The Hawaii International Film Festival is the cinema partner of the museum’s Doris Duke Theatre—we love what each other does. Here’s what three movie-loving museum staffers (including our film curator!) are going to see at HIFF’s Spring Showcase, screening now through April 19.

Abbie Algar, film curator
April 12 at 8:15pm, April 18 at 3:45pm. Get tix online.
Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan is possibly the first person on the planet to shoot a film entirely in 1:1 aspect ratio (think Instagram—although Dolan vehemently denies that this is what he had in mind when he chose to abandon modern cinema’s accepted formats.) The result is a perfect square that can barely contain the film’s larger-than-life characters and a dangerous energy that feels as though it could explode from the frame at any moment. Ironically, although it’s just the perfect size for smartphone viewing, this is one you need to see on the big screen.

It’s not just the unprecedented aspect ratio that should sell you this wunderkind’s fifth feature in as many years (he just turned 26 in March). Mommy (pictured above) depicts the intense relationship between Steve, a dangerously uncontrollable teen, played by the incredible Antoine-Olivier Pilon (seriously, if you think Justin Bieber has problems…), his tough single mother, Die (Anne Dorval, who also stars in Dolan’s I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats and Laurence Anyways), and a shy, stuttering neighbor (Suzanne Clément, another Dolan regular) who offers to home school him and keep him from being re-institutionalized. As you can imagine, if you’ve seen Dolan’s earlier films, things get deliciously and disturbingly out of control. Critic David Ehrlich calls the film “arguably the best mother-son film since Psycho,” and he’s not wrong. Did we mention that it’s also kind of a comedy? It’s no surprise that the film earned Dolan a 2014 Cannes Grand Jury Prize (shared with none other than Mr. Jean-Luc Godard).

If visual originality, a great plot, and fierce characters played by top-notch actors are not enough to get you out, perhaps we can tempt you with the film’s awesome late ’90s soundtrack (just like Starlord, Steve is obsessed with a mix CD that his father made before his death). Anyone who can work French-language Celine Dion, Oasis’s Wonderwall and Dido’s White Flag seamlessly into one film (especially the “best mother-son film since Psycho”) gets my vote. PS: If you miss these screenings, Mommy will make an encore appearance at our own Cinémathèque Française May 9, 14, and 17.

Scott Whelden, social media associate
Gangnam Blues  (강남 1970)
April 14 at 8:15pm, April 19 at 7:30pm. Get tix online.
Set in 1970, this is the final film of director Yoo Ha’s Street Series trilogy, following Once Upon a Time in High School and A Dirty Carnival—two of my all-time favorite Korean films. Set in a Gangnam that is unrecognizable from what it is today, Gangnam Blues is unforgiving in its telling of a politically corrupt 1970s Seoul and the shadowy means by which the now ultrametropolitan district underwent rapid development. For star Lee Min-ho, the role of Jong-dae is a departure from his earlier work on Boys Over Flowers. Through his gritty yet grounded performance he shows his range and sheds his pretty-boy reputation. Though not as dark as its predecessor A Dirty Carnival, Gangnam Blues is definitely not a feel-good film. Which might be why I have such a good feeling about it. 

Lesa Griffith, director of communications
The Dead Lands
April 14 at 6pm, April 15 at 8:15pm. Get tix online.
In this time of #wearemaunakea, who from Hawai‘i wouldn’t want to see a Polynesian pre-contact action epic—with subtitles because it’s all in Maori? Noble savage lens aside (the director isn’t Maori), I’m popcorn-ready for this Gladiator-in-Aotearoa bloodfest. And best of all, the adorable boy of Boy—James Rolleston—is now practically a man (and still beautiful, just beautiful), and plays the central character Hongi, out to avenge the death of his father. Cue the mau rakau!