The 26th HawaiiInternational Film Festival (HIFF) opened over the weekend with a screening of AlejandroGonzalez Inarritu's Babeland a programme that has a strong emphasis on Asianfilms.

The line-upincludes special focuses on South-East Asia, a celebration of the FilipinoCentennial in Hawaii,and a look at new Vietnamese cinema.

HIFF is alsopresenting Japanese star Ken Watanabe (TheLast Samurai) with its Achievement in Acting Award and director Kevin Smith(Dogma, Clerks) with its Maverick Award.

The festival alsoboasts world premieres of such locally funded and produced films as RyanIshii's Criminally Inept, which isalready causing some buzz.

Sponsored byluxury brand Louis Vuitton, the festival is screening254 films from 47 countries Oct 19-29 in Honolulu,to travel to other Hawaiian islands until Nov5.

The opening filmscreened to an enthusiastic crowd in the Hawaii Theatre Centre, a 1,350-seatvenue built in the early 1920s.

The mellow openingwas attended by film industry professionals in the prescribed aloha attire -casual and/or Hawaiian dress. Daniel Dae Kim, whoappears in hit TV series Lost, wasspotted as well as Korean star Ha Ji Won and directorLee Myung-se, in town for the screening of his film Duelist.

"Hawaii looks more to theEast than the West, and I find that more intellectually stimulating," says JeanHiggins, co-executive producer of Lost,for which the festival held a seminar over the weekend.

Remarkably, Hawaii'sKorean channel, featuring drama programmes subtitled in English, is one of the highest rated television channels in the region, and HIFF isconsidered a gateway to Asian films.