EuroCinema Hawai’i finds solid ground. See what’s next for the “festival within a festival.”

Stars! Paparazzi! Black tie and couture evening gowns alighting from limousines! Is this the Promenade de la Croisette at Cannes? No, it’s October on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki for the annual EuroCinema Hawai‘i Awards Gala—celebrating the finest new films from around the world. As social observer Derin Derego put it, “from the sprawling red carpet that blankets the hotel entrance, to the celebrities in attendance, this event has quickly become one of the hottest tickets in town.” As president of the organization, I can say that EuroCinema Hawai‘i’s future is only getting brighter. And to think it’s only been a few years since its inception.

Founded and incorporated in 2009 as a non-profit, EuroCinema Hawai‘i is committed to cultural exchanges between the peoples of Europe and Hawai‘i through the medium of film.

Now in its fourth year, EuroCinema has grown substantially, from a pivotal moment during a dinner conversation in 2009 to a celebrated film festival. The catalyst for this was a dinner hosted and prepared by Prince and Princess Alliata di Montereale at their lovely hilltop home on Tantalus. That evening established a palpable link between their gourmet creations and the passionate exchange of ideas about film-craft (e.g., foreign vis-à-vis domestic film), which in turn lead to EuroCinema becoming a reality.

In the weeks that followed that epicurean meal, dialogue continued amongst those who shared similar tastes and proclivities. Soon after, the collective decision to create the EuroCinema Film Festival was effortlessly reached; a volunteer board seamlessly convened; and Champagne glasses clinked when our official incorporation installed EuroCinema as a distinct entity in the cultural firmament of Hawai‘i.

Board member Chris Lee—noted film producer and founder of Academy for Creative Media—suggested that the film festival should be represented on its Board by an island-based student committed to media studies, and this resulted in the addition of the education charter to our mission statement. EuroCinema Hawai‘i will provide financial support for creative media students in the state of Hawai‘i who demonstrate extraordinary promise and talent in the fields of cinema, television, documentaries and animation.

In 2010, EuroCinema entered into a partnership with the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF ). Working with Executive Director Chuck Boller, his Deputy Director Robert Lambeth and their veteran staff, we created “a festival within a festival.” The result has been the best of both worlds: a boutique celebration of the hottest new films from Europe presented within the prestige and experience of HIFF. Globetrotting HIFF Film Programmer Anderson Le chooses award winning films for EuroCinema from the Sundance, Berlin, Venice and Cannes Film Festivals. Our aim is to feature only premieres, often of films that would otherwise never be seen in Hawai‘i.

The festival features a professional jury ranging from cinema critics to academics and filmmakers, including Oscar-nominated producer Jim Burke of The Descendants. In addition to awards for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director, local film students are eligible for the Sunny Dupree Family Foundation Award, and the Gala climaxes with the Princess Alliata di Montereale Award for Best Film; in 2012 this coveted award went to Paolo and Vittorio Taviani for their riveting Caesar Must Die.

Lifetime Achievement Awards are also presented: in 2011 to actor Richard Dreyfuss, and in 2012 to actor Richard Chamberlain. Our handsome awards are donated by Tiffany & Co. and are presented at the annual Luxury Row Presents EuroCinema Hawai’i Gala-a glamorous black-tie affair, transporting the spirit of Cannes to Waikiki. Paris native, Patrick Gey, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for EuroCinema, has been instrumental in the creation and design of the gala experience. With a red carpet event emulating a bit of the promenade de la croisette, our gala has marched its way up the Honolulu social calendar as a must-attend event.

The whole of EuroCinema is greater than the sum of its parts. Our success is due to the hard work and collaborative efforts of our volunteer Board, and our sponsors have played a pivotal role in our achievements. Acquiring the latest and most distinctive European films is costly; therefore, both private and corporate sponsors have been instrumental in achieving our goals. Our title sponsor, Luxury Row at 2100 Kalakaua Avenue (a collection of international boutiques including Chanel, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Tiffany & Co., Tod’s, Bottega Veneta and others), as well as Mercedes-Benz of Honolulu, Jaguar of Honolulu, The Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, (whose General Manager, Craig Anderson, is our newest board member) and others have also generously given their time and support.

Watching a foreign film provides the viewer with a rare glimpse into other cultures that they may not be familiar with. It can also be a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of social norms and lifestyles different from our own. While we believe watching these films can be an educational experience, foreign films don’t have to be a purely didactic endeavor. Seeing a film for the pure joy of it can be reason enough! This fall, EuroCinema will showcase 15 of Europe’s latest and greatest films. We look forward to sharing our passion for film with you.

The 2013 EuroCinema Hawai’i Film Festival runs from Thursday, Oct. 10, thru Sunday, Oct. 20 as the “festival within a festival” at the Hawaii International Film Festival. Luxury Row presents the 2013 EuroCinema Hawai’i Awards Gala at the historic Moana Surfrider, A Westin Hotel & Spa, on Saturday, Oct. 12. Visit www.eurocinemahawaii.org for complete film and ticket information.

OTHER FILM FESTIVALS AROUND THE ISLES

It will be all things desi at the Bollywood Film Festival (January) at Doris Duke Theatre

* Waimea Ocean Film Festival (January) on Hawai’i Island offers films for water lovers

* Celebrate African American culture at the Honolulu African American Film Festival (February) at Doris Duke Theatre

* Also at Doris Duke Theatre, Temple Emanu-El Kirk Cashmere Jewish Film Festival (March) showcases films reflecting Judaism and its people

* Big Island Film Festival (May) at The Fairmont Orchid and The Shops at Mauna Lani features film screenings, filmmaker workshops and celebrity receptions

* Explore the Philippines through film at the Filipino Film Festival (May) at Doris Duke Theatre

* The best of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender films screen at Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival (June) at Doris Duke Theatre, one of the longest-running and well-respected LGBT festivals in the country

* Make a celebrity sighting and experience cinema under the stars at Maui Film Festival (June) in Wailea

* It’s a surfer’s film paradise during the Honolulu Surf Film Festival (July) at Doris Duke Theatre

* Hawaii Ocean Film Festival (July) in Waimea, Kaua’i honors the ocean and ocean-related activities

* ‘Oiwi Film Festival (November) features the work of indigenous Hawaiian filmmakers, both established and emerging.