HIFF Vision in Film Award: Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.

Long known mostly for the prognosticative precision of its Golden Globe picks and joie de vivre awards ceremony, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. will finally get its due as a philanthropic power when it receives the Hawaii Intl. Film Festival’s Vision in Film Award this month.

The kudo, which has been given only four times in the fest’s 26-year history, seeks to recognize industry players with broad insight into film: artistically, commercially and, most of all, charitably. Previous honorees have been orgs AFI and the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute as well as helmers Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou.

According to the fest’s exec director, Chuck Boller, the HFPA’s charitable work has been “particularly noticeable” in the past year and reflective of a far-reaching agenda.

“Their vision goes beyond just the one-off grant to some filmmaker to make a new movie,” he says. “They have broader goals, and I think they’re very clever about who gets their money.”

Since rising to the top post in the HFPA, president Philip Berk has made philanthropy a priority, distributing more than $1 million in grants this year alone. Giving has been streamlined as well, with a focus on film conservation and education.

This year, the Film Foundation was the primary beneficiary of the HFPA, which allocated the conservationist org $300,000 to initiate a series of film restorations. The American Cinematheque and the Los Angeles Conservancy also received grants.

For Boller, the HFPA’s emphasis on conservation is particularly relevant to the HIFF, which spotlights emerging film spots like Vietnam and the Philippines.

“Film preservation is a huge problem that isn’t really given its due,” Boller says. “Especially in developing countries like the Philippines, where a lot of our movies come from, they’re losing so many of their films.”

The HFPA also has been assertive in its support of young filmmakers. A total of $280,000 was given to assorted university film programs in 2006, along with grants to talent development nonprofits like the Sundance Institute, the Independent Feature Project and the Ghetto Film School.

Furthermore, Boller notes that the HFPA’s internationalist nature is especially compatible with the Hawaiian fest’s mission to bridge cultures through film: “They cover the world, and they cover parts of the world in which we’re particularly interested,” he says. The HFPA also supports film-related charities in Kenya, Sudan and Tajikistan.

For his part, Berk expresses gratitude that the Golden Globes allow the HFPA to pursue its charitable interests. Television revenues from the kudocast have enabled the org to contribute more than $6 million in the last decade.

“We’re pleased whenever an organization sheds light on our philanthropic work,” he adds.

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