A Motion Picture Milestone

Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival board members and staff (from left) Lisa Yamamoto, Gerald Cruz, Dean Hamer, Brent Anbe, Walter Kinoshita and Richard Kuwada invite all to enjoy LGBT films during the 30th annual event, slated for Aug. 8-18 at Doris Duke Theatre

Doris Duke Theatre will come alive Aug. 8-18 in an over-the-top movie-lovers dream as Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival celebrates its 30th year on the circuit.

HRFF has been a staple in the LGBT community for its ability to bring to the 50th state a wide variety of films that depict the struggles, joys and pride that come with being a part of the LGBT community.

“This festival is so important to our community because we provide a safe environment for our LGBTQ+ filmmakers and producers to express themselves and share with others their art and vision,” says HRFF president Walter Kinoshita.

Since its inception 30 years ago, HRFF has screened thousands of documentaries, shorts, films and animations from around the globe, making it one of the nation’s longest-running LGBT festivals.

“We’re not Sundance yet, but we do have some heavy hitters that have come through our doors,” says festival director Brent Anbe.

Thirty years is a long time to be putting on the state’s most influential LGBT film festival, but, as Anbe says, team members (including its talented board and staff) never forget why they do what they do.

“I am so grateful to be a part of this hard-working team (most of which is on voluntary time) and the dedication it takes to make this film festival a success,” adds Kinoshita, who has been with HRFF since February 2017.

Anbe, for his part, has been involved with the production of the festival for nearly two decades. Starting off as a young college volunteer, he remembers going to board meetings at the then Wave Waikīkī.

“Back in the day, there were no places or ways to see LGBT films,” says Anbe, who works full-time as a casting associate for Magnum P.I. and Hawai‘i Five-0.

Three decades ago was also around the time when the AIDS epidemic was at an all-time high, which is why HRFF is put on every year in memory of Adam Baran.

HRFF, then, is a way to perpetuate the legacy of the state’s LGBT pioneer, while also serving as a platform to encourage others to find their voices and passions — all while supporting creatives from around the world.

Back in 1989, when the festival first started, HRFF hosted maybe eight movies on a good year. Now, it touts upward of 20 local, national and international pieces that span comedy, drama, romance, documentary, historical fiction and much more.

At the helm of the film-picking process is programming director Richard Kuwada, who “has been doing this forever,” to hear Kinoshita tell it. Each year, Kuwada sifts through hundreds of films from creatives from all over the world and curates a lineup that’s sure to please everyone and anyone.

One of Kinoshita’s favorites was from a number of years ago: Close Knit.

“(It’s) such a sweet movie about a little girl who is taken in by her uncle and his trans-sexual girlfriend who provide a loving environment for her,” he explains.

Anbe, who notes that he has dozens of favorites, is most excited for HRFF’s opening film this year, The Shiny Shrimps (Les Crevettes Pailletées), which tells the comedic story of a world champ silver medalist who is “sentenced” to coaching a gay water polo team after making a homophobic statement on live TV.

Year after year, HRFF always shows the best of the best, which is why the all-access pass is more than worth it, though tickets for individual films are available for purchase.

Films of note this year include documentary Gay Chorus Deep South (presented by Gay Men’s Chorus of Honolulu), which follows a gay singing group from Mississippi to Tennessee as it fights intolerance and encourages acceptance. Also on the agenda is Tucked (presented by ‘Alohilani Resort). The narrative feature follows drag queen Jackie Collins, who, after getting a diagnosis of six weeks to live, wrestles with new friendships, an estranged daughter and continuing his ever-famous drag act.

At the heart of it, Anbe notes that community is indeed a big part of the overall HRFF experience. To that end, the film festival is refreshing and stimulating in such a way that trumps sitting at home watching movies alone.

“That’s why LGBT film festivals are still important to this day,” Anbe shares. “Even though there are different media platforms, there’s nothing like seeing a film with a community that you’re a part of and can relate to. You can laugh together, cry together and celebrate together.”

It’s a sentiment Kinoshita readily echoes.

“I look forward to hanging out at the theater,” he exclaims. “I love seeing all our pass holders, and our friends come to see all the films and spark conversations about what they liked about the movie they just watched.”

For more information and to see Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival’s full movie lineup, visit


Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival’s former VIP guests include the likes of Margaret Cho (comedian, 2004), Dustin Lance Black (Milk, 2009 and 2017), Wilson Cruz (My So-Called Life, 2010), Mindy Cohn (The Facts of Life, 2011), Alec Mapa (Broadway’s M. Butterfly, 2011), Tom Daley (British diver, Black’s husband, 2017) and Todrick Hall (singer/ YouTube star, 2017). In addition, Mapa will be making an appearance at this year’s fest, slated for Aug. 8-18 at Doris Duke Theatre.


Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, slated for Aug. 8-18, closes out its festivities with a Red Carpet Gala from 6 to 10 p.m. Aug. 17 at ‘Alohilani Resort’s Longboard Club, which will be lit up with rainbow lights and decor. Alec Mapa — known for his role in Broadway’s M. Butterfly — hosts the event, which will feature guest appearances by RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Shangela and Gia Gunn, drag queen performances, silent and live auctions, and a trailer screening of Shangela is Shook at 9 p.m. The red carpet extravaganza is open to those with all-access festival passes, which can be purchased online at

And, says festival director Brent Anbe, the gala is something you won’t want to miss out on.

“It will be a hard case of FOMO (fear of missing out) if you are not there,” he says.