The Hamptons International Film Festival was founded “to celebrate independent film—long, short, fiction and documentary,” and “to introduce a unique and varied spectrum of international films and filmmakers.” Now in its 21st year, the five-day event (October 10–14) still focuses on films that “express fresh voices and differing global perspectives,” but what distinguishes HIFF from other film festivals is that its reach is both worldwide and regional.
The definition of regional, as screening sites go, is ever-expanding. Each year, as HIFF grows more prominent, more Hamptons venues become screening partners. This year the Southampton Center at 25 Jobs Lane (the old Parrish Art Museum) will be participating, along with Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center. On the screens themselves, regional gets a large focus with “Views from Long Island,” a series, sponsored by the Suffolk County Film Commission—three features and three shorts that concentrate on local filmmaker-residents, landscapes and issues, political and social.
Among the “Views from Long Island” entries, look for Patchogue native and Entourage star Kevin Connolly’s Big Shot, a feature documentary about the rise and fall of the New York Islanders hockey team and their conning by a Texas millionaire; a world premiere, The Maid’s Room, a thriller directed by Bellport resident Michael Walker about a Colombian maid who takes a job in a Hamptons home; and Kiss the Water, a feature documentary by acclaimed director Eric Steel, who grew up in Bridgehampton, that follows the stunning craft of fly-making by Megan Boyd, hailed as one of the finest maker of fishing flies in the world and whose pieces are now considered folk art.
The eclectic mix supports the strong feeling shared by HIFF Executive Director Anne Chaisson and Artistic Director David Nugent that the festival allow the community to see quality films that rarely get shown during summer “blockbuster” time. Acquiring films is a wide-ranging process. Many submissions, Nugent observes, are “blind”—mailed in or referenced via online links. This year he estimates that he and Chaisson, with a small selection committee, went through about 2,000 entries. Nugent also attends and participates in film festivals across the country and abroad, and knows a lot of folks who tell him what to watch out for. As the festival grows in reputation, “it gets increasingly difficult to choose,” he says, especially in this age of digital technology. “It’s easier to make a movie now, just have a single lens reflex camera.”
The irony, he points out, is that more good films are being made, but also more bad films. Naturally, he believes that he and Chaisson can recognize the real deal. In fact, the directors and actors for the lead-off and closing main features this year are already generating a good deal of buzz.
The Opening Night, Sunday Centerpiece and Monday Closing Night films are all fiction narratives, distinctively American stories, urban and rural, that are set in historical contexts but resonate with contemporary significance. Kill Your Darlings, which will open the festival at Guild Hall on Thursday, October 10, features Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame), and though Radcliffe will be unable to attend, director and co-writer John Krokidas and actor Dane DeHaan will be on hand. Billed as a true-life account of the “pivotal year that changed Allen Ginsberg’s life forever and provided the spark for him to start his creative revolution,” this Sony Pictures Classics film will be a chance for viewers to jump the gun by a week, before major distribution.
Alexander Payne’s striking black-and-white Nebraska, HIFF’s Sunday Centerpiece starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte, is already pulling in awards, while the ante-bellum 12 Years A Slave, the October 13 closer directed by Steve McQueen, is being heralded as the definitive film about slavery in the American South, the story of a 12-year odyssey of an abducted free man from upstate New York sold into slavery who meets a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt).
Underscoring its international scope, this year HIFF is partnering with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) New York to award Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner—co-chairs of the British production company Working Title Films—with the Golden Starfish Award for Lifetime Achievement, as part of the Festival’s “Focus on UK Film.” On October 12, BAFTA New York and Oscar winner Renée Zellweger will introduce the honorees at a special tribute ceremony.
“Focus on UK Film” will host a screening of Working Title Films’ latest production, About Time, directed by Richard Curtis and starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy, in addition to the BBC America biopic Burton and Taylor, directed by Richard Laxton and starring Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West. Effie Gray, also directed by Richard Laxton and starring Dakota Fanning, Emma Thompson and Tom Sturridge; and The Invisible Woman, directed by Ralph Fiennes, starring Fiennes, Felicity Jones and Kristin Scott Thomas.
The Hamptons International Film Festival runs from October 10 through 14.