programming. ”Films that reflect our mission as really an East meets West meeting place, you know—our founding mission at the film festival was to showcase films from Asia, the Pacific, and North America to bridge cultures and connect people through the medium of film.” From a small viewership of 5,000 in 1981, now over 60,000 spectators are drawn to HIFF’s plethora of exciting spectacles each year.

There are eight LGBT films that will be presented over the course of the fall 2014 festival: Appropriate Behavior, The Imitation Game, Limited Partnership, Quick Change, Night Flight, Regarding Susan Sontag, Shunned, and The Torture Club. Hailing from the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, these films address a wide variety of subjects, from transsexual/gender issues and conflict between culture and sexuality to lesbian bondage and one of the first legal gay marriages in the United States.

The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldym and starring actor Benedict Cumberbatch, revolves around World War II hero and codebreaker Alan Turing, who was condemned for being gay (which at the time was considered a criminal offense in the UK). It will also be HIFF’s centerpiece film. “That’s a really prominent position to have an LGBT title this year,” Page says, “so we’re really happy about that.”

With an incredible display of cinematic achievements, HIFF not only appeals to film lovers far and wide, but also recognizes potential in its film entries and encourages an increase and involvement in the film community—while still maintaining its focus on a multicultural connection and film experience. For Anna Page, the ideal takeaway from the festival is that lasting impression that the rare film leaves behind, the feeling of being part of a one-of-a-kind experience that the rare film festival, such as HIFF, can offer. “I think that we have a really wonderful LGBT film selection this year. … It’s a really exciting program with some incredible films and some really powerful documentaries.”

Directors that will present for their film screenings include Desiree Akhavan, director, writer, and leading actress of Appropriate Behavior, and Janice Villarosa of Shunned. There will also be a discussion after the screening of the documentary Regarding Susan Sontag.

Below, learn more about all eight LGBT films showing at HIFF this season.


Appropriate Behavior HIFF

Appropriate Behavior
Iranian-American Shirin struggles with identity and culture as the traditional values of her family clashes with her sexual orientation as a bisexual woman formerly in a lesbian relationship.


Night Flight film HIFF

Night Flight
Two childhood friends—one who is reluctant to admit his sexual orientation due to social stigma, and the other who has become a delinquent—reunite and must keep their relationship a secret.


Shunned film HIFF

Enter the day and life of male-to-female transsexuals in the Philippines. This documentary focuses on their fight against society norms and their desire to be accepted for who they are.


Limited Partnership HIFF

Limited Partnership
One of the first gay couples to be legally married in the United States (their wedding took place in 1975), Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan fought for equal rights for same-sex couples after receiving an inflammatory letter explaining why Tony, from Australia, was denied a green card.


Quick Change film HIFF

Quick Change
Doina (played by Mimi Juereza, a transgendered woman), who believes sh is a woman trapped in a man’s body, makes a living giving gay beauty paeant contestants illegal cosmetic surgery. But life for Dorina takes a turn when her husband falls for another transvestite.


Regarding Susan Sontag film HIFF

Regarding Susan Sontag
Regarding Susan Sontag is a documentary about the life of the late critic and writer Susan Sontag, whose passionate and polarizing ideals continue to be relevant to the modern age.


The Imitation Game HIFF

The Imitation Game
Brilliant mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turning was a strong contributor in ending World War II. But his sexual orientation as a gay man—which was illegal then in the United Kingdom—would threaten his acclaimed work and his very life.


The Torture Club film HIFF

The Torture Club
Lured into the Torture Club at her private, all-girls school, Yuzuki Muto joins out of her crush on club member Aoi Funaki, but is met with an obstacle: There is no dating in Torture Club. (Note: This is a part of HIFF’s Extreme program for its explicit, mature themes. Viewer digression is advised.)

HIFF runs from October 30 to November 9 on O‘ahu and November 13 to November 16 on the Big Island and Kaua‘i. For more information, schedules, and to buy tickets, visit