Son of Animal Style/Hawaii International Film Festival Recap

The best thing about editing Giant Robot magazine was being able to share the rad things that friends do. And make new friends that do rad things. That’s how I feel about my first sizable “solo” project, assembling (and sometimes even participating in) excellent shorts that friends have created and then complementing them with works by new friends. So while the Animal Style (Chicago) and Son of Animal Style (Honolulu, San Diego) skate video programs have given my crew an outlet for their hard work, they have provided me with fodder to keep engaged, keep pushing culture.

And is there a better place to do it than the Hawaii International Film Festival? No other fest balances East and West, high and low, or big budget and indie like HIFF. And while it makes sense for the latest iteration of the Animal Style program to show alongside the long-awaited Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, it’s even cooler that it is on the same roster as Cloud Atlas, Tai Chi 0, and The King of Pigs. It puts skateboard movies in the same conversation as “real” cinema. And with guys like Spike Jonze, Mike Mills, Jason Lee, and even Sam Lee coming from the world of skateboarding, why not?

The genesis of the program was “The Working Man,” which was so good that I wanted to help get it shown. I suggested to my friend Tim Hugh that he include it in his Asian American Showcase and he challenged me to create an entire skate program. Following a sold-out screening in Chicago, John Lee and Tad Suzuki (above right, as well as Thy Mai and Pryor Praczukowski) of “The Working Man” and “Perfect Time,” made the trip out to Honolulu and so did The Brotherhood: Chicago crew including director Wing Ko and skater/subjects Stevie Dread and Jesse Neuhaus (above left). Twenty years in the making and completed to show in my program, I consider Wing’s documentary about first-wave skaters from the Second City to provide the soul of Animal Style. The honest depiction of hardcore skaters growing older in a non-Tony Hawk Pro Skater reality will appeal not only to middle-aged guys with scabby knees but anyone who endeavors to stay creative and do what they love no matter what. That’s the struggle I was hoping the selections would communicate as a whole.

Sadly, Ben Clark and Langdon Taguiped couldn’t be there to see their shorts on Ray Barbee and Mario Rubalcaba. Both pieces depict top-shelf skaters applying their energy to music, and they looked and sounded amazing on the big screen. The presence of the Bones Brigade and Alva legends, alongside Jessie and Stevie (also Alva riders) with Eric Murphy in The Brotherhood: Chicago, was definitely respected by the local crowd, including rising musician/sponsored skater Anton Glamb (above) of “Anton Glamb’s First Day of Summer.”

The next day, we made pilgrimages to the Chinatown shops that supported the local efforts. We met in4mation‘s Jun Jo (above, top right) at The Human Imagination. The longtime surfer made a memorable cameo jumping off cliffs and into waves in “Anton Glamb’s First Day of Summer,” and I was stoked to see his awesome new shop. We also visited “Sampler” director Conor McGivern (above, lower right) at APB Skateshop, right next to the Aala skatepark. The homies hooked up John, Tad, and Stevie with some local spots that they would rip up later on… Mahalo!

I don’t want to bore you with vacation pictures of my daughter, multiple trips to Leonard’s, and the beach (that’s what Instagram is for) but our shave ice stops have enough of a Giant Robot connection to justify inclusion. Remember the all-encompassing article on the quintessential Hawaiian frozen dessert in GR52? The article is still on the wall at Waiola Store and Jerry (above, left) still remembers me. Awesome. Although I didn’t make it to Matsumoto’s or Shimazu Store on this trip, I did check out the House of Pure Aloha. There, Uncle Clay (above, right) imparts the traditional treat with organic flavors. Worth a trip, for sure.

Since I don’t drink, I’m not much of a bar-hopper. But I did visit the Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio to catch the end of Goh Nakamura’s three-hour session, including a lush version of  “Section of Sky” and cool Fleetwood Mac cover. And then on our last evening in Hawaii, I finally got to catch up with my friend and HIFF’s artistic director himself, Anderson Le, when he came with Goh to meet my crew in the ultra-touristy Tiki Town. I gushed about how much it meant to me that my friends’ videos showed at HIFF and hoped that the festival even a fraction as happy with the turnout. Anderson’s response was super positive, and I’m hoping it wasn’t just because he was totally beat and literally nodding off after working a very long fest.

There’s one more Son of Animal Style showing to go, this time at the San Diego Asian Film Festival on Saturday November 3 at 1:00. “Antom Glamb’s First Day of Summer” didn’t make the deadline, but Willy Santos is going to show up to support “Willy Santos vs. Jo Koy.” The showdown between the Pinoy skater and comedian was a real crowd-pleaser at HIFF, and will no doubt be a hit in his hometown as well. Be there or skate mongo.