Going to a film festival as a member of a jury is different to going as a critic: You get better treatment for one thing. As the chairman of the jury for the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) Award at the Hawaii International Film Festival (Nov. 7-17), I stayed at a five-star hotel on Waikiki Beach. Walking in, I never wanted to leave — not the right mindset for someone expected to attend the festival, rather than attend to the excellent Hawaiian coffee served by the hotel pool.

But I stirred off my lounge chair to the Regal Dole Cannery — a mall multiplex that was the main festival venue — where I sampled the event's eclectic lineup, with its focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Among the Japanese films screened was "37 Seconds," the first feature from Hikari (formerly Mitsuyo Miyazaki). Recipient of the Kau Ka Hoku Filmmaker Award, the festival's main prize, it centers on a young manga artist (Mei Kayama) who doesn't let her cerebral palsy keep her from exploring her creativity, her sexuality and the world. Shot with a docudrama-like realism, the film is a stirring tale of human potential.